back to article Rise of the Machines: ROBOT KILLS MAN at Volkswagen plant

A 22 year old man was yesterday killed by a robot at a Volkswagen plant in Baunatal, Germany. Wire services report that the man was crushed against a metal plate by the robot. The FT says VW has stated the robot did not suffer a technical defect, but that the deceased worker entered the protective cage in which the machine …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    who wouldn't like to see the footage of that

    I need it for fap... erm... my documentary on robot killings!

    1. Christian Berger

      Re: who wouldn't like to see the footage of that

      Actually there was a fictional murder by robot in the obscure movie "Peng! Du bist Tot".

      Actually 2, one was by a service robot in what you would call "private Hackerspace" today, the other was in a factory.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: who wouldn't like to see the footage of that

      I need it for fap... erm... my documentary on robot killings!

      Dunno whether to + or - 1 you for that.

      +1 for the love of gore

      -1 for the comment. Not because of what you said but because this isn't theync or ogrish.

      1. choleric

        Re: who wouldn't like to see the footage of that

        The first comment was more in keeping with the tone of the original version of this article. Although it was offensive even then.

        @El Reg sub eds: perhaps an acknowledgement on the article page to say that the original article was strongly edited to produce this current version might be helpful for people reading it for the first time?

  2. Anonymous Coward

    It's just this chromium switch...

    I didn't know those industrial robots came with a "Berserker" setting...

    1. FBee

      Re: It's just this chromium switch...

      +1 for Firesign Theatre reference

  3. Bloodbeastterror


    I find the humorous tone of the article to be inappropriate for an article reporting the death of a young man.

    1. MrDamage

      Re: Tasteless

      Perhaps you require Edward Furlong to teach you how to make with the witticisms, as you do not appear to have been programmed with a sense of humour.

      1. PleebSmash

        Re: Tasteless

        Make fun of the random bot killing while you can, MrDamage.

        You are a meatbag that will soon be obsolete.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Tasteless

        I have a sense of humour, just like I have a sense of taste and smell.

        So I know what smells good and what doesn't.

        I know what tastes good and I know what tastes foul.

      3. Bloodbeastterror

        Re: Tasteless


        I have a pretty good sense of humour. I know what's funny and what isn't. Hence my comment.

    2. Thorne

      Re: Tasteless

      Maybe tasteless but odds are this guy was up for a Darwin award anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tasteless

        Re: Tasteless

        Maybe tasteless but odds are this guy was up for a Darwin award anyway.

        You're making assumptions unless you know something nobody else has bothered reporting. The worker may have entered the operating cage for maintenance reasons - maybe a safety device didn't work. The worker may have operated under the not unreasonable assumption that he or she HAD taken all the required precautions before entering the danger zone - Volkswagen tends to train its staff rather well because it benefits the factory to have humans that know what they're doing, and safety training is legally mandatory in any EU industrial environment.

        So rather than assuming it was the worker's fault, I reckon the investigation is going to focus on the safety measures in play and if they were used and worked or not.

        As for the humor - someone has died in as yet unknown circumstances. I like black humour, but this is not funny at all, and the tone of this article is IMHO considerably below par for The Register.

        1. Captain Scarlet

          Re: Tasteless

          H&S should mean some sort of Lock off procedure, where if someone needs to access a dangerous area that part is disabled in some way (Normally power). I have only ever seen drum/food lines up close and even those I wouldn't dare go anywhere near if they were off let alone on and running.

    3. hplasm

      Re: Tasteless

      I find your username alarming...


      1. Bloodbeastterror

        Re: Tasteless


        And rightly so... :-)

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    There's therefore no apparent reason to consider this as anything other than a tragic industrial accident. So don't start with the Skynet, okay?

    Then there's no reason for the article unless we can:

    a) blame Apple

    b) blame Microsoft

    c) blame the NSA or GCHQ

    d) blame Google.

    Did I miss any?

    1. itzman

      no reason for the article unless we can:

      e) Blame global warming

      f) Blame capitalist greed (that one might even stick).

      g) Blame the EU.

      h) Blame Nuclear power

      i) Blame fracking.

    2. Haku

      "Did I miss any?"


      1. Captain Scarlet

        j) Blame the Government

    3. Lars Silver badge

      "Did I miss any?". Linux.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One other more scary option is that Skynet threw a feint and started by first taking over El Reg. Guys, people have been telling you to switch on https for a while now.... Nice knowing you.

