Since its initial release in 2012, the Tesla Model S has racked up a number of impressive achievements. Being able to travel 335 miles between charges, it set a new record for electric car range. Its appeal to drivers helped Tesla beat major rival Mercedes-Benz in sales in 2018. And at this year’s Consumer Electronics Expo, it adds a new achievement: it allegedly committed a shocking act of AI on AI violence when it ruthlessly destroyed an innocent robot.
Russian autonomous robot company Promobot took to Twitter on Jan. 7 to post a video that allegedly shows the new model of its signature creation being mowed down by a Model S on the same block were CES 2019 opened a day later. At press time, the video of the friendly promotional bot’s slaying had been viewed more than 400,000 times.
Though tagged in Promobot’s posting, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has yet to publicly respond to the tragedy. However, he did change his Twitter profile picture to one where he has a crudely drawn mustache on his face (now since removed).
Not What It Seems?
Although the notion of a self-driving car deciding that a hapless droid needed to die is horrific to contemplate, there is evidence to suggest that the situation is not as it seems. For one thing, the setting of the accident is odd. According to text included with the video, the $25,000 Promobot version 4 was hit while lingering on a roadway unattended.
Given that the robot was to be showcased at CES before its unfortunate demise, it is strange that the v4 was left to take an unsupervised stroll. It’s also worth noting that in the video, the Model S is not seen making direct contact with the droid and it lacks visible damage after the hit occurs. Instead, it seems to fall over as the car passes it.
Also, though the Model S does have self-driving capability, the feature is not currently enabled. Moreover, Promobot posted another video on its channel regarding the incident that purports to show a witness’ account of the accident, but the clip plainly does not. The video also dates the accident as taking place on Jan. 6.
A Tragic Accident or a PR Stunt?
Because of the ambiguous circumstances surrounding the accident, some media outlets are calling the accident “clearly fake.” If Promobot has indeed fabricated this horrendous car-on-bot assault, it wouldn’t be the first time it has been accused of pulling a high-profile stunt for publicity.
In 2016, Promobot seemingly staged an incident in which one of its marketing automatons broke free from a Perm laboratory and caused a minor traffic jam. The robot was also reported to be blaring promotional copy at the time its run to freedom ended in traffic.
However, these clear-cut explanations for the CES incident overlook one key and probably irrelevant fact.
On Promobot’s website, one of the company’s automatons is pictured shaking hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Check out more CES 2019 coverage on The Burn-In.