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Robot grabs man, kills him in German car factory

A VW Golf is assembled at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, northern Germany, in 2001. (Joerg Sarbach/AP)

Some terrifying news out of Germany: A robot grabbed a worker and crushed him to death.

Volkswagen said that a 22-year-old contractor at a plant in Baunatal, near Frankfurt, was setting up a stationary robot Monday when it grabbed him and crushed him against a metal plate, according to the AP.

[Military push for emergency robots worries skeptics about lethal uses]

The robot is usually programmed by humans to perform discrete tasks in the assembly process, but this time, something went wrong. A second factory worker was in the area when the incident occurred and was unharmed.

According to VW spokesman Heiko Hillwig, the incident can probably be blamed on human error, based on the company’s initial investigation.

“It normally operates within a confined area at the plant, grabbing auto parts and manipulating them,” Hillwig said.

[Should the world kill killer robots before it’s too late?]

If true, that would be reassuring, because this sort of scenario — a robot turning on its human overlords — ranks among the top fears of some of the world’s smartest people.

Just ask Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking, who have been sounding the alarm about artificial intelligence. Just this week, an Elon Musk-backed group awarded nearly $7 million for research on the risks of A.I.

In this case, the robot was probably just doing what it was programmed to do by a human who made a mistake.

According to the German news agency DPA, prosecutors are still considering whether to file charges —and if they do, against whom … or what.

Read more: 

How to punish robots when they inevitably turn against us

Bill Gates on dangers of artificial intelligence: ‘I don’t understand why some people are not concerned’

Elon Musk’s nightmare: A Google robot army annihilating mankind

Why you should root for a robot to take your doctor’s job

Apple co-founder on artificial intelligence: ‘The future is scary and very bad for people’