“We tried from the start to get Axon to understand that its customer has to be the community that a policing agency serves, not the policing agency itself,” one of the board’s members, Barry Friedman, a New York University law professor, said in an interview. “It has been a painful struggle to try to change the calculus there.”
Axon, the company best known for developing the Taser, said Monday it was halting plans to develop a Taser-equipped drone after a majority of its ethics board resigned over the controversial project, AP reports.
Axon’s founder and CEO Rick Smith said the company’s announcement last week — which drew a rebuke from its artificial intelligence ethics board — was intended to “initiate a conversation on this as a potential solution.” Smith said the ensuing discussion “provided us with a deeper appreciation of the complex and important considerations” around the issue.
As a result, “we are pausing work on this project and refocusing to further engage with key constituencies to fully explore the best path forward,” he said. The development was first reported by Reuters.
The board had voted 8-4 a few weeks ago to recommend Axon not proceed with a pilot of the Taser drone and had concerns about introducing weaponizing drones in over-policed communities of color.
But after the mass shooting at an Uvalde, Texas elementary school, the company announced it was beginning development of the drone. Smith told The Associated Press last week he made the idea public in part because he was “catastrophically disappointed” in the response by police who didn’t move in to kill the suspect for more than an hour.
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