Of Course That Stupid Tesla-On-Autopilot Hitting A Robot Video Is Very Likely Bullshit

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the various blogs and articles about how a “self-driving Tesla” drove into and severely injured an innocent robot from the Russian company Promobot during CES in Philadelphia. While it may be fun to think of this as one of the historic first cases of robot car-on-humanoid robot violence and a prelude to a future of, I don’t know, automated fight clubs, don’t be fooled. I’m just about certain it was all a staged bullshit stunt.

In case you missed the video, here it is:

Uh huh. Okay. And, here’s the press statement from Promobot, a company that, hey, rents out robots for promotional use and, of course, would have no interest whatsoever in a bunch of manufactured publicity about them or their robots:

“Jan, 6 2019. A self-driving Tesla Model S hit and destroyed an autonomous Promobot the robot model v4 in Las Vegas in a car accident. The incident took place at 3000 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas.

At 7 pm the Promobot’s engineers transported robots to the Vegas’s Congress Hall to prepare their booth at the CES-2019. All the robots were moving in a line. But one of them missed its way and drove to the roadway of the street parking lot. At that moment it was hit by a self driving Tesla car.”

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Okay, let’s pause here. First, there is no “self driving Tesla car.” Sure, Teslas have Autopilot, their Level 2 semi-autonomous system, which is in no way fully autonomous. In fact, you wouldn’t even be able to use it in the context shown in the video; it’s designed for highway driving, primarily. That car was not driving itself.

This alone should be enough to show this whole thing was a stunt, but I guess we can go on:

“After the clash the robot was pushed aside and fell. The car continued to move and stopped fifty meters away from the accident. The passenger who was in the car while driving explains that he decided to try a self-driving mode (Full Self-Driving Capability) and chose an idle area for this test.”

Again “Full Self-Driving Capability” does not exist in any Tesla on the road today. Let’s hear from that “passenger”:

“There was nobody there, no men, no cars. I switched this Tesla into a self-driving mode and it started to move. And wow! A robot on the track! I thought the flivver would come round, but it bumped straightly into the it! I am so sorry, the robot looks cute. And my sincere apologies to the engineers”, said George Caldera, a Tesla passenger.

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Are you fucking kidding me? This is a joke. “Flivver?” None of this is true. I don’t believe you, “George Caldera.”

There’s a “witness” video as well, but it doesn’t really show anything more conclusive:

The press release concludes:

“Of course we are vexed. We brought this robot here from Philadelphia to participate at CES. Now it neither cannot participate in the event not to be recovered. We will conduct an internal investigation and find out why the robot went to the roadway”, said Oleg Kivokurtsev, Promobot’s Development Director.”

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I’ll help with your investigation there, Oleg. The robot ended up there because one of your people put it there, and you asked someone to drive into it in a Tesla and then pretend the Tesla was driving itself. That’s my theory. I’m a super-sleuth.

Also: “vexed.”

If you’re still not convinced, really look at that robot:

Sure, it’s cute, and looks like it does its job of promoting whatevers very well, but that thing moves at a maximum speed of about 2 MPH, and has less ground clearance than your average millipede. There’s no way it’s getting around on grass or over a curb or steps or even a decent-sized doorway threshold. A Roomba has more mobility than this thing. It didn’t wander off.

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This is all just a silly stunt. Nothing to see here. Well, except for a company so desperate for attention they’ll drive into one of their own robots with a car. (Promobot did not immediately respond to a request for comment.) 

I reached out to Tesla for comment, and will update if they feel like responding, which I’m guessing they probably won’t, because, again, I don’t think this is real. 

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)