ROBOTICSHow to Keep Robots from Killing Us

By Zachy Hennessey

Published 27 February 2024

Closer robot-human interaction presents positive opportunities, but also some danger. An expert gives us 3 key insights on managing the relationship.

Every passing day brings us closer to the utopian dream of human-robot cooperation, collaboration, and cohabitation that was promised to us by all those years ago by “The Jetsons.” 

Our cars are learning how to drive themselves, our solar panels are keeping themselves clean, and our vacuum cleaners scuttle around our homes at night and keep our pets from thinking they run the place.

That said, there are still hiccups in that journey: namely, an endless parade of headlining news stories involving words like robotAI, and, of course, death and/or severe injury

Just last year, a worker was crushed by a packing robot that mistook him for a box of red peppers, a pedestrian in San Francisco was run over and dragged by a self-driving taxi, and a man in a Texas Tesla factory was pinned and gouged by an automated assembly arm

Beyond these gruesome and specific instances, it seems like having robots around is simply more dangerous, as evidenced by a recent study showing that warehouses utilizing robots suffer 50 percent more worker injuries.

Add to that the fact that this morning my Roomba tried to eat a shower curtain and set off a chain reaction of chaos that resulted in my toddler’s toothbrush landing in the toilet, and we’ve got a real problem on our hands.

What’s Going Wrong?
In order to navigate the complexities and nuances of the evolving field of smart robotics, experts must put their minds to work, analyzing what’s been going wrong, figuring out why, and coming up with solutions that are at once practical and effective. 

Luckily for my toddler’s dental hygiene, that’s precisely what David Faitelson has been doing.

As the head of the software engineering school at the Afeka Academic College of Engineering in Tel Aviv, Faitelson is an authority in the realm of software engineering and human-machine interaction. 

With over three decades of experience, including a master’s degree from the Holon Institute of Technology and a doctorate from the University of Oxford, his expertise includes software quality, design and artificial intelligence.

In a conversation with ISRAEL21c, Faitelson delves into the challenges that must be addressed in order to ensure a future that features robot housemaids but does not feature frequent trips to the ICU due to robot housemaid malfunctions.