A new technological technique for creating optical illusions has come about that makes drivers believe they are about to hit a child and therefore slow down. The technique is under fire as an incredibly bad idea that may cause more accidents than it may save. As drivers approach, the image of child chasing a ball suddenly appears in front of them at a distance. But as drivers approach it suddenly recedes into the ground.
The idea is the brain child of David Dunne of the British Colombian Automobile Association. Dunne suggests the experiment is expected to lower accidents and make drivers more aware of their environment, but others expect the experiment could result in other accidents as well as headaches for drivers.
“There are already too many distractions for drivers on the road,” one forum poster said, voicing their concern for the new program, “We don’t need drivers suddenly screeching to a halt and then assessing an optical illusion before they’ll start moving again.” Others are afraid drivers will swerve in order to avoid the illusory children and accidentally smash into pedestrians or other cars nearby. The deception in this experiment suggests an obstacle is on the road that simply is not there.
Additionally, if a driver were to stop while waiting for the child to pass, how long would they wait before deciding they should drive toward the child and thus prove it is an optical illusion. Furthermore, one poster suggested the rise of a terrifying “I thought they were an optical illusion” defense for hit and run cases. And perhaps most dangerously, there is the threat of drivers slamming on their brakes in order to avoid collision with an illusory child as they travel at great speeds with someone behind them. As they slam on the brakes, the driver behind them may not have a fast enough reaction time and slam into the car in front of them. And while this may not be an ideal scenario, it’s yet another possibility for the experiment to go wrong.
Dunne suggests these will not be likely scenarios to arise, and that the program is currently still in the experimental phase. As they collect data on the potential problems and benefits, they will react accordingly.
The illusion is achieved by creating an image on the pavement that works with the upward slope of the road making some objects appear to be three dimensional and standing up. But as drivers approach, the image returns to an obviously flat elongated image once again.
The real problem here is the replacement of good ideas with the application of technology and gimmicks. If the technology were not available for problems such as this, people would have to think more critically about what solutions to come up with.
Should we be deceiving drivers into thinking they will run over children if they don’t slow down? And what psychological impact will there be as drivers slow to avoid what they believe to be a playing child only to learn there was no danger in the first place?