As many as four million jobs in the UK private sector have the potential to be automated and taken on by robots, according to a survey of business leaders on the future of robotics and artificial intelligence.

A new report by the Royal Society Arts (RSA) looking into the future of the technology found that bosses in the sector estimated up to 15% of jobs could end up being taken on by robots and automated machines over the next decade.

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Starship Technologies self-driving delivery robot
(Nick Ansell/PA)

The survey, carried out by YouGov for the RSA, found that businesses expected most of the impact of robotics entering the workplace to be felt in the transport and distribution industry.

Autonomous vehicles are already being developed and trialled in the UK and US, while robotics are already in use in some factories for manufacturing purposes.

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However, the report, called The Age Of Automation, also suggests that any shift in the job market because of the rise of robotics is likely to still be some years away because of the low adoption rate of AI and robotics among UK businesses so far.

Nao robot
(Nic Delves-Broughton/PA)

According to the report, only 14% of businesses have already invested in the technology, and 20% said they want to but believe it will be several years before they actually do so.

Some uncertainty also remains around the use of autonomous robots in industry – 14% of those surveyed said they thought the technology was too expensive, and 15% said they believed it had not yet been tested properly.

The technology is already becoming increasingly prominent in everyday life – virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa are now mainstream – but high-profile critics such as Elon Musk have urged against embedding AI too deeply into society, warning the technology has the potential to threaten all of civilisation should it become too powerful.