Readers of DbC know that cars exist to sell people far more transportation equipment than they need, and that adding mark-uppable geegaws to cars has always been a core part of this indispensable corporate capitalist endeavor. DbC has also been reporting on how onboard electronics is the next great frontier in this push, and how it is making cars-first transportation even more unsafe for its supposed primary beneficiaries.
Last week in Novi, Michigan, the relevant powers that be assembled for the Telematics Detroit 2013 conference.
According to Automotive News, the show included a panel discussion in which four experts admitted that the ballyhooed arrival of the “driverless” car is exceeding unlikely, due to the inherent expense and complexity of this Rube Goldberg-squared idea.
Noteworthy in Automotive News‘ report are two quotations from the experts on this panel.
The first is a piece of unintended comedy from Andreas Mai, director for Cisco System’s automotive unit in North America:
“I would actually pay for being able to drive to Chicago in the middle of the night at 200 mph,” Mai joked.
Gosh, Herr Mai, wouldn’t that be routine, if we’d built railroads, rather than letting our capitalists dictate cars-first transportation?
The second remark is simply back-room Mafia-talk from Heri Rakouth, director of technology exploration at Delphi Corporation:
“For me, safety is the business of the government,” Rakouth said.
That’s from the mouth of somebody whose occupation is pushing “Internet connectivity and infotainment aspects” into cars. That, of course, is the practical equivalent of shoving open whiskey bottles into drivers’ laps.
The research was led by David Strayer, a neuroscientist at the University of Utah who for two decades has applied the principles of attention science to driver behavior. His research has showed, for example, that talking on a phone while driving creates the same level of crash risk as someone with a 0.08 blood-alcohol level, the legal level for intoxication across the country.
In this latest study, he and a team of researchers compared the impact on drivers of different activities, including listening to a book on tape or the radio, and talking on a hand-held phone or hands-free phone.
The researchers compared how the subjects performed when they were not driving with two other conditions: when using a driver simulator and in a car equipped with tools aimed at measuring how well they drove. The researchers used eye-scanning technology to see where driver attention was focused and also measured the electrical activity in the brain.
Mr. Strayer said the results were consistent across all the tests in finding that speech-to-text technology caused a higher level of cognitive distraction than any of the other activities. The research showed, for instance, that the person interacting with speech to text was less likely than in other activities to scan a crosswalk for pedestrians. And that driver showed lowered activity in networks of the brain associated with driving, indicating that those networks were impaired by the interaction with the technology.
In a string of claims straight out of the old tobacco corporation playbook, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers lies about being “concerned,” obfuscates the issue, and, of course, finally excuses its members:
“We are concerned about any study that suggests that hand-held phones are comparably risky to the hands-free systems we are putting in our vehicles,” said Gloria Bergquist, the vice president for public affairs at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in Washington, adding that carmakers are trying to keep consumers connected without them having to use their hand-held phones while driving.
“It is a connected society, and people want to be connected in their car just as they are in their home or wherever they may be,” she said.
What the AAM spokeswhore doesn’t mention is that built-in hands-free devices are just so many more parts to a car, each of which is a profit center. The overclass, you see, wants to sell these parts. And it will.
It’s mass murder for money, plain and simple. The corporate veil makes it all normal and natural.
The automakers aren’t likely to slow down development of the technology unless the law forbids it [cue sound of cats laughing], said Ronald Montoya, consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com, a research firm.
“They’re not going to pause based on this research,” he said.
In the not-necessarily-news department, guess what the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says about its members’ move to put such vital activities as Facebook and Twitter on the dashboards of future car models, despite the well-proven fact that 10 percent of all automotive crashes, including the tens of thousands of fatal ones each year, are already caused by distracted driving:
Yes, and by the same logic, we know for sure that people are going to drink alcohol and then drive cars. So, what’s the harm in having a keg-cooler and drinking hose come stock in each new auto? After all, they’re going to do those things whether it’s through the vehicle or through a handheld bottle that they bring with them in the car.
Never fear, though! Our valiant regulators are busy striking pained poses as the mass murder proceeds.
Yes, how true. Indeed, you might say we’d have saved 32,885 lives in 2010 alone, if, as in Ms. Hersman’s fantasy, car capitalists weren’t car capitalists.
Then there’s Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has obviously abandoned any glimmer of principle he once possessed on this issue:
“We don’t have to choose between safety and technology,” LaHood now says, parroting the industry’s defiant Big Brotherism.
Thank the gods we have President Obama… Oh, wait.
“Car companies have been working hard to reduce driver distraction for years.” That is the opening line from the latest episode of Motorweek, the car-capitalist advertorial that airs on the pathetic Public Broadcasting System here in the USA.
Well, how true, except that it leaves out the obvious clauses. The real news is this: “As they push to make a range of inherently distracting but profit-boosting media systems standard equipment, the car companies have also been working to [deal with the problem of] driver distraction.”
The alleged concern with driver distraction is, of course, concern only with finding a way to keep selling the distracting equipment. The obvious answer to anybody genuinely concerned with the issue is simply to say “We wont allow cars to be used as a platform for more cell phoning and screen gazing.” But that’s not a capitalist decision, so it might as well be unintelligible gibberish.
So, what is this great “technology” they’ve been working on? Sensors that apply brakes when a driver clearly has stopped looking at the road.
Apparently, the video is not yet available, on the paranoid and stupid theory that somebody might actually use it while it’s still on PBS stations.
Anyway, check out the transcript.
Note the interpretation: The alleged concern is “when a driver is not able to react because of the laws of physics.” Yes, those pesky laws of “physics,” which apparently require not just cars-first transportation, but also the incessant drive to foist ever-more unneeded shit in every ordinary car. Yeah, it’s either that or the laws of the capitalist push to commodify every possible activity in every possible situation, regardless of the cost to society.
