CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Culture

Volvo plows into bystanders, company says tech could have stopped it

Technically Incorrect: A Volvo accelerates toward people apparently watching a demonstration. The company says that its owner didn't have the pedestrian detection feature installed.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


volvo.jpg
That looks painful. And avoidable. Remolacha/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It's going to be ever more disconcerting when cars have minds of their own.

We'll give them those minds. We may never be sure, though, what they will do with them.

But how much are we already relying on technology to do what our own eyes used to do?

An example of this is a YouTube video showing a Volvo XC60 mowing down some people who were merely standing by. The video was posted by the Dominican Republic's Remolacha blog, which claimed the car was showing off its "self-parking" skills.

My Emmental-like knowledge of Spanish tells me that "remolacha" means beet. And if you watch the video you surely fear that a couple of the bystanders will end up beat-up and beet-colored after the car first reverses and then hurtles toward them.

It simply doesn't stop and even the man filming the action appears to drop his camera and run.

I contacted Volvo to wonder what had happened. A company spokesman told me: "A film has been circulated online that claims to show a demonstration of a 'self-driving' or 'self-parking' Volvo XC60. This is factually incorrect. This car was being driven by a human being."

Was this human being, therefore, deliberately trying to wipe out apparently innocent human beings?

The Volvo explanation is enlightening. The company told me: "This vehicle was not fitted with Pedestrian Detection, a Volvo safety system designed to identify pedestrians and apply a vehicle's brakes."

So it takes a piece of software to tell a human being behind the wheel that there's another human being in his way? If it was being driven by a human being, why didn't he use his eyes and then his feet to brake?

All that Volvo would tell me was that this car was fitted only with a feature called City Safety. The spokesman explained that this feature "contributes to safer driving in heavy city traffic by avoiding or mitigating rear end collisions with other vehicles in low speeds by braking."

He added: "There was nothing wrong with this car itself. The unfortunate incident happened only due to human error."

The driver couldn't see full-sized human beings in his way? He couldn't be bothered to brake? He really didn't like these people?

The mystery remains.

In the very near future, it seems we'll be numbed and dumbed by software (we already are). So much so that we'll rely entirely on it instead of the evidence of our own vision receptacles.

The Remolacha YouTube posting says that the two men who were hit were bruised, but otherwise alive. It adds: "Our sources tell us that the vehicle didn't have the City Safety feature installed."