CES 2019: Video of Robot Allegedly Being Run Down By Tesla on Autopilot Looks Too Suspicious

Russian robot company Promobot claims the unit was heavily damaged, but the whole thing smells like a PR stunt.

byMarco Margaritoff|
Tesla News photo

A $2,000-per-day rentable robot that apparently rolled onto a parking lot was struck by a Tesla Model S allegedly on Autopilot in Las Vegas on Sunday night. The collision allegedly happened when engineers were transporting prototypes to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019, according to the Daily Mail. However, the almost-too-good-to-be-true footage and exact positioning of a camera to capture the collision makes us believe the whole thing could be a PR stunt.

The accident, which happened on a busy section of Las Vegas' Paradise Road, allegedly damaged the robot irreparably and left Promobot Development Director Oleg Kivokurtsev in seeming shambles. The Tesla Model S, meanwhile, was allegedly operated by the vehicle’s autopilot with George Caldera inside the vehicle. It's unclear if Caldera was behind the wheel of the Model S or was simply a passenger riding along while someone else sat in the driver's seat.

“Of course we are vexed,” Kivokurtsev told the Daily Mail. “We brought this robot here from Philadelphia to participate at CES. Now it cannot participate in the event or be recovered. We will conduct an internal investigation and find out why the robot went to the roadway.” 

“I switched this Tesla into a self-driving mode and it started to move,” said Caldera. “And wow! A robot on the Track! I thought the flivver would come round, but it bumped straightly into the (sic) it! I am so sorry, the robot looks cute. And my sincere apologies to the engineers.”

The argument that this is nothing more than a blatant, albeit endearing, PR stunt on behalf of the Russian robot company is emboldened by the following. 

You might notice movement from something resembling a rope in the bottom left quadrant of the frame (spotted by Twitter user @btlflame), moving and going slack shortly after the Promobot hits the ground and a taxi drives by. Not to mention how odd it is for the robot to be positioned where it is, what kind of programming led it to go there in the first place, or whose camera recorded the stunt?

Of course, Promobot’s Twitter post concerning the incident has already been met with skepticism and suspicion. While the post publicly urges Tesla CEO Elon Musk to look at one of his creations “killing a guiltless robot,” most commenters are either incredulous of the incident’s occurrence or cheekily supportive of the company’s spirited attempt of garnering some publicity. To that end, Promobot may have triumphed here, with only one of its robots harmed in the process.