Axon Enterprise Inc AXON on Sunday stated that it was pausing work on a project to equip drones with stun guns to tackle mass shootings, a prospect that a member of its AI ethics board told Reuters was prompting an exodus from the panel.
On Thursday, Axon announced the development of a non-lethal, remotely-operated TASER drone system as part of a long-term plan to stop mass shootings and reaffirmed it is committed to public engagement and dialogue during the development process.
"In light of feedback, we are pausing work on this project and refocusing to further engage with key constituencies to fully explore the best path forward," stated AXON Chief Executive Rick Smith.
Earlier, Wael Abd-Almageed, a member of the ethics board, told Reuters that he and eight colleagues were leaving the 12-member panel, in a rare public rebuke by one of the watchdog groups that some corporations have established in recent years.
AXON has explored the idea of a Taser-equipped drone for police since at least 2016, and Smith depicted how one could stop an active shooter in a graphic novel he wrote.
According to Abd-Almageed, an engineering research associate professor at the University of Southern California, AXON approached its ethics board more than a year ago about running a limited police pilot with Taser-equipped drones, and members voted eight to four against it.
Members of the ethics board were concerned that the system may be used in situations other than shootings to worsen racial injustice, harm privacy through surveillance, and become more dangerous if more weapons were added, stated Abd-Almageed.
"What we have right now is just dangerous and irresponsible, and it's not very well thought of, and it will have negative societal consequences," he added.
Price Action: AXON shares closed lower by 1.92% at $103.09 on Friday.
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