Russian AI Robot 'Killed' by a Self-Driving Tesla at CES 2019... Or Was It?

Wednesday, 09 January 2019 - 12:01PM
Artificial Intelligence
Wednesday, 09 January 2019 - 12:01PM
Russian AI Robot 'Killed' by a Self-Driving Tesla at CES 2019... Or Was It?
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Steve Jurvetson CC BY 2.0
While the world's largest (and some of its smallest) tech companies were inside showing off the latest and greatest in innovative electronics, there was a tragedy unfolding outside of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019 in Las Vegas. According to reports, a Tesla Model S in full autonomous mode ran into a helpless AI robot in a parking lot, sending it crashing onto its side. At least that's what it looked like in the security camera footage shared to Twitter and YouTube, but maybe we shouldn't believe everything we see.



The "victim" in the hit and run on Monday was a robot that had been recently unveiled at the show by a Russian company named Promobot. Promobot took to Twitter to @ Elon Musk and invite him to watch his creation "hitting and killing a guiltless robot in Vegas." A spokesperson for the company said that the robot was beyond repair and that there would be an internal investigation to find out how and why the bot was on the roadway. It didn't take long for journalists and techies to call BS on the incident and the footage. Those who have tested Teslas in the past said that it is unlikely that the car would have gotten close enough to an obstacle like the Promobot, which appears to have been standing still at the time of impact and not dashing out to commit robot suicide.

Others, including NBC News Tech editor Olivia Solon, started to do some investigating of their own and came to the conclusion that Promobot may be "a front for a viral content agency." Videos from years past show what appear to be Promobot's robots attempting to escape down the streets of Russia and saving children. Solon points out that the company even included licensing information in its video descriptions, just in case the content went viral and other outlets wanted to share it. One eagle-eyed viewer alleges that you can see the pull rope on the robot as it goes down in the black and white video, which, now that we mention it, was recorded by a camera installed in the street? Promobot hasn't confessed to staging the crash yet, but people are talking about it so if it was a PR stunt, it seems to have worked.

Cover image: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr –  CC BY 2.0
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