The IT Law Wiki


Autonomy is

the ability of a system to operate and adapt to changing circumstances with reduced or without human control.[1]
the ability to make decisions based on external events and internal goals that lead to different courses of action, even when faced with unexpected events and unknown environments. . . . This ability broadens the usefulness of the machine and extends the period of time it can operate without human intervention.[2]
best characterized not as a discrete property of an object or system, but rather as a relationship between a system and its operator that may vary across the spectrum of different degrees of system autonomy. In simple terms, this spectrum progresses from controlled operations ('human in the loop'), to supervised operations ('human on the loop'), to fully autonomous operations ('human out of the loop').[3]
[a] system's ability to function, within parameters established by programming and without outside intervention, in accordance with desired goals, based on acquired knowledge and an evolving situational awareness.[4]


"DoD defines unmanned aircraft as 'an aircraft or balloon that does not carry a human operator and is capable of flight under remote control or autonomous programming.' Therefore, when the aircraft is under remote control, it is not autonomous. And when it is autonomous, it is not under remote control. While these two conditions could exist (controlled and uncontrolled), current DoD UAS are remotely operated and capitalize on automation in extreme circumstances, such as a lost link condition, to automatically perform a preprogrammed set of instructions. This distinction is important because our community vernacular often uses the term 'autonomy' to incorrectly describe automated operations."[5]

"Despite the focus in much of the literature on cars and aircraft, autonomy is a much broader concept that includes scenarios such as automated financial trading and automated content curation systems. Autonomy also includes systems that can diagnose and repair faults in their own operation, such as identifying and fixing security vulnerabilities."[6]