Fact Check: Did a Humanoid Tesla robot attack an engineer? Viral report explored

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A robotic arm accidentally injured a Tesla employee in 2021, the reports of which recently emerged. (Image via Getty/ Brandon Bell)

Recently, a claim arose on social media, especially X, that a Tesla employee was seriously injured after a malfunctioning robot attacked him in their factory in Austin, Texas. Images surfaced online showing humanoid robots and alleging that one of them attacked the Tesla software engineer.

However, the humanoid robots (such as Optimus, unveiled by CEO and founder Elon Musk on December 13) seen in the now-viral clips did not cause harm to the employee. Still, it was instead an industrial robotic arm, as mentioned in the reader’s context of a few X posts.

Not only that, but according to New York Post, the incident happened over two years ago but was revealed only last month via witnesses.

All you need to know about the Tesla robot accident

In 2021, a software engineer at Tesla’s Austin factory was programming software that controlled industrial robots. As per the New York Post, these robotic arms had claws and were designed to cut and move “freshly cast pieces” of aluminum car parts.

Three robotic arms (often regarded as Kuka robots) were present, two of which were disabled. However, one was mistakenly left on, malfunctioned, and later harmed the Tesla employee.

The media source cites that the robot pinned the man to the floor of the electric car maker’s factory and then put its metal claws into his back and arm, thus wounding him badly and leaving a trail of blood. An emergency stop button pushed by his co-worker saved his life.

The news outlet Information even acquired an injury report from federal and health authorities in Travis County, Austin, which revealed that the software engineer suffered a “laceration, cut or open wound” on his left hand.

However, after the incident, the employee was not given any time off from work. So far, Tesla has also not issued an official statement. Meanwhile, reports from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration suggest that 1 out of every 21 Tesla employees at the Giga Texas factory got harmed, one way or the other, in 2022.

It is noteworthy that CEO Elon Musk responded to a Daily Mail article’s screengrab posted by @WholeMarsCatalog on X, the headline of which has the word “attack” in all caps. A user @AJamesMcCarthy clarified that “attacks” were misleading as the robot did not decide to make the harmful move on its own but was programmed to do so.

Musk agreed to the same and said it was “truly shameful” of the media to try and spread misinformation about an incident two years back.

Other accidents that happened at Tesla factories over the years

As per the Information, many current and former employees of Tesla told them that the people working at the company’s construction, maintenance, and operations were often at risk due to lack of proper safety measures. The demand to speed up production also results in injuries.

For instance, the workers stated that heavy machinery such as cranes, steel beams, and AC ducts had fallen on them, harming them. Likewise, many fell sick after being exposed to toxins, including ammonia. Forklifts, too, collide with workers on the assembly floor, often injuring them. Another worker died from a heat stroke in September 2021 while building the Texas factory, as per news.au.

In the summer of 2023, a worker hurt his ankle when caught under a moving cart and missed four months without pay. A few days later, another employee was hit on the head with a metal object and also had to skip work. There was also an explosion around New Year’s Day 2023 when water was accidentally mixed with molten aluminum. So far, how many people were injured in the incident remains unknown.

It is noteworthy that due to COVID-19 restrictions in California, CEO Elon Musk moved Tesla factory operations to Austin, Texas, in the summer of 2020. A year later, the company also shifted its headquarters there.

Meanwhile, Musk has also claimed that he intends to employ 60,000 more people soon and use the 10-million-square-foot facility to enhance production to 20 million cars per year by 2030. The tech mogul also promoted a humanoid robot called Optimus earlier this month, which is currently being developed.

Edited by Pradyot Hegde