Amazon employs a mixture of Robo-Stow arms and vision-based robots, among other machines, at its facilities. The droids assist with everything from moving smaller goods around a warehouse to unloading stock from trailers. It also holds an annual robotics challenge designed to showcase automated solutions to the challenges it faces in its fulfilment centers.
Amazon has repeatedly come under fire for working conditions at its warehouses. Earlier this year, the advocacy group the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health put it on a "Dirty Dozen" list of the most dangerous places to work in the US. And just last month, a 50-foot wall at the company's southeast Baltimore fulfillment center collapsed in the midst of a large storm, killing two people -- though that incident was due to extreme weather, rather than safety mishaps.
Experts claim collaborative industrial robots are ushering in safer work environments, noting that they can help prevent injuries or adverse health effects such as musculoskeletal disorder. But, like humans, they can make mistakes -- some of which have proven to be fatal. Back in 2015, a robot at a Volkswagen factory crushed a 22-year-old man to death against a metal plate. And last year, the family of a repair technician killed in a Michigan auto parts factory accident sued the three robotics companies they blamed for her death.
Five firms have agreed to institute security programs to protect user info.