Google Credited with Predicting and Averting Horrific Traffic Accident

Sunday, March 8, 2009
Staff Writer, Bradley Bowden

McKinney, TX – A very serious accident was prevented today on 75 Northbound in McKinney, Texas.  Authorities are crediting Google with yet another display of their incredible talent.  According to Google officials, their program Wisdom Attained Through Compiling History (W.A.T.C.H.) was able to send out multiple signals to several cars in the area, overriding the manual controls, and automatically re-routing the traffic into a non-accident producing pattern.

“We estimate that there were 7 lives saved today as a result of the W.A.T.C.H. program” stated the Google official.  “All total that’s 2,457 lives that have been saved since our program went online six months ago.” …

COULD THIS REALLY HAPPEN?

Have you ever just been minding your own business when all of the sudden a picture/event pops into your head and you wonder… where the heck did that come from?  Especially if it’s of some future type event, that you know hasn’t happened yet, and because of the bizarreness of the vision, it’s almost unbelievable.minority-report

Wait… are you saying that you have? or that you haven’t?  Well, either way, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this nearly science fiction type vision that popped into my head the other day.  When I saw it, it was very real. Let’s just say, it was sort of a mix between Minority Report and the Matrix.  It’s what prompted me to write the “future” headline and article above.

I was actually driving at the time when suddenly I was picturing a multi-car accident playing out in my mind… not such a big deal, I’ve had those before, but here is where the bizarre part comes in.  This accident, which was obviously some time in the future was being prevented and even reversed by something.

You see in my futuristic vision Google had become so powerful, so virtually connected to every aspect of our lives, that their computers were able to prevent this accident.  They were collecting data on everything from traffic conditions, types of cars on the road, who was on the road, who had insurance, how many accidents had taken place at that location in the past, how many accidents the drivers in the area had been in, their moods (via Twitter & Facebook and something called Plooter – I have no idea, but I’ve got dibs on the name), how much gas was in each car, who was falling asleep at the wheel (due to networked retina scans inside the vehicle), etc., etc. I thinmatrix-scene-bulletsk you get the point.

Now, Google was able to extract all of this information, drop it into a aggregator and instantly compare it to all historical data to determine that an accident was about to happen.  In my vision, which only lasted a half-second, the accident started in slow motion, but half way through, it reversed (very Matrix style as if I could have watched the event from any angle I wanted to – This would have been possible since, in the future, there will literally be cameras recording events from every angle imaginable, including the view from our own eyes.)

So, there I was, driving into a non-existent accident scene because the Google bots had caused one or more of the cars to slow down just enough to avoid the catalyst that started what could have been a horrific accident scene with tremendous loss of life.  Horray for Google they saved the day… or did they? This kind of gives new meaning to Google Earth.

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23 Responses

  1. Great article thanks for sharing. :-)

  2. @Toxic: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. I appreciate the comment.

  3. Well that’s a scary thought! But it will never happen, people just aren’t willing to share that much personal information.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I just got a butt itch. I need to go post about it on Twitter and perhaps pontificate on it in a blog post. I will send you it for review via StumbleUpon.

    Inward facing grimmace…

    Derek @ NüHabits

  4. Very cool :) I often want to write about futuristic stuff but I can barely describe the present :) Nice work :)
    Stumbled
    I’m inspired to follow up on my Blogging 2010 post :)

  5. @Derek: Ha! I don’t know if I would say, it would “NEVER” happen. But, I’m sure that one catastrophic world-changing event could produce something similar in the aftermath. Plus, look around the next time you go out and count how many cameras you see. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    @John Sullivan: Thanks John! Glad you’re inspired. Looking forward to your follow up on “Blogging 2010″.

  6. Well, that’s certainly something very interesting. As much as I am into Sci-Fi and into future prediction stories, i am a little bit scared about that. What if it’s a power outage at the Google centers? What if a microchip breaks and start sending incorrect data? What if a guys just close his eyes for a second and Google bots take this as a “false positive”?

    On the other hand, if something like this could be implemented with zero failures, well, that would be really, really interesting :-)))

    Thought provoking article, thanks for sharing!

  7. You made me feel like I’ve missed the last 200 years! Hehe. Great article and well done on the way you grabbed my attention! Great stuff!

  8. Pretty amazing stuff.

  9. “I was actually driving at the time when suddenly I was picturing a multi-car accident playing out in my mind… not such a big deal, I’ve had those before…”

    OK, Bradley. First tell me why the above segment from your article is no big deal. I’m thinking you maybe should be writing on-line games about driving in heavy traffic… and get off the road. That’s just scary.

    Compelling writing, though. Thanks for sharing.

  10. @Dragos Roua: Yes, a back-up system, or two, to prevent power failures would certainly be necessary. Thanks for the comment. :-)

    @Conrad Theart: Glad you enjoyed it!

    @John Haydon: Thank for stopping by John! It certainly is amazing.

