A driverless electric shuttle bus debuted in downtown Las Vegas on Wednesday and was involved in an accident within hours. I’m certain this isn’t the kind of publicity that AAA and Keolis were chasing when they launched the shuttle.
I assumed the shuttle was at fault, and I know I wasn’t alone. Television news outlets teased the story in a way that seemed to imply the driverless shuttle was to blame. Other media outlets were no better:
- Fox News- Self-driving shuttle crashes in Las Vegas hours after launch
- BBC News- Self-driving shuttle bus in crash on first day
- News 3 in Las Vegas- World’s first self-driving shuttle crashes on first day of use
- Business Insider- A self-driving bus in Las Vegas got in a crash on its very first day
- Engadget- Las Vegas’ self-driving bus crashes in first hour of service
- Huffington Post UK- A Self-Driving Bus Was Involved In A Car Accident On Its First Day
- Sputnik International- Futuristic Self-Driving Bus Crashes in Las Vegas During Inauguration
None of the outlets says the shuttle bus is at fault. But let’s be honest – don’t you read these headlines and make that assumption?
Those who read the story learned quickly that human error caused the fender bender. A delivery truck backed into the shuttle to cause the crash, which injured no one and caused only minor damage.
Sadly, when many of us “cruise the news,” we frequently read only the headlines.
Although I wouldn’t say that any of the abovementioned media outlets got the information wrong in their headlines, here are some media outlets that did a better job of not throwing the shuttle under the bus in their headline approach:
- Las Vegas Review-Journal- Human at fault in accident with Las Vegas driverless shuttle
- New York Daily News- Self-driving bus gets into accident on its first day in Las Vegas, human driver blamed for collision
- MLive- Self-driving bus involved in crash on 1st day not at fault, Las Vegas says
- Death Rattle Sports- Self-driving bus collides with truck on its first day, human driver at fault
- Newsline- Self-driving shuttle hit by truck just hours into Las Vegas debut
I empathize with the public relations team behind the driverless shuttle, because the next few days will be an uphill battle to clarify to the public that although their vehicle was involved in a crash on its maiden voyage, it didn’t cause the crash.
Many reporters talk smack about public relations people and the things we do that drive them crazy, from bad pitches to having the nerve to follow up on emails or calls that go unreturned.
This story is a reminder that sometimes the media aggravates us, too. These headlines make the job of the shuttle’s public relations team more challenging – needlessly.