Quick Takes: Humans Beat Robots at Mercedes

Headlines about big data and algorithms as the infrastructure for modern companies seem commonplace in a world being eaten by software. I was surprised, then, to run across an article titled Pink slip for robots1. Here’s a brief summary:

In response to the increasing demand for car models with a wide variety of customized options, such as carbon fiber trim and temperature-controlled cup holders, automaker Mercedes-Benz has chosen to cut back on the number of robots on its S- and E-Class sedan production lines and replace them with humans.

It’s a strange paradox: technology has enabled the proliferation of options available to us in automobiles, but can’t automate the delivery of that promise. That’s important—capability isn’t the difference, time is. More from the article:

In the past, reprogramming robots for new assembly patterns took several weeks, during which time production was shut down. But a human-crewed production line can be shifted in a weekend.

What a privilege to live in a time where we will, quite literally, see history written in the interaction between man and machine.

1. You can read the entire article, Pink slip for robots, on World Magazine’s website.

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