In order to demonstrate the ability of its driverless cars to prevent collisions, Chinese tech giant Baidu got a handful of its engineers to jump out in front of one of them while it was in motion.
The stunt, performed last week, was revealed by Baidu’s CEO Robin Li, who boasted about it in a speech to commemorate his birthday.
The car stopped and no one was hurt, but Li noted it wasn’t foolproof. “I felt it was a little risky, because we hadn’t done something like that before,” he said. “But it was still very safe, no problem,” he added
He reportedly said that he was sitting in one of the autonomous vehicles, when a “few people” by the roadside suddenly rushed in front of the car.
The car stopped and no one was hurt, but Li noted it wasn’t foolproof. “I felt it was a little risky, because we hadn’t done something like that before,” he said. “But it was still very safe, no problem,” he added.
People are pretty appalled. On social media, Chinese users are questioning whether the company had any plan B if the car failed to stop.
One user, He Yu Lao, said on Weibo: “Baidu corporate culture: The employee’s life isn’t a life.”
Li probably wasn’t expecting a big public backlash to that revelation. On Monday, his publicist clarified that Li wasn’t behind the stunt, and that it was a surprise to him, too.
People aren’t impressed with that explanation, though. A Weibo user, Tofugg, said: “If he didn’t know about it, he shouldn’t have used it for publicity!”Another user, Chi Gou Rou, said: “Will Baidu have to kill you and your family before you realise what it stands for?”
Baidu is relatively new on the driverless car scene, having started about a year ago.
It’s been developing an autonomous vehicle software it calls AutoBrain, and has been testing it with auto makers like Germany’s BMW and China’s BYD to get its smarts into cars.
It’s set itself an ambitious goal to mass produce driverless cars in five years.
Baidu is better known as the Google of China, running the country’s most-used search engine. It also has a streaming music service, called Baidu Music, and has a Wikipedia-like site called Baike.