The aesthetics of the accident

Critical Design



My role in the project: research, video & story telling

Project duration: 2 weeks critical design course, BA Interaction Design at ZHDK in 2015

In this course we were encouraged to dispute with the aesthetics of various accidents. The task was to investigate and work out the aesthetics of an accidents with the aspects of material, visual, narrative & time.

Further visual and material experiments, should build a focus on a new and differentiated view of the accidents.

Autonomous Car, 2016

The first serious autonomous car accident

Joshua Brown loved his electronic Tesla Model S. He even gave his car the nick name Tessy. The 40-year old shared his excitement and confidence in his new Tesla model on Youtube, driving the car hands-free in pilot mode.

Joshua Brown was a technology enthusiastic human being, that did promise a lot from the innovation behind this self-driving car – in fate of his own dead.

The accident

Sunday, 7th of May, Joshua Brown is driving in auto pilot mode on a highway in Florida unrestrained into the side of a truck trailer with his "Tessy" and lost his live.

The driver The system
Top: A person driving a car, watching outside the window, Right: A possilbe platin behind a autonomous driving system
Both pictures are part of a aestetic research from various books

The moment of passing over trust

In my examination of this accident, I set a focus on the moment when someone is passing its trust on a system that promises more than it actually can. Tesla was testing its autonomous driving system on public roads in public beta at the moment of the accident.

“Always keep your hands on the wheel. Be prepared to take over at any time.”
Communication between the Tesla Model S and the driver when auto pilot is activated

The hands should be kept at any time at the steering wheel to gain back the control of the vehicle as soon as the autonomous driving mode fails.

The control and trust always remains part of the driver and not the vehicle. As a driver and customer of such self-driving car that doesn't really matter as the person already puts close to blind trust into the system behind such an innovation without really knowing what is happening exactly.

The term «Auto Pilot» is pretty vague, furthermore there are a lot of new distraction that occur when a car is driving it self. Hands-free behind a wheel without any worries what is happening on street, the driver is becoming a sidecar driver. However in the center of attraction stays the now magically moving steering wheel in front of the driver.

Steering Wheel
Solid grip of a steering weel with both hands, as part of a aestetic desktop research from various books

My short film fragments a speculative scenario in which the driver is adviced to activate the auto pilot mode and let go the steering wheel by the car itself. With multiple indicators and sensors positioned on the steering wheel that measure the drivers capability to drive. Those indicators are similar to warning signals and can get annoying through repetition. At some point the driver sacrifice his will to the technology. With even more signals the car finally wants to get full control over the vehicle. The driver therefore gives in.

What this triggers and if this really increased the trust in autonomous driving is left to the viewer himself.

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