In this age of social media like Facebook and instant messaging services like Whatsapp, news spreads very quickly. Almost the moment something is said or happens, thousands can know about it. That’s the wonderful part about the internet and digital age – instant dissemination of information to the masses.
But there’s also a negative side to such speed and ease of spreading news: the facts may be incorrect, even if the news is not fake. There may be people who purposely make the facts incorrect for their own reasons but there may also be people who do not get the right facts (or get the wrong ones) or form their own conclusions which are then taken as ‘facts’.
Because the news spreads so fast – it can be picked up by people on the other side of the planet in minutes – and it is shared or copied by many people, it starts to become big news not just in the area where it happened but also in another country. And since the facts are not fully established, whatever was originally posted may remain as the only ‘facts’ available.
The even worse thing is that, because of the sharing by hundreds if not thousands, even if the person who posted originally made a correction or deleted the post, it is likely to still be somewhere on the Internet… possibly forever.
So anyone who does a search for something related to the matter may see it many years later. Depending on the subject, it may be so sensational that the person may quickly share it with friends, not realising it is old news and even unaware that it may also be invalid.
That happens many times and recently, it happened to Volvo. Apparently, an old video clip of an accident which occurred during a demonstration of the automatic braking system has been circulated and while some people remember it apeared in 2015, many more see it as something which just happened.
Naturally, Volvo is unhappy about this occurrence; when it first came out, a detailed explanation was provided and the matter faded away. Now it has come back and the company has again to clarify that not only is it an outdated matter but some of the facts are wrong, especially where the functioning of the automatic braking system was concerned (it did not fail).
In the video clip, a Volvo XC60 is shown colliding with two men, one of whom was said to be the MD of Volvo Cars and to make it more sensational, someone also added that they were paralyzed! In a statement from Volvo Car Malaysia, the fact that the accident occurred is not disputed but they have established that while that XC60 was equipped with City Safety (as the automatic braking system is called), it did not have the Pedestrian Detection functionality. This is an extra-cost option which is necessary to recognise humans in front of the car.
“Even if the car was equipped with this feature, the heavy acceleration of the driver could have caused the system to be overridden and deactivated; our auto-braking (mitigation and avoidance) technology is highly advanced and in cases which the car detects that the driver intends to perform the action deliberately, it will deactivate itself,” the statement added, and it was also clarified that it was not the ‘MD of Volvo Cars’.
Volvo Car Malaysia strongly recommends its dealers, partners and customers to never perform such tests towards real humans. Even when the company first demonstrated the safety feature in the S60 in 2011, it used a dummy and in tests with other cars that I have done, there has been either a dummy or cardboard boxes (to simulate the back of a vehicle). No company has ever asked its staff to stand in front of a car in such situations!
While many incorrect facts are due to ‘unpaid reporters’ who may have happened to pass by, even reporters can get it wrong sometimes. I remember one case in the 1970s when a reporter wrote that a car had split into three parts as a result of a crash. That was shocking but it was incorrect because the car, while badly damaged, did not split into three parts.
What had happened was that the firemen who came had to cut it up to get the occupants out. The reporter arrived later and saw only the three sections of the car and wrongly assumed that it had split that way. Perhaps he was rushed or he couldn’t get someone to provide information so that is how he wrote the story.
The resurfacing of the Volvo video clip which was originally incorrectly described is something that we have to live with. However, people need to pause a bit and examine the news more closely and also think before they share and spread wrong news further.