Robin Li criticized for risking engineers’ lives in an autonomous vehicle stunt

Baidu founder Robin Li on Thursday took the Baidu driverless car for a ride in Wuzhen, and pulled a stunt that attracted criticism online.

Robin Li was the 177th passenger of the Baidu driverless car in its showcase drive at Wuzhen. Mid-voyage, he encountered a couple of “pedestrians” rushing out of nowhere to the middle of the road, stopping the car. Nobody got physically hurt, but public criticism followed, Sina Tech reported.

Li mentioned the experiment at the third World Internet Conference (WIC) or Wuzhen Summit. He admitted that Baidu engineers were the “pedestrians” that tried to stop the car, in order to show the ability of the Baidu autonomous vehicle to respond to cases of emergency.

Robin Li with a Baidu driverless car.
Robin Li with a Baidu driverless car.

It sparked wide discussion online. Many asked about the consequences: what if something horrible had happened? Was Li putting human life at risk just to show how good Baidu driverless cars could be?

Baidu responded quickly, saying that it wasn’t Li who arranged the experiment, and that Li didn’t know about it in advance. Baidu said that they had previously done similar experiments many times, only that this time Robin Li was the passenger. In addition, measures are taken every time to ensure that the “passengers” are safe.

“After all, one of the goals of developing an autonomous car itself is to improve safety” a Baidu engineer told Sina Tech.

Following the Tesla crashes in both the US and China, including both fatal and non-fatal accidents, there’s has been a rising concern from the public about the safety of autonomous vehicles.

(Photos from Baidu Images)

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