I am supposed to be at CES in Las Vegas this week. Colloquially known as the “Consumer Electronics Show,” CES is the largest technology exposition and conference in the world. Last year 189,000 people swarmed sessions and exhibits in 11 Las Vegas locations to catch a glimpse of the technology that will change our lives in the near future. I am supposed to be among them right now, but alas, a medical issue at home and a death in the family changed those plans. It’s too bad, because CES got off with a bang this year, when a robot that was making its way to its display booth was run over by a Tesla in autonomous driving mode. 

And here we thought all these robots and artificial intelligence machines were going to kill us humans instead.

The Daily Mail is reporting that the company Promobot has claimed one of its “rentable” model v4 robots was struck and ‘killed’ by a Tesla Model S on a Las Vegas street ahead of CES.

According to the article, “the accident occurred on Paradise Rd Sunday night as engineers transported the firm’s robots to the display booth.” Company officials say the unit is damaged beyond repair, and they do not know why the robot darted out into the street. 

Silly robot. I’m telling you, you just can’t take your eyes off these kids for a second. 

Many of you are now no doubt immediately thinking of the potential compensability of this issue. I am no lawyer (or judge, or claims manager), but I am guessing the “coming and going” rule would not allow for an immediate denial of workers’ compensation benefits. True, the robot was being escorted to the “workplace” for the day, but it had already traveled from Russia for the benefit of its employer (/creator), and since it was in Las Vegas for that reason I am thinking that an ALJ would likely award benefits in this case; in most states anyway, and assuming the robot was human, which given recent amateur Russian publicity stunts seems likely.

Now, speaking of cheap publicity stunts, there are those who believe this was just that; an over the top PR stunt. After all, this is the exact same Russian company that claimed in 2016 that one of their robots “escaped” their research facility, wreaking havoc on Moscow streets. Now, with one of their progenies heartlessly mowed down by Elon Musk while wandering the mean streets of Las Vegas, someone should probably call social services. These people aren’t responsible enough to raise young robots.

So, was this just a cheap public relations ploy? Let us analyze the facts.

Fortunately for us, they conveniently, and I’m sure quite coincidentally, had a stationary camera positioned to record the accident. You may watch the horrific incident unfold in the video below.

I’m sorry you had to see that. Very traumatizing. It is interesting to note that the robot does not appear to be moving at the time of the accident. It also appears to be completely unattended. The man who runs into the street to check on the robot (no doubt a babysitter in for a very severe reprimand) appears from the opposite side of the street, which does not fully support the narrative that the robot “darted in front of traffic” while being led to its display booth.

We all know that the three most dangerous things in this world are, 1) a woman scorned, 2) a wounded animal, and 3) a Tesla in autonomous driving mode. Still, even with the knowledge of the Tesla’s self-driving shortcomings, I would have to come down on the side of the suspicious with this one. It looks a bit contrived; somewhat staged. The robot looks as though it may have even been drugged. It never even flinched as the car approached.

The entire episode looks like it was produced by Saddam Hussein’s Office of Disinformation. That group of third world PR bunglers attempted in 1991 to convince the world that the US had bombed a “baby milk factory” instead of a secret chemical munitions facility as previously thought. The hand painted “Baby Milk Factory” sign placed on the rubble of the facility fooled no one, except for, of course, CNN

As I alluded before, the Russians have a tendency to flub the facts in this area. Just recently it was learned that a highly advanced “dancing robot” wasn’t as impressive as originally portrayed. It was eventually revealed that a human was inside the costume the entire time. I think we know where Saddam’s PR guys wound up – on Vladimir’s payroll.

So, is this a true, first time on the job death between technology platforms, or is it just a way to get a few minutes of fame? I suspect it is the latter but could also be a harbinger of things to come. The more these divergent devices and systems get ingrained in our lives, the more likely they will occasionally collide. 

As long as they leave us out of it, I’m good with that.

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