Apparently, this meme is making the rounds among the gun nuts:
We’re indoctrinated and thoughtless about one form of mass murder, so let’s stay that way about another one!
Turns out there’s another problem — you know, other than their wild, ecocidal unsustainability — with the cars of the future. The integration of computers is rendering them externally controllable.
Andy Greenberg reports in Wired:
I’d come to St. Louis to be Miller and Valasek’s digital crash-test dummy, a willing subject on whom they could test the car-hacking research they’d been doing over the past year. The result of their work was a hacking technique—what the security industry calls a zero-day exploit—that can target Jeep Cherokees and give the attacker wireless control, via the Internet, to any of thousands of vehicles. Their code is an automaker’s nightmare: software that lets hackers send commands through the Jeep’s entertainment system to its dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission, all from a laptop that may be across the country.
Greenberg’s piece is worth reading.
DbC‘s editor lives in the Congressional district of one Rep. Kurt Schrader, the estimable co-chair of the Blue-Dog Coalition, a group who claim to believe that (wait for it…) the Democratic Party is too far to the left.
Within the Blue Dogs’ pathetic attempt to ensure themselves lifetime tenure as well-paid D.C. placeholders, here is what such types have to say about transportation policy in the USA:
“It is the position of the Blue Dogs that any comprehensive infrastructure package should be fully paid for in a fiscally responsible manner and a hearing would allow Ways and Means Committee members the opportunity to explore avenues for providing sustainable, reliable, and responsible transportation funding and planning well into the future.”
This is Congro-Speak for continuing the long-running practice of unanimously shoveling more cash into cars-first transportation “into the future.”
On behalf of our grandchildren, one has to ask: This is what passes for “sustainable” and “responsible” politics in 2015?
The idea being peddled is that Google is going to figure out how to have computers take over all the tasks involved in driving automobiles, so that “a self-driving car that can shoulder this burden for us.” The main promise of such an outcome seems to be a big jump in the safety and convenience of riding in personal automobiles.
To promote this promise, Google not only downplays the collective-choice dilemma it faces — who will own a self-driving car unless and until everybody else does? — but tells only half the technical story. Drivers make mistakes and do stupid (heavily sponsored) things while behind the wheel, Google reports.
What Google does not report, meanwhile, is the profound complexity of automobile driving, both in terms of the environmental conditions and mental processes involved. As Google knows all too well, there are huge numbers of ways to generate big failures in dealing with such complexities.
Of course, Google also never mentions an even bigger elephant in it’s technogasm: the one great catastrophe that would undoubtedly result from the success of its Project.
Here is how Google frames the ultimate question, under pictures of giggling, hand-holding, rejoicing passengers enjoying robo-rides:
Why self-driving cars matter
Imagine if everyone could get around easily and safely, regardless of their ability to drive.
Yes, by all means, do imagine this!
What would the triumph of Google Cars mean for the ongoing reign of the automobile as the main mode of personal travel in the world’s richest societies? It would deepen and extend that reign, would it not? And what, dear Google, you supposed pursuer of reason and science and true human interests, is THAT likely to mean for us humans?
Of course, Google is just about as genuinely interested in human welfare and the deployment of science for social betterment as are other capitalists, which is to say: not bloody much.
Anybody who actually cares about these things has to face up to the radical unsustainability of cars-first transportation.
Google, meanwhile, is busy polishing its brand and positioning itself to sell hundreds of millions of automotive navigation systems.
Our grandchildren, should they somehow inherit the ability to sustain print-literate societies, will not look kindly on Google Cars.
— Bob Lutz
You know that recent train derailment in Philadelphia, the one that, while killing one-eleventh of the average daily number dying in U.S. car crashes (32,719/365 = 89.6), made the top story in all the major MSM outlets? While the standard spin in the MSM was (and of course had to be) the special terrors (and thus foolhardiness) of rail travel, the reality is that these deaths were due to the worse-than-pathetic treatment of passenger rail in this, the home base and proving ground of corporate capitalist dictatorship.
Per today’s edition of The New York Times:
[D]espite having some of the least-extensive passenger rail networks in the developed world, the United States today has among the worst safety records. Fatality rates are almost twice as high as in the European Union and countries like South Korea, and roughly triple the rate in Australia.
The cause? Hardly a mystery:
According to the International Transport Forum of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States invested less than 0.1 percent of its gross domestic product on rail systems in 2013, a quarter of what was spent by Britain and one-sixth of the investments by France and Australia.
Over the past decade, even developing countries including India, Russia and Turkey have consistently invested far greater shares of their G.D.P. on rail.
Per capita, the United States also comes up short. In 2011, the most recent year for which comparative statistics are available, it spent roughly $35 per person on all rail infrastructure.
By comparison, Japan spent nearly three times as much — more than $100 per person — with the 28 member countries of the European Union investing similar sums.
In terms of safety, the return on that investment has been clear. Japan’s famous Shinkansen “bullet train” network has never experienced a fatal crash or derailment in 51 years of operation, while in France the same can be said of its gleaming fleet of high-speed TGVs, which have zipped across the French countryside for close to three decades.
[W]e are living in the most explosive era of road and infrastructure expansion in human history – from the plains of the Serengeti to the rainforests of Sumatra. By 2050, [experts] estimate, there will be an additional 25 million kilometres (15.5 million miles) of new paved roads globally, enough to circle the Earth 600 times.
From the latest Automotive News:
Ford CEO Mark Fields…said last week: “The good news is as we see that shift into trucks and utilities going forward, that’s a benefit for us because of our profitability on those vehicles.”
The same point applies a hundred fold, of course, when comparing cars in general to the actually sustainable modes of locomotion.