Centers for Damage Control

fox guarding henhouse This week’s howler comes from Gwen Bergen, PhD, MPH, MS, behavioral scientist in the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control [the DUIPNCIPC!] at the Centers for Disease Control:

“Motor vehicle crashes and related injuries are preventable.”

That of course, is not only official doctrine, but complete malarkey. No amount of safety technology is going to stop large subsets of 200,000,000+ independently steered (or remotely commanded) metals boxes traveling at high speeds on intersecting and undulating paths from colliding with one another and thereby injuring their occupants.

But even those whose careers stem from genuine worry over the appalling, undiscussed carnage of cars-first transportation can’t summon the chutzpah to face and state the plain truth that automotive travel is remarkably dangerous to the human person. Admitting this technological fact is simply and deeply verboten in our market-totalitarian society.

Instead, you get apparently sincere professional hopes pinned to utterly unexamined strings of reassuring presumptions:

“Although much has been done to help keep people safe on the road, no state has fully implemented all the interventions proven to increase the use of car seats, booster seats, and seat belts; reduce drinking and driving; and improve teen driver safety.”

News flash: Not only are no states going to do everything possible (which would include criminalizing cell phone use inside cars), but TCT says it again: Even if some state did everything on Dr. Bergen’s list, it would still be home to huge surpluses of preventable, inexcusable injuries and premature deaths.

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Who’s Funding Fossils?

tee-shirt Apparently, there was a Stop Funding Fossils “bloc” at last month’s Great Climate Gesture in NYC. One of its bloc-heads is shown at left.

The proposition of this group seems to be that direct public subsidy is somehow crucial to the dominance of petroleum and coal in this society. A corollary suggestion is that cars will run on something, anything — oranges maybe? — in the future.

Both ideas are utterly preposterous. But nothing sells as activism these days like easy, off-target gestures.

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Eyes on the Dough

The auto and “tech” capitalists are peddling the idea that putting voice command electronics in cars is all about safety, because it allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road. It is, of course, horseshit.

According to Automotive News, the research turns up the usual reality:

Car companies have turned to voice controls to cut down on distracted driving. But systems such as Apple Inc.’s Siri electronic assistant, which automakers started installing in vehicles in 2013, may be as mentally taxing as the buttons and knobs they replace, research released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests.

The companies have turned to things like this not for safety, but because they are highly profitable add-ons. Anyhow:

For the AAA-commissioned experiments, conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, test subjects in a driving simulator used Siri to send text messages, post updates on Facebook and modify their calendar appointments. The test subjects averaged 4 points on a 5-point scale used to gauge mental strain while using Siri — a heavier workload than experienced when talking on a handheld cell phone or changing the radio. Three virtual crashes took place in the driving simulator during the experiments. Two of them occurred while using Siri.

David Strayer, the University of Utah psychology professor who led the research, recalled watching footage of one of the crashes, in which the test subject rear-ended an abruptly stopping car. He described it as a textbook case of “inattentional blindness” — the driver’s eyes “were looking out the windshield, her hands were on the steering wheel, but she was taken aback completely by that vehicle,” he said. “The push to voice-based technology acknowledges that people need to keep their eyes on the road,” Strayer said in an interview. “Our research suggests that’s not enough. You need to be paying attention to what you’re looking at.”

Undoubtedly aware of all this from the get-go, the car capitalists have their excuses ready to roll, though it’s all but certain that nothing serious will ever be done by the purchased political system:

“This study focused on a very narrow aspect of distraction: cognitive load,” Wade Newton, the spokesman, wrote in an e-mail. “Because the study did not address either visual or manual distractions, the results tell us very little about the relative benefits of in-vehicle versus handheld systems or about the relationship between cognitive load and crash risks in the real world.”

Annalisa Bluhm, a Chevrolet spokeswoman, said that the University of Utah research used Cruze and Impala sedans from model year 2013 that were equipped with older, less sophisticated voice recognition systems. She said GM still believes hands-free controls are safer than using a cellphone behind the wheel, and that it is working hard to improve those systems.

Until we get an anti-car movement going, the obvious answer to this death peddling is this.

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Cost of Car Crashes in Portland, Oregon

Research on traffic in the City of Portland shows that auto accidents there cost locals about one billion dollars a year.

