Home Articles The car polygraph

The car polygraph

If it’s true that necessity is the mother of invention, I never want to get in a car with either Bernhard Mattes or Gottfried Flik behind the wheel.
Mattes and Flik are the proud authors of US Patent 6784792, a “Method and device for recognition of a collision with a pedestrian” (issued August 2004). That’s right, a fancy widget to help you confirm whether that flash across the bonnet of your vehicle was actually a human being (as opposed to, say, a kangaroo… or the wind).
You’re probably curious how many humans you actually have to run down before you start thinking about building a device to keep score. But this patent, like so many in the Bi-Goodness pantheon, does not waste time navel gazing. It’s far too busy showcasing its technological brilliance (sigh).
Perhaps, Mattes and Flik were insurance assessors, or road accident investigation detectives, because what they invented is effectively a polygraph for automobiles. More likely, they were a couple of obsessive engineers who fed off each other’s eccentricity until they had created this Monty Pythonesque ode to absurdity.
So next time you find your ear pressed against the hood of a moving car, listen for a short beep. Your number may not be up, but you bet it’s been taken.
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