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The Spotlight Study shows that although German business and top political leaders are convinced that autonomous machines are of great importance for the future of Germany’s economy, they fear that Europe is significantly lagging behind the United States and China in this key technology.

Autonomous machines will profoundly change the economy and society – as well as military applications – in the coming years and decades. They are fundamentally different from special devices exploited by Industry 4.0, as they are also used outside of factories and perform everyday tasks, such as transporting goods and people. “Autonomous machines also have crucial economic importance, as they create opportunities for Germany and Europe. Unlike many consumer markets, such as online retail, search engines or social networks, this enormous growth market is still in its infancy and yet to be distributed fully, so there is consequently still great potential for Germany and Europe to take a leading role in this key future technology,” comments European Center for Digital Competitiveness co-founder and co-director, professor Philip Meissner.

Graph one

Top business and political leaders in Germany recognise the relevance of this key technology, with 82 percent of business representatives convinced that autonomous machines are of great importance for the future of the German economy and 79 percent of politicians sharing a similar view.
At the same time, however, the vast majority are convinced that it is not Europe but the United States and China that are leading in autonomous machines: only 12 percent of top executives or politicians consider Europe a leader in the field of driverless cars, and even fewer - 3 per cent of business leaders and 5 percent of political leaders - think the same for self-controlling drones. This are some of the results of the Spotlight Study carried out by the European Center for Digital Competitiveness based on the Berlin campus, and the Allensbach Institute.

Main results:
➢ Business and political leaders attach great importance to autonomous machines
➢ However, Europe is significantly lagging behind the United States and China in terms of development
-          Europe is falling behind the United States in the field of driverless cars
-          China is the technological leader regarding autonomous drones
➢ Leaders consider more investment necessary, especially in the German army (Bundeswehr)
➢ Production and data sovereignty should be preserved

Germany and Europe need strategic autonomy in key technologies
“Germany and Europe are in danger of losing out on autonomous machines, similar to other digital areas,” concludes Prof. Philip Meissner. “The urgency is extremely high in this regard because the market for autonomous machines is developing very dynamically; nonetheless, there is still no public discussion of the field in Germany, let alone a clear positioning or strategies on how to respond to these technological developments.”
“Europe needs clear strategic political support for autonomous machines, as they represent enormous potential as a key technology of the future. As a critical infrastructure for preserving digital sovereignty, the German state should additionally protect autonomous machines from sabotage and espionage. Open source solutions and open standards for the field of autonomous machines should also receive more attention at the German and European level, as they do in the United States,” adds fellow European Center for Digital Competitiveness co-founder and co-director Christian Poensgen.