I will post the video here once the great PBS deigns to release it…
Corporate capitalists are addicted not just to perpetuating cars-first transportation, but to using the car itself as a platform for peddling more and more products. Indeed, that’s a big part of why cars are so indispensable to the overclass: They are unique devices for “moving the metal,” which is trade-talk for selling people far more stuff than they actually need.
Take the case of Intel’s just-announced $100-million investment fund, which, according to Automotive News, Intel launched “to encourage hardware and software developers to develop new technologies for automotive infotainment” — i.e., to move more microchips. This is utterly logical, since the main business problem for Intel, as for all major corporate capitalist firms, is market saturation. How can we find — meaning make — new markets?
As Auto News reports, the insides of automobiles are now being exploited as one way of creating these artificial new markets:
By 2014, autos will be one of the three fastest growing markets for connected devices and Internet content, according to a recent report from Gartner Inc., a research firm based in Stamford, Conn.
Intel wants a piece of that action.
The new deployments of computer chips into cars will, Auto Age says, take forms such as Entune, developed by Intel partner Denso. Entune is the infotainment system that apparently already comes in some new Toyotas. Watch the demo video here.
Such implantations are not only a glorified way of selling people another cellular telephone, but they will undoubtedly lead to thousands of distracted driving deaths per year. They are, in other words, yet another case of big businesses killing people on behalf of their shareholders.
I’m not saying class is everything, or that there is zero popular power in the United States. Nonetheless, it remains a point of interest how well socialized our opinion makers are in the habit of blaming everybody (and hence nobody) for arrangements that are clearly related to the inequality of wealth and power.
This a priori socialization of blame is particularly strong on the topic of cars-first transportation. Are automobiles deadly, dirty, wasteful, expensive, maybe even downright stupid? Well, what can we do? “Americans are having a love affair with this car.” Such is the routine quasi-official (non-)diagnosis, even among the purported critics.
Consider this week’s NTSB call for a nationwide ban on all cell phone use by operators of moving automobiles. DbC has pointed out how pathetic this ban is likely to be, if and when it gets implemented.
Why, pray tell, is this the case? DbC, of course, suggests it has something to do with the interests and efforts of both automobile manufacturers and cellular phone marketers. We might also point out that, even before the NTSB’s recommendation and even without anything resembling a proper explanation of the facts, something like half the U.S. population supported a total cell phone ban.
How delightful, then, that we have journalists like Rick Newman of U.S. News and World Report to put it all in perspective for us. “[N]obody,” Newman reports, “needs to worry about federal agents policing their iPhone or Blackberry.” Why not? Simple, pristine popular demand, of course:
But Americans tolerate all kinds of danger, death and even mayhem in the name of personal freedom. We insist on it, in fact, and policymakers listen.
See how it works? First you lump everybody together. Then you say we’re all the same and simply insist on killing ourselves. In the process, contradictions and capitalist interests magically cease to appear.
Today, the National Transportation
Danger Safety Board, reacting with all the usual alacrity in response to definitive, alarming, life-and-death six-year-old research results, called upon all 50 states and the (federally disenfranchised) District of Columbia to “ban” all use of personal electronic devices by automobile drivers. Distracted driving, as that 2006 research showed, is at least as dangerous as drunk driving. The NHTSA reckons that distraction is now a factor in 10 percent of all car crashes, including the ones that harvested 33,885 lives in 2010.
Better late than never certainly applies here. (Unless, of course, you happen to be amongst those closely connected to the 15,000 people killed by distracted drivers between the time the above-mentioned research was published and now.)
But what, pray tell, does this idea of “banning” cell phone use by car-drivers actually mean? What are the penalties imposed by the existing bans, all of which gut themselves by indulging the sponsored fiction that “hands-free” devices lower the risk of PED distraction? Let’s look at that well-known pace-setter in government regulation, California:
Fines and “points.” The fine for a first offense, including penalty assessments, is $76. A second offense is $190. However, although a violation of the handheld cell phone ban is a reportable offense and will appear on your driving record, it will not count as a point. (California uses a “point system” for moving violations. If you accumulate too many points, your insurance rates increase and you may lose your privilege to drive.)
Here in Oregon, where DbC is produced, things are far harsher: The offense here is a Class D Traffic Violation, i.e. of the same seriousness as the lowest possible speeding tickets (i.e., the ones that never get written), the ones given for driving 0-10 mph above the limit. Hence, to get a single point on one’s Oregon DMV record for breaking the cell phone “ban” here, one would have to get not just ticketed for it, but convicted of it twice within 12 months.
Meanwhile, drunk driving arrests (not convictions) here bring an automatic 30-day driver’s license suspension. Convictions for first DUIIs bring further license suspensions of from 3 months to one year. DUII is also way above a Traffic Violation, statutorily speaking. For first-timers, DUII is a Class A Misdemeanor — i.e., a criminal matter, meaning arrest, handcuffs, booking, and at least a short stay in jail. The fines at this level are ten times higher than for a Class D Traffic Violation.
Notice that, in today’s call for a “ban” on all cell phone use by drivers, the NTSB said nothing about the above double standard. So, wrist-slaps are almost certainly what it’s proposing as the backing for its requested toughening of the law. Quite a bold move, no? Strike that pose!
Meanwhile, we DbCers might also note another screaming double standard in this story. In her clarion call for extending the lash of the wet noodle, NTSB Chair Deborah A.P. Hersman implored us to remember the context:
“No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life.”
True enough, and hear, hear. Why, then, is any automotive sale, any capitalist’s dividend boost worth the same? Why, one might ask an agency allegedly devoted to travel safety, are we still pressing on with cars-first transportation? There are, after all, other ways to live.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!