    @Rod Newbound: Ha! Rod, what I meant by not such a big deal, is that I have had images of accidents play out in front of me before and NOTHING happens. Which is why having another one, wasn’t a big deal… until it all changed and reversed. THAT was the BIG DEAL! ;-) Thanks for the comment, I’m glad you thought it was compelling.

  11. I’d say that’s a pretty safe prediction right there.

    After losing control of the vehicle to auto-mode, would one question Google’s decision?

    “what the hell is this? !, im gonna be late!”

    Perhaps a soft womans voice saying ” There is a 95% chance of an accident happening in 1 mile John”. Then I can choose to slow down and keep extra distance.

  12. I understand how Google can predict flu outbreaks through the use of their search in specific areas, however predicting an accident involves predicting human error.
    Error can come from so many different factors not related to the primary functions of a car that I don’t think that this can ever happen.
    A spilled coffee,
    An unexpected phone call,
    A lack of a good nights sleep.
    I could see how Google could reroute traffic after an accident, but predicting one, I just don’t see it happening.

  13. The only way google will enable this is if they buy all the real technology on the outskirts of their rudimentary crap.

    http://www.twine.com/item/122mz8lz9-4c/wolfram-alpha-is-coming-and-it-could-be-as-important-as-google

  14. I need to look into the WATCH program.

  15. @jigglemequick: You said: “I’d say that’s a pretty safe prediction right there.” Was the pun intended? ;-)

    @Andrew Brinkworth: Cars today are being equipped with technology to automatically break if they sense something gets too close, so it’s not too far fetched to think that all the cars on the road could be networked together. I think the only thing holding something like this back is the invasion of privacy people would feel.

    @mikewat: Look at all of the peripherals Google is already getting into. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone at the company hasn’t already envisioned something like this.

    BTW, Wolfram Alpha has potential, let’s see if they can pull it off.

    @Happiness is Better: Hey Dustin, you think I’ll get any royalties off of the W.A.T.C.H. program? Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment.

  16. I was waiting for the punchline to be that while distracted by this future vision, you ran into the car in front of you.

  17. commenting to subscribe.

  18. This posting reminds me too of the late, great SciFi writer , Phillip K. Dick. The old “Fat Man” would have
    approved! Count Sneaky

  19. Great concept. :) Two things spring to mind. The first is that I don’t think Google would be the company to make that happen, I think it would be OnStar. (Or is that GM?)

    Second, I don’t think it would require as much data as you might at first think it would require. Often in complex situations like multi-car collisions people get confused by a glut of information and think that a lot of data is important when the reality is that most of it isn’t really contributing to the issue.

    Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book Blink that was on the NY Times best seller list. One of the examples was detecting heart attacks in the ER. It turns out that doctors tended to gather quite a lot of information to decide if a particular patient was having a heart attack and detection was poor. What dramatically improved detection was in fact reducing the amount of information they used, restricting it to just 4 variables. That improved detection quite a bit, bringing it up if I remember correctly from around 60-ish percent to around 90-ish percent.

    So I think what we might start to see is an extension of the OnStar system that would just count neighboring cars on a GPS grid, compare that to a very short list of common causes of traffic collisions, and then alert the driver with an easily recognizable signal that “this situation merits a little extra caution”.

    So as an example, you’re driving down the freeway, the system notices a vehicle behind you that’s weaving through traffic at a speed faster than the surrounding traffic. The car pops on the “caution” light and sounds a small bell. And a moment later you see the guy weave in front of you on his way to wherever. It doesn’t prevent people from doing dumb things, but it gives everyone a little heads up.

    The same system could similarly detect the pattern of traffic swerving around a foreign object in the road ahead, without knowing what the object is, just by following the GPS signatures of the cars.

    The eye data might still be useful, but probably primarily for the purpose of alerting drivers who are too drowsy to drive. Studies have shown that driving drowsy is actually much more dangerous than driving drunk. And in the case of drunk or drowsy eratic drivers we might even see the same system dispatch a police cruiser to the scene in some cases to help keep folks safe.

  20. p.s. I like the name / acronym WATCH. :)

  21. I will keep this short simply because it is true. Since the beginning of recorded history, “what the mind of man can concieve he can create.” In the Bible in Genesis 11, the account of all the people with one language decided to build a tower all the way to heaven. The Bible says that the LORD said, “nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” To stop them he changed their languages and “stopped” effective communication.

  22. I liked Issac Dealy’s comments. As a part-time speaking position I teach defensive driving to “people who get special invitations to my class,” people who get tickets. Several years ago I tripped across a website called Lumosity.com. It comes with a free 7-day trial that does not require credit card information. I started playing the games and the puzzles and noticed a difference in my driving. To paraphrase his words, I increased my personal grid and was able to see various patterns that were uncommonly similar. With that information I was able to make better judgments in traffic situations.

    For the past three years i mention to people in my classes to play puzzles, do word search puzzles, go to Lumosity, Google “brain exercisers” and improve things like pattern analysis, reaction time, critical thinking crisis management, etc. It works and students have come back and commented to the changes.

  23. […] Google Credited with Predicting and Averting Horrific Traffic Accident […]

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