The first robot-on-human fatality was in 1979

Illustration for article titled The first robot-on-human fatality was in 1979

Robots killing humans is an old science fiction concept, but it's always associated with the future — something that awaits humanity sometime in the next few centuries. But it's something that has already happened, specifically in a factory in 1979.


This robot, unlike drones or Terminators, wasn't designed to be a weapon. It was a robot arm, meant to gather up scrap material at a Ford Motor plant in Michigan. It worked alongside humans. One of those humans was Robert Williams, a 25-year-old man also tasked with gathering materials in the same building. The robot had no safety systems, and no alarm warning people of its proximity. While Williams was retrieving some parts, the arm came down on his head, killing him instantly.

His family sued the plant, and won $10,000,000 in damages. Since then, more attention has been paid to safety features, and safe procedures when working near robots. That's the procedural significance of the death. What about the historic significance? Does this count as the first robot-caused fatality? If not, what do you think is, or is it still to come?


[Via Wired, Mad Science]

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No cultural significance.

To be significant either the robot would have had to make the decision on its own to kill the guy or something in its programming would have to have been malicious.

This is unlike any other industrial accident from before, albeit with a new type of equipment. This would be no different than if some factory worker accidentally got themselves caught in the gears of a press or something similar.