Exhibits At the Museum

This Day in History

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Today: January 30, 2015

January 25, 1979

Robot Kills Auto Worker

Robert Williams of Michigan was the first human to be killed by a robot. He was 25 years old. The accident at the Ford Motor Company resulted in a $10 million dollar lawsuit. The jury deliberated for two-and-a-half hours before announcing the decision against Unit Handling Systems, a division of Litton Industries. It ordered the manufacturer of the one-ton robot that killed Williams to pay his family $10 million. The robot was designed to retrieve parts from storage, but its work was deemed too slow. Williams was retrieving a part from a storage bin when the robot's arm hit him in the head, killing him instantly. In the suit, the family claimed the robot had no safety mechanisms, lacking even a warning noise to alert workers that it was nearby.