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ITS Getting Funny Now

This week brings the 2014 World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems. The “intelligent systems” in question? Cars!

Meanwhile, as they try ever more elaborate tricks to perpetuate the suicidal but necessary-to-capitalists cars-first transportation order of the United States, the challenges and costs are predictably piling up.

captain_renault As reported by Automotive News, here’s what they’re learning — and like Captain Renault, they are shocked — about the realities of robot cars:

Stepper said once the technology is perfected, proving that it works perfectly and safely in every driving situation will be a massive challenge. Said Stepper: “The validation will have to be that your system will not have one single failure.”

Dellenback compared the cost of developing the software to control self-driving cars to that of writing software for a manned space flight.

He said, “The cost of each line of software is incredible.”

Oh, yes, there’s this, too: Robot cars don’t work in the rain or snow!

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Lemon Update

Actual use of Tesla’s $90,000 jalopy has apparently changed Consumer Reports‘ views.  Per Automotive News:

Consumer Reports, which last year gave top marks to electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc.’s Model S sedan, now says the car it owns has had “more than its share of problems.”

Consumer Reports, which anonymously buys the vehicles it tests from auto dealerships, said Monday the Model S it owns now has traveled nearly 16,000 miles. Its 2013 Model S was purchased for $89,650 in January of that year.

“Just before the car went in for its annual service, at a little over 12,000 miles, the center screen went blank, eliminating access to just about every function of the car,” the magazine said in its statement.

Tesla fixed the issues on the magazine’s Model S under warranty. The repairs included a “hard reset” to restore the car’s functions after its center screen went blank and problems with the automatic retracting door handles, which were occasionally reluctant to emerge.

CR isn’t the only one:

The issues highlighted by Consumer Reports follow a report by Edmunds.com, an automotive data and pricing company in Santa Monica, Calif. It reported problems last month with its Model S that included replacing the main battery pack after incidents in which the car stalled; a frozen touchscreen; a creaky steering wheel and difficulties opening the car’s sunroof.

As always, Elon Musk responds to these reports like the petulant six-year-old who just broke the family lamp:

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said last month the company continues to review customer reports to ensure all known flaws with the car are fixed.

“We definitely had some quality issues in the beginning for the early serial number cars, because we were just basically figuring out how to make the Model S. I think we’ve addressed almost all of those for current production cars,” Musk told analysts on a July 31 conference call. “Every week I have a product excellence meeting which is a cross-functional group, so we’ve got engineering, service and production and we go over all the issues that customers are reporting with the car and the action items that have to be addressed to get the car ultimately to the platonic ideal of the perfect car.”

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Death by Car at People’s Park

DbC recently saw a sign that it endorses, in Berkeley’s People’s Park. Click for larger version. Copyleft restrictions only:

peoples-park-image

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Obama’s Level of Care for His Daughter

“As the father of a daughter who just turned 16, any new technology that makes driving safer is important to me,” he said.

Driving, inherently massively dangerous, remains beyond question, even against such a supposedly sacred standard.

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American Transportation

Taking a cue from R.J. Reynolds’ Joe Camel, Ford starts ‘em early. It’s forthcoming $349 toy truck “can carry two passengers with a combined weight of up to 130 pounds, runs on a 12-volt battery, can drive off-sidewalk on wet grass and gravel, and comes with an MP3 jack and FM radio. The Extreme Sport version comes with LED headlamps that mimic those of the larger 2015 F-150.”

The accompanying promotional photo could hardly be an apter depiction of the essential childishness of our cars-first transportation order:

kiddie-car

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Google Targets Public Transit

googdevil Google has announced it is working on a driverless car.  As usual, mainstream journalists, always breathless and brainless about “tech” stories, are reporting on the project as if it is somehow a portent of major change in our wildly expensive and unsustainable transportation order.  Google co-founder Sergey Brin, naturally, eggs them on, speaking of the project as if it’s somehow “in keeping with our mission of being transformative.”

The reality?  As reported by Automotive News, GCars “will be electronically limited to 25 mph and will never go on highways.  They will be designed as ‘neighborhood’ vehicles.”

In other words, GCars, if they are ever actually viable, will be GTaxis. As such, they will be taking riders away from existing, driver-employing public transit systems and taxi businesses, as well as further stymieing cyclists and pedestrians in the nation’s most walkable and rideable places.

Not quite transformative, is it?

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