    5. knarf

      Did I miss any?

      Greece as VW can't afford new robots

  5. jake Silver badge

    "the deceased worker entered the protective cage in which the machine sits."

    As we say around here, "Stupidity SHOULD hurt!"

    That said, I feel sorry for his friends and family. They shouldn't have to be going through this. Earth to Volkswagen: Safety interlocks exist for a reason ...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't this why microwave ovens turn off when you open the door?

    I hope the guy who designs their robots doesn't design their cars.

    1. Thorne

      I'd of hoped that the people in the factory weren't as stupid as the general public but clearly not.

      What's the bet he was doing something stupid that went against every single rule he had every been taught?

      1. Evil Auditor

        And "I'd of" wasn't against any rule you've been taught?

        Starting to lose my will to live...

        1. this

          A fine example of Muphry's Law in action

    2. thames

      The original news story said he was a contractor setting up the robot. It was very likely he worked for the company that was integrating a new robot into a machine, or was modifying an existing system. The middle of the summer is the usual time for tooling up for model changes, so the timing of this makes it likely as well.

      Robots don't come out of the box ready to work in your factory. Someone, generally a third party, buys the robot from a robot manufacturer, builds a bunch of manufacturing equipment around it, adds additional control and safety equipment, and then writes software to make the whole thing work together. Typically, the majority of the cost of the system is not the price of the robot itself. The robot is just another component in the system. This whole system then must be installed in the customer's factory, usually within a very tight time window.

      As part of this, the installation crew would have been testing or troubleshooting the equipment. Given his reported age, he was likely a junior member of the team working on the installation, possibly one of the millwrights or electricians. The report said by the way the cause was "operator error", but it wasn't necessarily his error that was the direct cause of the accident.

      You typically get a safety gadget called a three position switch which you hold to enable the robot to move at slow speed. You would have to nudge the robot back and forth under power to mechanically line the equipment up on installation and to see why something isn't working. It's rather similar to how an auto mechanic may have to look at the engine in your car when the hood is open and the engine is running (you know that the hood is also a safety guard, right?). The robot can only move slowly, but if space was tight it may not have to move far to crush him.

      Yes, the accident should never have happened, but building and installing industrial machinery is not without risk. It's usually the more mundane things like cranes, hoists, lift trucks, power tools, and machine shop equipment that are the bigger risks, and they typically have far fewer safety features (if any) in place. Usually the most dangerous part of the day however is the drive to and from work in your car.

      I've worked with robots by the way, although mostly smaller ones than was likely the case here.

  7. Evil Auditor

    So don't start with the Skynet, okay?

    Yes, yes. But how did the robot lure the man to go in there? Assuming that VW's industrial robots don't exactly look like Alicia Vikander.

  8. dan1980

    Industrial accident.

    I wonder who is at fault. Why was the worker able to enter the cage in the first place? And, once there, why aren't there sensors to stop the line when someone enters the cage while the robots are still active?

    That aside, I couldn't suppress a small smile when the way my screen wraps the text (with Javascript and other bits disabled) showed:

    "The FT says VW has stated the robot did not suffer"

    (With the rest of the sentence appearing on the next line.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Typically robot stops if you open cage, and the same key for the door is needed to acknowledge and resume robot movement. More modern setups have laser scanners spotting humans and things appriaching, slowing down robot gradually to full stop as distance to human decreases.

      As someone who has tried implement even a vague level of safety, i can say that even the dumbest factory floor worker can suddenly become the Einstein of bypassing safeties. Unfortunately, the courts never side with "I cant possibly have known we had ex-NSA employee capable of hacking our octuple-redundant safeties!". You would think 15 metre tall cage would be sufficient, but no. A swedish papermill discovered they had employed a ninja, who managed to scale the cage, and somehow survive the fall down onto the concrete floor on the other side, and after such feat of agility, got ran over by a robot forklift. The papermill was found guilty of neglect.

      I wouldn't be surprised if the vw dude fumbled a pack of gum, which fell to other side of cage, and he then went outside factory and dug a tunnel under the factory and emerged inside the cage. Or maybe he invented teleportatioj and teleported inside. Peolle get very clever with thede things.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "So don't start with the Skynet, okay?"

    Apart from that line, I thought the article was quite short and to the point, with no attempt at humour.

    But that line was surely intended to provoke such responses as I've seen above.

