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CPSC warns it’s now focusing on AI and ML in consumer products

The brave new world is here. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued its first report on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in consumer products. The report promises added scrutiny of “potential hazards” created by household devices using the technology.

While the CPSC has been looking at AI and ML in consumer products since their inception in the 1950s, the agency formally made AI and ML a priority in the Fiscal Year 2021 Operating Plan as their use has greatly expanded. The plan addressed the importance of assessing and analyzing AI and ML to ensure their use does not result in unsafe products.

Essentially, the report is the agency’s “playbook” — outlining efforts underway and recommended future actions the CPSC can take to identify safety concerns with these powerful and nearly ubiquitous technologies. Given these plans, it’s likely the CPSC will prioritize AI and ML oversight in its Fiscal Year 2022 Operating Plan as well, something consumer product manufacturers should watch carefully.

According to the report, the CPSC “staff is developing a program to evaluate the potential safety impact of AI/ML throughout the design, development, and deployment lifecycle of consumer products that use these technologies.” The CPSC proposes a framework that includes the following:

  • Screening products for AI and ML components
  • Assessing the functions and features of consumer products’ AI and ML capabilities
  • Analyze foreseeable interactions and potential consequences that may impact consumers
  • Ascertaining if, and to what extent, AI and ML capabilities may transform the product and/or its use over time

The report makes several recommendations the CPSC can take in identifying and addressing potential hazards related to AI and ML capabilities in consumer products. This includes, among others, building upon the discussions it held with stakeholders at the March 2021 forum and focusing on voluntary standards development with respect to AI and ML, as it has done with other technologies.

The CPSC also plans to accelerate product testing of high-tech consumer products. This is noteworthy, as the CPSC has previously faced challenges in replicating product safety incidents due to the constant changes in AI and ML technologies.

Manufacturers’ role in AI and ML

Manufacturers must be ready for the CPSC’s increased attention in the AI space, as so many household devices today and in the future will depend on the technology. This report serves as a warning that the CPSC sees potential safety threats in these technologies and will be scrutinizing it and cracking down on manufacturers who appear to be less than careful in applying them. Manufacturers must assess their use of AI and ML and the potential safety risks it brings consumers, as well as fully understand and prepare for the CPSC to dive headfirst into regulating these technologies.

As a first step, manufacturers can learn more about AI and ML in consumer products by watching CPSC staff in a recorded webinar series, “Consumer Product Safety and New Technologies Webinar Series.” The webinar series discusses wearable technology and integrating safety into the product design process, offering consumer product safety professionals education and training involving the new technologies. It’s a timely and practical session for manufacturers that you don’t want to miss.

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