Robot grabs and crushes the technician against a metal plate at a Volkswagen Plant in Germany
In what could the first case of a machine killing a human, a robot crushed a worker at one of the Volkswagen’s production plants in Germany, the automaker said on Wednesday.
VW spokesman Heiko Hillwig said that the 22 year-old man died on Monday at the plant in Baunatal, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Frankfurt, VW spokesman Heiko Hillwig said.
The 22-year-old was part of a team that was helping to put together the stationary robot that grabs and configures auto parts, when it grabbed and crushed him against a metal plate, Hillwig said. He later died from the injuries. Volkswagen did not release the man’s name.
A spokesperson for the car company told the Associated Press that the robot can be programmed for specific tasks and that the company believes the malfunction was due to human error.
The initial conclusions show that the malfunction was due to human error rather than a problem with the robot, which can be programmed to perform specific tasks in the assembly process, said Hillwig. He said that under normal circumstances it operates within a restricted area at the plant, grabbing auto parts and handling or controlling them.
A spokesperson told the Financial Times that while the company uses some lightweight robots to work on the production line next to humans, this was not one of those robots. Generally, the type of robot that crushed the employee is kept in a cage. The man was grabbed while he was working on the robot inside the cage.
Another worker was present when the incident occurred, however, he was not harmed, Hillwig said. He refused to give any more information about the case, citing an ongoing inquiry.
German news agency dpa reported that prosecutors were considering whether to bring charges, and if so, against whom.