LAS VEGAS — The Consumer Electronics Show, CES 2019, opened with a bit of embarrassment for Tesla, to put it mildly, when its self-driving model car ran over and “killed” an autonomous robot, Promobot.
Making matters worse: It was a hit-and-run. It was captured on video.
Oh my, you just can’t make this stuff up, people.
The accident occurred the day before the CES show officially opened, on Sunday evening, while vendors were staging their booths and companies from around the world were gathering their goods for display.
Some say the accident was a staged PR event that went awry — but either way, the optics aren’t great.
But as the Daily Mail put it: “In what many are speculating was an over-the-top PR stunt, Promobot revealed one of its model v4 robots was ‘killed’ by a Tesla Model S … as engineers transported the firm’s robots to the display booth.”
Promobot reported that one of its self-propelling robots stepped out of formation — and wham! Tesla’s Model S, operating in autonomous mode nearby, slammed right into the ‘bot.
Amid the laughter, take note: Each Promobot costs thousands of dollars to build. Each costs $2,000 just to rent for a day.
“Of course, we are vexed,” said Promobot’s development director, Oleg Kivokurtsev, in what should go down as one of the greatest understatements of all time.
The robot is likely irreparable; its little robotic head is in tatters.
And here’s the little shop of horror to underscore just why self-driving vehicles are not, repeat not, ready for the road: Post-impact, the Tesla kept on driving another 150 feet — without even slowing.
Remember when a Tesla operating in self-driving mode killed a man named Joshua Brown? That was in 2016. Apparently, not all the kinks have been worked out.
Now with that in mind, answer this: Would you let artificial intelligence take over your vehicle wheel?
Maybe. Maybe some really brave people would still take the ride. OK to that.
But you definitely wouldn’t want to be the one on the street where self-driving cars operate.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley.
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