The idea of killer robots is something out of science fiction for most of us. We probably picture the futuristic Terminator marauding through the streets rather than the more mundane factory-based machines, which have caused most of the robot-versus-human deaths.
In fact, killer robots are considered entertainment–actually at the same level as ghosts and serial killers–when we want to get a scare at the movies. Take the aforementioned Terminator franchise for example, where the five films in the series have grossed an amazing $1.8 billion worldwide.
To prove that robots are harmless, some scientists have published articles opining the same. One of them is a man who thought a lot about robots and their place in human society. Isaac Asimov wrote a number of sci-fi novels, including I, Robot and also devised the “Three Laws of Robotics” which stated that no robot can harm a human, that robots must obey human commands, and that robots must protect their existence, unless to do so interfered with rules one and two.
Unfortunately for the few people who have been killed at the hands of robots, these rules are purely hypothetical, and our primitive 20th and 21st century creations simply don’t know any better. Check out the list below of deaths caused by robots. Which one do you find the most shocking?
15. Robert Williams Slammed Into The Wall By A Robotic Arm
Robert Williams of Michigan has the dubious honor of being the first human killed by a robot. Williams, who was an assembly line worker at Ford’s plant in Flat Rock, was killed on January 25, 1979 when he was gathering spare parts at a storage facility at the plant, alongside a robotic arm that was lifting the heavier items. The arm apparently malfunctioned, slamming Williams into the wall and crushing him to death. The victim’s family was awarded $10 million in damages, and a number of recommendations were made about improving safety standards when humans are working alongside robots.
14. Robotic Cannon Killed 9 Soldiers
It’s quite scary to think how much of modern weaponry is reliant on computers and robots to do the aiming and firing, especially in this age of drone warfare. Back in 2007, when the sophisticated drones of today were just a pipe dream, nine soldiers in the South African National Defense Force were killed, and fourteen were wounded when an apparent software glitch caused a robotic cannon to fire on them during a live ammunition training exercise. The manufacturer of the weapon denied that there was a hardware or software error, insisting that one of the soldiers must have made a mistake when setting up the weapon.
13. Factory Worker Knocked Off By A Robotic Arm Into A Conveyor Belt
A construction worker, who had been hired to carry out some work at a meat-packing plant in Greeley, Colorado, met a sticky end when he was installing an access catwalk. One of the large machines, used to retrieve the boxed meat from a high conveyor belt and move it to a lower one, hadn’t been turned off properly while the poor contractor was busy installing his catwalk. He was knocked off his feet by the heavy arm of the robot and fell 10 feet onto the conveyor belt below, at which point, his head was crushed in the heavy machinery, killing him instantly.
12. Manufacturing Company Employee Suffocated By Robot
In 2001, an employee at Jr. Wheel Inc., a motor vehicle parts manufacturing company based in Norton, Ohio, was killed by one of the robots on the assembly line. At the end of his shift, the worker was clearing up his work area and accidentally entered a part of the assembly line where the robots had not yet been shut down for the day. Sensing movement and thinking that it was a piece of machinery to be manufactured, the robot arm swung into action, grabbing the worker by the neck and suffocating him by pinning him under a wheel rim.
11. Man Pinned Against A Machine Designed To Cut Gears
Kenji Urada is thought to be the second person killed by a robot when he died at a Kawasaki Heavy Industries factory in Akashi, Japan in December of 1981. After deciding to clean up around the robotic arm at the end of the day, Urada had, for some reason known only to himself, jumped over the fence to enter a restricted area, bypassing the safety system which would have shut down the machinery had he gone through the gate as normal. He unfortunately found that the robot was very much operational, pinning the late Mr. Urada against a machine which cuts gears.
10. Woman Grabbed By Robot And Put In Machinery
Ana Maria Vital, a 41-year-old employee at Golden State Foods in Los Angeles, was killed by a malfunctioning robot at her place of work in 2009. Golden State Foods, which was a major supplier for McDonalds, reported that Vital had been trying to remove a box that was jammed in the machinery on the factory floor when the accident occurred. After freeing the box (and before she had time to move away), the robot had grabbed her instead, causing severe crushing injuries. Colleagues tried to free Ana Maria from the machine, but her injuries were too severe, causing her to die a few moments later.
9. 20-Year-Old Crushed Against The Wall By Malfunctioning Robot
Regina Elsea was only 20 years old when she was killed by a robot in 2016 at the Ajin USA factory where she worked in Chambers County, Alabama. Ajin is a Korean company, and the factory used a whole assembly line of machines to make parts for Kia and Hyundai cars. But on the day in question, one of the robots appeared to have stopped working, holding up production and ruining Regina and her colleagues’ chances of meeting their quota. She tried to get the machine working again, but it suddenly sprang back to life, crushing Regina against the wall of the cage.
