Drive From 1970 to 2055 in This Surprisingly Zen PSA From the Makers of 'Meet Graham'
Research from the Transport Accident Commission of Victoria in Australia finds that drivers between 18 and 25 years old accounted for 24 percent of Victoria road deaths last year.
It wants to reach out to youths and change this. But instead of conceiving the tragically blood-splattered low-hanging fruit of its peers, it's come up with "Road to Zero."
It should come as no surprise that the organization that gave us "Meet Graham" would come up with a piece of work so much at odds with its medium. Virtual reality is supposed to be interactive … isn't it?
"Road to Zero" puts you in the driver's seat of a car in the 1970s. "You're about to take a road trip … through time!" a voice tells you, then the garage door slides open and we advance into the era that gave us both Happy Days and the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
There isn't much to do. You can scroll a full 360 degrees around, soaking in the view or even swiveling to stare at the backseat (never mind that you're driving). No one gets hurt. There are no consequences to your naughty behavior.
Our best advice is that you accept your fate and enjoy the scenery, which, despite everything, possesses points of interest for those willing to invest. Surrendering also makes it easier to appreciate the fact that nothing is demanded of us but attention.
Think of it as something equivalent to the "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyland, except without the cringey moments of what clearly now rings of racism.
The radio is annoying, but provides points of contrast to what's before our eyes. As the wide gray streets of '70s suburbia speed past, occasionally interrupted by the loudly colored, rocket-inspired car models of the period, you're told that Victoria clocked 1,061 road deaths, up from the previous year.
Things continue thus. The '90s drift by. Cars are smaller, spaces greener. We learn about the introduction of mobile speed cameras, and news of those newfangled "breath tests" is announced just as you pass a row of cops actually conducting one.
Speed limits evolve, and traffic does, too. By the time we hit 2025, the roads are less busy and the streets invite more pedestrian traffic.
In 2055, the roads are no longer recognizable; it's all a friendly brick red, inviting fearless strolling, and the surrounding greenery practically quenches a thirst for nature that we didn't realize we had.
We're cruising in a driverless car reminiscent of Mercedes' F 015 prototype, all cool lighting and poofy inside-facing seats—the better to elicit conversation, or a picnic between people who spend most of their time in suits (or extremely expensive jeans).
A song called "Pet Robots" has taken the No. 2 spot on the pop charts. More importantly, Victoria's has had zero road fatalities for two years!
That's what "Road to Zero" is about—making the notion of urban utopia feel accessible. Getting us all there requires a mental and emotional buy-in that can't be achieved with gore, or by guilt; instead, it's a dream that must be planted, cultivated and nourished.
Which we're guessing is the purpose of this experience. At first we resented its lack of interaction—or any action. But the more we played, the more we appreciated this little pleasure voyage toward a better version of our roads, and ourselves.