An apparent hit-and-run in Las Vegas caught on video seems to show what could be a first-of-its-kind traffic fatality: an autonomous robot struck and allegedly 'killed' by a self-driving Tesla.
As brutal as it sounds, it's also suspected to be part of an elaborate PR stunt set up to promote the now-'deceased' robot in question (RIP).
If you're wondering how this unlikely high-tech collision came to be, consider the timing: right now, the world's biggest tech show, CES, has taken over the casino city, meaning Las Vegas's crowded streets are even more dangerously hectic than usual – even if you're not human.
In this case, the victim mowed down by the Tesla Model S was an autonomous robot called a Promobot, manufactured by a Russian tech company with the same name.
"Look @elonmusk at a Tesla Model S hitting and killing a guiltless robot in Vegas," the company tweeted this week, sharing video footage of the alleged incident.
"Your car was under a full self-driving mode."
Look @elonmusk at a Tesla Model S hitting and killing a guiltless robot in Vegas. Your car was under a full self-driving mode. @bheater, @jjvincent, @ingridlunden, @andyjayhawk Check this out!https://t.co/0q605Fdknb— promobot (@promobot) January 7, 2019
We should note that Tesla's gone to great lengths to state their autopilot isn't truly 'self driving' - but this is how autonomous vehicles are commonly described.
According to media reports, the accident occurred in a parking lot as engineers were transporting robots to a display booth.
Once the robot was struck by the Tesla, however, parts of it were destroyed, the company says, meaning it is likely irreparable.
"Of course we are vexed," Promobot development director Oleg Kivokurtsev told the Daily Mail.
"We brought this robot here from Philadelphia to participate at CES. Now it neither cannot participate in the event or be recovered."
Not everybody is buying the sob story, however.
Numerous outlets are saying the whole thing is probably a PR stunt designed to get attention for Promobot during CES – something which the company has been accused of doing before.
"Look at that video," Electrek's Fred Lambert writes.
"It conveniently starts with the crash and doesn't show how the robot got there, which the video angle would have been able to capture."
Others might wonder why the video footage exists at all – what was the camera supposedly filming before the accident took place right in front of it?
According to IT specialist Kevin Jenkinson, who is said to be the owner of the footage, the video was recorded by an outdoor security system, and the robot was on the road for about five minutes before the accident occurred.
We may never understand quite what happened here, but this at least we know for sure: the world's population of Promobots just tragically dropped by one.
Tributes poured in as it transpires that it leaves behind a doting engineer and 3 prototypes aged 2, 4 and 6 months.— Steve DAO (@beerandbitcoin) January 7, 2019