South Korea robot crushes man to death after confusing him with box of vegetables

Robot pushes man against conveyor belt , crushing his face and chest

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Thursday 09 November 2023 05:37 GMT

Related video: How robots support law enforcement

A South Korean man was crushed to death by an industrial robot after it failed to differentiate between him and a box of vegetables.

The robotics company employee was inspecting the robot's sensor operations on Wednesday at a distribution centre for agricultural produce in South Gyeongsang province when the incident happened.

The robotic arm was lifting boxes of peppers and moving them onto pallets when it allegedly malfunctioned and picked up the man instead, Yonhap news agency reported.

It then pushed the man against the conveyor belt, crushing his face and chest. He was rushed to a hospital but later succumbed to the injuries.

The employee, said to be in his 40s, was conducting checks on its sensor ahead of its test run at the pepper sorting plant. He had initially planned to conduct the tests on 6 November, but it was pushed back two days due to reported problems with the robot's sensor.

Following the incident, an official from the Dongseong Export Agricultural Complex, which owns the plant, called for a "precise and safe" system to be established.

"Robots have limited sensing and thus limited awareness of what is going on around them," Christopher Atkeson, a robotics expert at Carnegie Mellon University, told MailOnline.

Earlier in May, a man in South Korea suffered serious injuries after getting trapped by a robot while working at an automobile parts manufacturing plant.

At least 41 people have been killed by industrial robots in the US between 1992 and 2017, according to a study published by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Stationary robots were responsible for 83 per cent of the fatal incidents. "Many of these striking incidents occurred while maintenance was being performed on a robot," the study found.

A 22-year-old worker at a German Volkswagen factory was killed by a robot in 2015.

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