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A Volkswagen Factory Worker Has Been Killed by a Robot

Are giant robotic arms coming to wipe out humanity?

The author enjoying the upsides of robotic arms at Diggerland theme park in Strood, Kent (Photo by Jake Lewis)

A contractor working for Volkswagen near Frankfurt, Germany, has been killed by a robot. Or, more specifically, its massive robotic arms.

The 22-year-old employee was trying to set up the machine at the plant in Baunatal when it grabbed him and crushed his body against a metal plate. Unsurprisingly, VW spokesman Heiko Hillwig is putting the accident down to "human error" rather than heralding it as the starting pistol for the widely prophesied robo-apocalypse, though he has announced there will be an investigation into the death.


Death-by-machine is not by any means a new way to go; in July 1981, Japanese engineer Kenji Urada was working at the Kawasaki Heavy Industries plant when a robotic arm reached out and pushed him into a grinding machine. Two years earlier, in Flat Rock, Michigan, 25-year-old Ford assembly line worker Robert Williams was whacked in the head by a robotic arm as he was gathering parts in a storage facility. It was apparently the first time a human has ever been "murdered" by a robot.

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Really into the idea of becoming half-machine one day? Watch our film with the futurist, Raymond Kurzweil:

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But while films like Blade Runner, I, Robot and Ex Machina, cultural figures like Ray Kurzweil and the recreational drug cannabis have made us increasingly fearful of the AI singularity and the exponential pace at which a robot-led genocide of humanity apparently nears, it seems all we really need to be afraid of are giant arms.

Giant, massive, swinging robotic arms, batting us around like bits of balled up tracing paper. Sure, it's scary that humanoid cyborgs could develop sentience and choose to wipe our disease-like existence off the face of planet Earth but in reality the machines are pretty far from being able to achieve that. For instance, if you are on Facebook, I'm sure you've seen the video below:

Again, note the viciousness of the arms

Perversely, plenty of robots seem intent on actually helping us. A New York hospital is using robotic neuro-rehabilitation for children with severe brain trauma. And they're also learning to harvest broccoli, which is great, because now I don't have to spend all my free time harvesting all my fucking broccoli.

But while it's clear that robots are useful to us in many ways, it's important for the survival of our species that they are not, under any circumstances, given arms.

Unless, of course, they are diggers: