If the world eventually adopts self-driving cars, there could be an unexpected secondary impact on the availability of donor organs.
Google’s doing self-driving cars because they are safer than the current human-operated situation that claims an average of 3,287 lives every single day. This unfortunate statistic represents one of the most ready sources of donor organs we have access to today.
“We have this huge problem that we sort of don’t talk about, that people die all the time from car accidents,” said Bre Pettis, co-founder of 3-D printing company MakerBot, told Fortune. “It’s kind of insane. But the most interesting thing is, if we can reduce accidents and deaths, then we actually have a whole other problem on our hands of, ‘Where do we get organs?'”
Pettis has a solution, though. He thinks we will 3-D print organs to compensate for the drop in donations. “I don’t think we’ll actually be printing organs until we solve the self-driving car issue. The next problem will be organ replacement.”
The reasoning goes that the more people we have in driverless cars, the fewer lethal accidents we’ll have. If we cut down on accidents, fewer donor organs become available for those who might need new kidneys, hearts, lungs, or other body parts. Pettis is suggesting that it’s only at this point that 3-D printing will become a viable means for manufacturing new organs from scratch.
He says that the problem of 3-D printing a functioning body part is as easy as squeezing “liver goo” into the shape of a liver, where the goo grows together to eventually yield a finished product. It’s the science behind making the “liver goo” that represents the last hurdle to be overcome. The hardware for printing organs is already here, it’s the chemical science behind making the goos that corresponds to various organs that needs to be investigated.
By normalizing the self-driving car, we stand to save some lives and set the scene to kick science up a notch as well. Having to find a new source of organs because people are travelling more safely is something we should call a “high quality problem.”
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