8. Robot Surgeons Killed Patients Due To System Errors
Robot-assisted surgery is one of the great advancements of 21st century medicine. They allow surgeons to enter much smaller parts of the human body by operating the robots from outside or even by operating at a distance, by using robots to do all the surgical work for them while they sit at computer console thousands of miles away. Well, a recent study into surgical robots in the U.S. found that the machines could be linked to the deaths of 144 people between 2008 and 2013, with causes ranging from system errors causing delays to bits of machinery falling into the patients’ open wounds.
7. Factory Worker’s Chest And Neck Crushed By Robot
Sodecia is a U.S. company that manufactures car parts across the country, particularly parts of the chassis. These heavier components require some serious robotic power to lift and maneuver them around the plant. And when it comes to a fight between man and machine, there is only going to be one winner. In 2012, a 38-year-old employee was working inside one of the robotic arm cages, with the gates shut behind him. The machine should have been powered down, but it moved unexpectedly, pinning the worker against the wire of the cage, inflicting fatal crush injuries to his chest and neck.
6. Ramji Lal Electrocuted By Robot
24-year-old Ramji Lal was killed in 2015 at the car parts factory where he worked in Uttar Pradesh, India. Lal was working on a part of the assembly line where a robot was pre-programmed to weld the sheets of metal that it lifted. When its mechanism became stuck, Lal reached around the back of the arm to try and adjust it. Unfortunately, when the arm started moving again, it pierced Lal’s abdomen and electrocuted him, killing him almost instantly. SKH Metals, the factory where Lal had been working for just 18 months, were eventually charged with causing his death due to negligence.
5. VW Worker Killed While Installing A Stationary Robot
The Volkswagen plant in Baunatal, north of Frankfurt, Germany, hit the headlines in 2015, when a contractor was killed while he was simply trying to install one of the factory’s new robotic arms. The 22-year-old worker was part of a team who was in the process of installing the stationary robot when it started moving unexpectedly, grabbing the man and crushing him against the metal wall. Early reports suggested that human error was to blame for the accident, although they didn’t state whether it was the worker who died or one of his colleagues who made the mistake during installation.
4. Lenco Inc. Worker Killed After A Robot Inflicted Blunt Force Trauma
Lenco Inc. is a company which makes plastic products for a number of industries, including the clear plastic cases used in the packaging of CDs. Unfortunately, one of the robotic arms used in this manufacturing process killed an employee at the factory back in 2007. According to accident investigators, the arm of the robot malfunctioned and moved unexpectedly, striking the male worker in the head and ribs, causing severe blunt force trauma. It was reported that the employee survived for two weeks in the local hospital, but eventually succumbed to the serious injuries.
3. Wanda Holbrook Killed After A Robot Loaded A Heavy Car Part On Her Head
Wanda Holbrook, a married mother of three from Michigan, was an experienced assembly line worker, having been employed for 12 years at the Ventra Ionia Mains factory before her death at the hands of a robot colleague in 2015. Ms. Holbrook was safely working in an area in which the robots should have been non-operational. However, one malfunctioned and started moving, crushing her skull when it “loaded” a heavy car part onto her head. She died instantly, and two years later, her husband launched a civil action against her employer and all those involved in the manufacture of the robots.
2. Man Killed After The Self-Drive Car He Was In, Drove Straight Under A Truck
Self-drive cars are supposedly the next big thing in the automotive industry. In fact, Google and Apple, along with more traditional car manufacturers such as GM, Daimler, Ford and even the safety-conscious Volvo, are working on the technology. However, it was a car that was being tested by Tesla which has the dubious honor of producing the first self-drive fatality. Driver Joshua Brown was testing the autopilot mode on the Model S Tesla, when it failed to distinguish between the white of the sky and the white of a very large truck crossing the highway, driving the car straight under the trailer.
1. Suspect Killed By Real Life RoboCop
The RoboCop movies may be science fiction, but the premise became science fact in 2016 when Dallas police used a robot to take out a suspect who had barricaded himself into a building, before shooting dead five officers and injuring seven others. Unable to get a clear shot at the target, the officers decided to use their bomb disposal robot to get to the places they couldn’t reach–although in this case, instead of disarming a bomb, the robot would be carrying one. This was the first recorded use of police using technology to kill a suspect, and it wasn’t without controversy.
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