Factory Robot Crushes Man To Death

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Rise of the Machines? Robot crushes a man to death but officials blame “human error”

A robot has killed a man in Germany and prosecutors have launched an official investigation into the matter.

The death took place in a Volkswagen factory in Baunatal (near Frankfurt), and it is understood that the man who died was working as part of a team of contractors installing the robot.

Killer Robot

The 22-year-old man was badly injured after the robot grabbed him and crushed him against a metal plate. The unfortunate worker later died in in hospital from his injuries.

Heiko Hillwig from Volkswagen was quoted by the BBC as blaming the accident on “human error” rather than the robot.

robot chase ©patrimonio designs ltd / shutterstock“It [robot] can be programmed to perform various tasks in the assembly process,” he was quoted as saying. “It normally operates within a confined area at the plant, grabbing auto parts and manipulating them.”

Industrial robots can be dangerous and are usually kept behind cages to prevent contact with humans. But according to the Financial Times, the worker was inside the safety cage when he was injured.

Prosecutors are now considering whether to bring charges and, if so, against whom, German news agency dpa reported.

“Earlier this week a contractor was injured while installing some machinery in the Kassel factory,” a spokeswoman from Volkswagen told The Independent newspaper. “He died later in hospital from his injuries and our thoughts are with his family.”

“We are of course carrying out a thorough investigation into the incident and cannot comment further at this time.”

Robot Future

Robots are playing an increasing role in society today. Last month French engineering giant Thales revealed that it will soon offer robots that would replace the traditional immigration officers that greet airline passengers at airports.

And American punters can now purchase Softbank’s ‘emotional’ robot. The Pepper robot, is a 4 foot high robot that can dance and make human-like movements and body language thanks to more than 20 different motors and highly articulated arms.

But some are worried about the future, especially if artificial intelligence is added to the mix. In May Professor Stephen Hawking reiterated his warning that robots and artificial intelligence could spell the end of life as we know it on Planet Earth.

Last October, Elon Musk, the South Africa-born inventor and entrepreneur best known as the co-founder of PayPal and chief executive of both SpaceX and Tesla Motors, warned against the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI), describing it as an “existential threat”.

Apple co-founder Steve Woziak however has changed his mind and no longer fears AI. He predicted that, in the future, the world will be controlled by artificial intelligence (AI) and that robots will treat humans as their pets.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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