Campaigners say killer robots and other autonomous weapons systems should be banned before it’s too late.
Rapid technological advances are bringing them closer to reality but international law is failing to keep up, according to Amnesty International.
It comes as a group of governmental experts meet in Geneva to consider options for countering the threat of such weapons.
There have long been fears artificial intelligence — computer systems and machines that can perform tasks that traditionally have required human brains — can be used to create things like killer robots.
A report earlier this year warned attackers could capitalise on the proliferation of commercial drones and turn them into missiles.
Now human rights organisation Amnesty International says it is time for action.
“Killer robots are no longer the stuff of science fiction,” said Rasha Abdul Rahim, Amnesty’s researcher on artificial intelligence.
“From artificially-intelligent drones to automated guns that can choose their own targets, technological advances in weaponry are far outpacing international law.
“We are sliding towards a future where humans could be erased from decision-making around the use of force
“It’s not too late to change course. A ban on fully autonomous weapons systems could prevent some truly dystopian scenarios, like a new high-tech arms race between world superpowers which would cause autonomous weapons to proliferate widely.
“We are calling on states present in Geneva this week to act with the urgency this issue demands, and come up with an ambitious mandate to address the numerous risks posed by autonomous weapons.”
Amnesty says Austria were among countries who have called for a ban on killer robots and other autonomous weapons systems. But France, Russia, the UK and the US oppose creating legally-binding prohibitions.