We have already said that the meeting of people and machines in production mainly ends in peace. It is somewhere more efficient to automate production tasks, but in many areas it is still more useful to rely on the animated proletariat, but in general, robots and people are working more closely at factories, working literally side by side. The question arises: how to make sure that cars do not accidentally harm a person? We tell the story of the problem in which the first blood has already been shed, as well as about technologies that prevent these unpleasant collisions.
Even during the life of the science fiction and futurist Isaac Asimov, who formulated the three laws of the peaceful coexistence of a robot and a man, a machine was found that violated them.
By the way, if someone forgot, the laws are simple:
1. A robot cannot harm a person or, through inaction, allow a person to be harmed.
2. The robot must obey all orders given by a person, except in cases where these orders are contrary to the First Law.
3. The robot must take care of its safety to the extent that it does not contradict the First or Second Laws.
The shorter the distance between humans and robots, the greater the risk of accidents. To ensure safety, careful management is required, including the separation of the robot and the work area. Source: Toshiba
On January 25, 1979, in the city of Flat Rock (Michigan, USA), Robert Williams, a 25-year-old Ford warehouse employee, was instructed to retrieve parts stored in a huge rack, which was also serviced by a five-level truck. It was developed by Litton Industries to move blanks in stock. Part of the car consisted of plain-colored vehicles for transportation — carts with rubber wheels equipped with mechanical manipulators for moving blanks. Williams was sent to do a job that the robot could not handle – some details were left without the attention of the machine. The worker climbed to the third level of the rack and began to carry out the task. In the meantime, one of the carts appeared here, which immediately killed the worker, who did not notice her approach, with a blow from the manipulator. Williams’ body remained on the shelf for half an hour until the workers found him. The robot routinely continued to move the blanks. Relatives of the worker sued $ 10 million in damage, and Williams, not even learning about it, went down in history as the first victim of the robot.
It is symbolic that the death of Williams happened on the anniversary of the premiere of Karel Chapek’s play “Rossum Universal Robots”, which took place in 1921. It was this work that gave us the concept of “robot”, as well as the first description of the total destruction of humanity by rebel machines.
However, to call the death of Robert Williams a murder would mean a great exaggeration, because the factory machine did not have the main “qualifying symptom” of intentional murder – the motive. And even in July 2016, when a police robot with explosives was used to eliminate a criminal in Dallas (Texas, USA), the actions of the machine were still led by a man.
Do robots often harm humans?
Although all robots, with the exception of the military, are designed so that none of Azimov’s rules are violated, victims cannot be completely avoided. Are there many of them? The statistics of dramatic incidents with robots cannot be called extensive, although injuries and even murders involving machines occur regularly.
According to a study by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), industrial robots caused at least 33 deaths and injuries in the workplace in that country over 30 years. However, there are more gloomy data. In 2013, German insurance companies calculated that about 100 incidents involving industrial robots occur in Germany every year.
In an earlier study in 1987, which covered enterprises from the USA, Germany, Sweden and Japan, it was found out exactly how robots injured workers: in 56% of cases they inflicted penetrating wounds, in 44% – blows. Most accidents were caused by poor organization of the workplace (20 of the 32 incidents analyzed), and human errors provoked only 13 unpleasant situations.
There are statistics about the unsuccessful use of robots in individual areas of their application. For example, as doctors say, medical cobots “opened their cemetery”: in 2013, a team of scientists analyzed statistics from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and found that since 2000 In 2013, during surgical operations assisted by robots, 144 deaths, 1,391 injuries and 8 thousand device malfunctions occurred. Among them, two deaths and 52 injuries were caused by spontaneous shutdown of the robot during an operation or in the wrong movement. One death and 119 injuries occurred due to the fact that the elements of the robot or the equipment held by it fell on the patient.