THERE MAY be more to a video appearing to show a Tesla electric car knocking down a robot outside the CES electronics show than meets the eye.
The video, posted to the Promobot YouTube channel, shows the Russian robot near the edge of a road outside the event in Las Vegas, when a Tesla Model S passes by within close proximity. The robot then falls over, suggesting it was hit by the car.
Entitled “A Promobot was killed by a self-driving Tesla car”, the video was posted to Twitter and addressed to Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder, claiming the car was in “full self-driving mode”.
Look @elonmusk at a Tesla Model S hitting and killing a guiltless robot in Vegas. Your car was under a full self-driving mode. @bheater, @jjvincent, @ingridlunden, @andyjayhawk Check this out!https://t.co/0q605Fdknb
— promobot (@promobot) January 7, 2019
A spokesperson for the company said the damage is beyond repair.
Oleg Kivokurtsev, Promobot’s Development Director, said: “Of course we are vexed. We brought this robot here from Philadelphia to participate at CES. Now it … cannot participate in the event.”
He added: “We will conduct an internal investigation and find out why the robot went to the roadway.”
The reason for its presence on the road is indeed unclear; there is apparently no pavement on the far side of the road. It’s also not obvious how Promobot’s manufacturers would know the Tesla was in Autopilot mode at the time of the incident, as the vehicle did not stop.
Social media users were quick to jump in with their own questions, such as why it was being filmed. Others believe the Tesla didn’t even hit the robot and that it was pulled over from the bushes by rope as the car passed.
The rope is literally visible behind the trees. This is a terrible attempt at PR. pic.twitter.com/ITOKVTnxb7
— ShayneRarma (@ShayneRarma) January 8, 2019
Olivia Solon, Editor of Tech Investigations at NBC News, pointed out a number of other guerrilla marketing-style videos on the Promobot channel, and in a separate tweet she called the CES incident “nothing more than a PR stunt” and “bullsh*t”.
It’s made a bunch of these videos before – eg “robot holds up traffic” and “robot saves child” https://t.co/Mj3jAVpqoq
— Olivia Solon (@oliviasolon) January 8, 2019
A Tesla spokesperson said the electric car company had no comment on the matter.
However, the spokesperson reminded us that Tesla cars are “not currently self-driving”; this is despite being marketed as including “full self-driving” hardware — a combination of radar, cameras and ultrasonic sensors — and advanced software and processing power. A note on the Tesla website states: “Every driver is responsible for remaining alert and active when using Autopilot, and must be prepared to take action at any time.”