• Graveyard Shift

Scariest Real-Life Robotic Disasters and Accidents

When humans think about the threats robots pose, we usually worry about them taking our jobs. Rarely do we consider the often-fatal accidents and disasters caused by machines. As robotic science progresses, humankind will be forced to answer important questions: Are robots responsible for their actions? What will our relationship with robots become as artificial intelligence develops? And if scientists put all that work into Sophia, why didn't they build her a scalp? 

Incidents of robots causing major accidents make us think about the moral implications of technological growth. Machines as big as self-driving cars and as small as cellphones have caused serious harm to their human users. 


  • Photo: Skaarup.HA / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    An Automated Cannon Malfunctioned And Killed Nine Soldiers In South Africa

    In 2007, an advanced piece of military machinery designed to identify targets for its human users to shoot malfunctioned in South Africa. It killed nine people when it began to shoot on its own, emptying 250 rounds at a training center.

    The Oerlikon GDF-005 is built to spot aircraft. It's connected to 35mm guns, which can automatically reload. The technology likely jammed and malfuntioned, leading to numerous casualties.

  • A Factory Robot Killed A Worker And Apparently Wiped Its Own Memory Of The Incident

    In 2006, a robot at Alliance Tech Systems pinned a man's head between its robotic arm and company machinery. The man was likely reaching to remove scraps the robot dropped or to press its reset button.

    When analysts performed tests on the robot, it had no memory of malfunctioning on its computer.

  • A GPS Device Caused A Man To Drive On A Closed Bridge

    Video: YouTube

    When a GPS device caused a man to drive down a semi-demolished bridge in Indiana, he and his wife plunged almost 40 feet. Driver Iftikhar Hussain survived, but his wife Zohra Hussain died in the 2015 accident.

    Iftikhar was so focused on his GPS unit that he didn't notice signs announcing the bridge's closure.

  • A Robot Impaled A Man With Huge Metal Spikes

    A man working at a porcelain factory in Hunan, China, was hospitalized in 2018 after a falling robot arm impaled him with 10 large metal spikes. The spikes punctured the man's shoulder, chest, and wrist, leaving him unable to use his right arm.

    Each spike was 11 inches long, and one narrowly missed an artery.