Those self-driving cars are looking better than ever.
(Transport Accident Commission)
Meet Graham. He’s the hideously malformed but highly evolved virtual human designed to show us all how far off the biological mark we really are when it comes to surviving automobile wrecks.
For this eye-opening moment in your life, you can thank the combined skills of a trendsetting visual artist and a trauma surgeon-slash-car crash investigator who wanted to give a little high-profile heft to the latest campaign launched by Australia’s Transport Accident Commission.
To be sure, the same technological leaps forward that allow people to create something like Graham—and digitally peer beneath “his” skin—also tend to help us make it through a car crash with the bodies we do have.
And, increasingly, the science of surviving high-speed collisions is taking us away from mitigation (airbags, etc.) and deep into prevention—like the kind Elon Musk expects to spread throughout the world in the next big phase of Tesla’s development.
In a big recent announcement, Musk explained why he’s given the green light to roll out Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving software, even though it’s not so advanced that even a creature shaped like Graham could sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. “The most important reason is that, when used correctly, it is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves and it would therefore be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability,” Musk wrote. “It would no more make sense to disable Tesla's Autopilot, as some have called for, than it would to disable autopilot in aircraft, after which our system is named.”
With any luck, after a few years of development, it’ll be our cars, not ourselves, who’ll be unrecognizable.