Electronics and Semiconductors

CES 2019: The day a self-driving car killed a robot

07 January 2019

The day before the official opening of CES 2019, taking place this week in Las Vegas, a Tesla Model S hit and destroyed an autonomous robot in a car accident.

The robot, called Promobot, was going to be on display at the annual tradeshow to showcase how robots can work as hosts in museums, hotels, banks, shopping and business centers. Promobot can maneuver around obstacles, move both its head and arms and has a display to interact with people and give them information.

According to the company, all of its robots were moving in a line but one veered off course and into the street where it was hit by the Tesla. The passenger in the car decided to try self-driving mode in the Tesla, Promobot said.

The robot suffered damage to its body, arms and movement platform and the head was destroyed. In the video, the Tesla crashes into the Promobot at a slow speed and a worker rushes over to check on the robot. Conveniently, cameras were in place to capture the event, which might suggest that the accident was just an over-the-top PR stunt. However, Nevada police did come to the scene shortly after, the company said.

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

When news breaks from CES, it is generally about the release of a new gadget or a next-generation vehicle prototype that wows attendees. But every so often something happens during the show that captures attention for very different reasons.

While it is unclear the role that autonomous functions played in the accident, or if the accident was pre-planned to drum up interest, this wouldn’t be the first incident involving self-driving vehicles.

Last year, an Uber autonomous vehicle killed a pedestrian in Arizona while the company was testing the technology, causing the company to shut down its autonomous operations for most of 2018. Another Tesla vehicle was involved in a fatal accident in 2018 when the autopilot system was engaged, controlling the car.

(Click here to check out Electronics360’s full coverage of CES 2019.)

To contact the author of this article, email PBrown@globalspec.com

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