The deployment of robotic systems has been accelerating in many domains that have a substantial impact on society. For example, robotic systems have been proposed for applications that range from elder care and autonomous driving to nuclear energy production and military technology. However, while our ability to build robotic systems that integrate into our daily lives has expanded over the years, it has outstripped our ability to build robotic systems that can account for the large number of different ethical considerations that may arise during operation. This workshop therefore focuses on building and evaluating ethical robotic systems at every level of the robotics stack while broadening the scope of areas that should be considered by researchers, such as how users can interact with new and existing technology or how legislators can develop actionable standards and regulations.

ERS 2021 aims to bring together researchers from academia and industry to discuss key challenges, learn from real-world case studies, identify potential research avenues, explore recent technical advances, present novel data sets, and survey existing work related to ethical robotic systems. Given this aim, we invite contributions that draw from a range of methods in artificial intelligence and robotics, such as planning, reinforcement learning, machine learning, deep learning, human-robot interaction, safety, explainability, transparency, formal verification, social preferences, and human factors. Most importantly, we welcome researchers from disciplines beyond robotics, including philosophy, psychology, sociology, and law, in order to represent diverse perspectives on building and evaluating ethical robotic systems.

Relevant research topics include but are not limited to:

  • Value alignment in robotic systems
  • Cultural, political, and societal impacts of robotics
  • Methods for analyzing the ethical implications of autonomous systems
  • Moral reasoning in autonomous systems
  • Safe, transparent, explainable, or interpretable AI systems
  • Ethical compliance in robotic systems
  • Ethically sensitive design and implementation of autonomous systems
  • Human-compatible or beneficial AI systems
  • Law, regulation, and governance of robotics
  • Challenges of building and evaluating ethical robotic systems
  • Ethical models and algorithms in robotic systems
  • Impacts of robotics on vulnerable groups
  • Novel data sets or test suites for ethical robotic systems

Contact: ers.workshop@gmail.com


We encourage a range of submission types to facilitate broad participation:

  • Highlight Paper (up to 2 pages)
  • Short Technical Paper (up to 4 pages)
  • Full Technical Paper (up to 6 pages)
  • Position Paper (up to 4 pages)
  • Case Study Paper (up to 6 pages)
  • Survey Paper (up to 8 pages)

Details: There is no page limit for references and supplementary materials. Submissions should be in PDF and follow the IROS 2021 format guidelines. All accepted papers will be included in an electronic, non-archival proceedings. Note that papers published, accepted, or under review at other conferences may be submitted and presented at the workshop subject to the conference guidelines.

Best Paper Award

The Center for Human-Compatible AI (CHAI) at UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative (BERI) are generously sponsoring the ERS 2021 Best Paper Award. The best paper will be selected based on a vote by committee. The authors of the best paper will receive a $400 cash prize and a printed certificate at the end of the workshop.

Important Dates

  • Paper Submission: August 13, 2021 (AoE)
  • Author Notification: August 25, 2021
  • Camera-Ready Submission: September 12, 2021

Invited Speakers


Due to COVID-19, ERS 2021 is required by IROS to be held virtually on gCon in Hall 3 and gather.town from 16:10 to 19:10 CEST on October 1. In order to accomodate this restriction by IROS, ERS 2021 will have three sessions this year.

Invited Speaker Session. Each invited speaker will have two parts:

Lightning Talk Session. Each contributed talk will give a live 2-min lightning talk with a 3-min Q&A on gCon.

Poster Social Session. Each contributed talk will present a live poster on gather.town.


Opening RemarksSamer Nashed, Justin Svegliato
Workshop overview and best paper award announcement

What Can We Count On? Evaluating Ethical RobotsBen Kuipers
Make sure to watch the pre-recorded invited talk here or on gCon before the workshop

Robots with Norms: Teaching, Learning, and EvaluationBertram Malle
Make sure to watch the pre-recorded invited talk here or on gCon before the workshop

AI Ethics for Embodied Systems: From Principles to PracticeFrancesca Rossi
Make sure to watch the pre-recorded invited talk here or on gCon before the workshop

Poster Social SessionContributed Papers
Contributors engage with other posters and present their own poster

Program Committee

Name Affilitation
Claire Benn Australian National University
Arpita Biswas Harvard University
Tim Bretl UIUC
Frank Broz TU Delft
Rafael Cardoso University of Manchester
Haipeng Chen Harvard University
Emily Collins University of Manchester
Meir Friedenberg Cornell University
Thomas Krendl Gilbert Cornell Tech
Adam Gleave UC Berkeley
Monroe Kennedy Stanford University
Seth Lazar Australian National University
Pham Quang-Cuong NTU Singapore
Pamela Robinson Australian National University
Jimin Rhim McGill University
Sandhya Saisubramanian UMass Amherst
Rohin Shah DeepMind
Rob Sparrow Monash University
Shannon Vallor University of Edinburgh
Karolina Zawieska Aarhus University


person Paul Bello
Naval Research Laboratory
person Louise Dennis
University of Manchester
person Samer Nashed
UMass Amherst
person Justin Svegliato
UMass Amherst
person Alan Winfield
UWE Bristol
star Co-Chair