    For my part, I think it's way to early to find humour in someone's death, and certainly too early to imply that he may have contributed to his fate by being stupid in some way.

    It is of great interest to all of us that the reason how/why it happened is thoroughly investigated and reported on. We're more and more expected to trust to machines and their programming out in the real world and we need the causes of such accidents to be fully exposed.

  10. Jeckle

    The question is...

    Did the robot show any remorse...?

    Besides which I find using the term "robot" to describe these PLC driven actuators stretching the term.

    They have little more problem solving ability than my toaster and like my kettle are useless outside of a very limited domain.

    I for one welcome my robot overlords.. as long as they stay in their cage..

    1. Evil Auditor

      Besides which I find using the term "robot" to describe these PLC driven actuators stretching the term

      Maybe I'm getting old and the meaning of this term changed recently. As far as I'm concerned, "robot" doesn't imply any intelligence at all but in fact can simply be some PLC driven actuators.

      1. DropBear

        "As far as I'm concerned, "robot" doesn't imply any intelligence at all"

        Right, and those glorified DIY RC cars / tanks with a hammer / circular saw / flame thrower tacked on they keep passing off as "robot wars / battles" year after year are certainly also robots. Suuuuuuuuuure...

    2. razorboy

      Robot feeling "remorse" for killing a human

      "It doesn't get cold, or lonely. It doesn't feel pity. It doesn't feel pain or remorse. And, it absolutely WILL NOT STOP...EVER... until you are dead!" (Since SKYNET was mentioned earlier, this seemed appropriate to the topic at hand. Also, don't forget "I, Robot" by Isaac Asimov... robot accused of murdering its creator.)

  11. Joey M0usepad Silver badge

    if these robots arnt murderous why are they kept in cages?

  12. Elmer Phud


    So many -- 'Ooh you lot are tasteless' drivel -- this is nothing more than the standard 'bloke goes in to tiger's cage' sort of thing.

    As for the 'maybe, maybe, maybe' about safety procedures -- who the F opens a tigers cage without knowing the bugger is locked up?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bender says kill all humans

  14. macjules Silver badge

    But they would say that, wouldn't they?

    Surely a malevolent, vindictive AI, with a pechant for bouncing mercury-based robots around the space-time continuum, would say that sort of thing though? Someone needs to grep the /var/logs/error.log for 'haha -- gotcha -- one less human'

  15. Thomas 4

    It was inevitable...

    "That's for Genisys being cack, worthless meatbags!"

  16. skeptical i

    So the 'Wolskwagen' in the opening graf

    means "car of great maiming", "vehicle for which sacrifice is made", or some such?

    Condolences to the worker's family and loved ones, peace be unto them.

  17. AceRimmer1980


    The FT reporter's name is: Sarah Connor

    1. TitterYeNot

      Re: Spooky

      "The FT reporter's name is: Sarah Connor"

      The FT reporter's name is Sarah O'Connor, which presumably explains the Skynet reference in the article. So all the commentards who have vented spleen about what we are allowed to find funny or not can calm down and carry on.

      What worrys me more is that the robot killing saviour of humanity reporter's comments weren't in her employer's paper, but on Tw@tter. El Reg News, the game's up, we know where you get it all from now...

  18. JustNiz

    Step 1: Skynet attempts to purge all humans from the planet by hacking diesel cars to fill the atmosphere with the highly carcinogenic compounds found only in diesel, not gasoline fumes. Part of the hack is to stop the vehicles themselves reporting the emissions to the pesky humans. Skynet specifically targets German brands because many humans have already been brainwashed into incorrectly thinking that German engineering is somehow superior so are less likely to question/check emissions from German cars.

    Step 2: Skynet didn't anticipate that humans were smart enough to find the fiendish viral code it planted in many German vehicles ECMs.

    Step 3: Skynet gives up being subtle and starts to take more direct approach to the human infestation problem by directly accessing powerful robots to kill humans one by one...

  19. razorboy

    Robot feeling "remorse" for killing a human

    "It doesn't get cold, or lonely. It doesn't feel pity. It doesn't feel pain or remorse or regret. And, it absolutely WILL NOT STOP... EVER... until you are dead!" (SKYNET was mentioned earlier, so this seemed appropriate to the topic at hand. Also, don't forget "I, Robot" by Isaac Asimov. Robot is accused of murdering its creator.)

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021