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Dawn or Doom speaker says Pokémon Go can be deadly

Mara Faccio at Dawn or Doom '16 the political determinants of competition.

Playing the smartphone game “Pokémon Go” while driving led to traffic accidents, property damage and fatalities in the months following the game’s release, says Mara Faccio, an example of how technological advances can sometimes have unintended consequences.

Faccio’s conclusion comes after an extensive study conducted with John McConnell, a fellow professor in Purdue’s Krannert School of Management, which looked at the connection between traffic accidents and the locations players can visit in the game while driving.

Faccio will talk about her study and the unintended consequences when new technologies – like the augmented reality software used in Pokémon Go – are employed in unexpected ways as part of Purdue’s Dawn or Doom conference. The annual conference explores the risks and rewards of emerging technologies. Dawn or Doom ’18 will be held on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 5-6. The conference, now in its fifth year, is free and open to the public.

Faccio and McConnell studied the causal impact of users playing Pokémon GO while driving on traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities, exploiting the location of “PokéStops” – physical locations where players can collect, while driving, the weapons needed to capture Pokemons – both before the game’s release and for 148 days after for all of Tippecanoe County, where Purdue is located.

Combing through accident data and accounting for extraneous factors in crashes, they found players playing the game while driving accounted for 134 incremental crashes, 31 incremental injuries and 2 incremental fatalities – with the incremental countywide cost estimated to be between $5.2 million and $25.5 million. The study estimated the national cost related to playing Pokémon Go while driving to be $2 billion to $7.3 billion.

Although Faccio says her study focused on the connection between Pokémon GO and driving, the game is just one example of how advances in smartphone technology have come at a time when traffic accident deaths are growing and the phones are now practically ubiquitous. Insurance companies have already begun to factor the costs of smartphone-related accidents into the price of insurance – causing rates to go up.

“Smartphones provide many benefits,” Faccio says. “But they also provide distractions that can be deadly.”

Dawn or Doom is aligned with Purdue's Giant Leaps Sesquicentennial Campaign and is part of the Ideas Festival theme, Giant Leaps in Artificial Intelligence, Algorithms, and Automation: Balancing Humanity and Technology. The Ideas Festival is the centerpiece of the campaign and connects world-renowned speakers and Purdue expertise in a conversation on the most critical problems and opportunities facing the world.

Writer: Dave Stephens, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-496-7998,

Last updated: October 15, 2018