When capitalists and their minions work to undermine public transportation and/or cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, they invariably talk about public subsidies to those lifelines. It ought to be hilarious, given the scale and range of ways the public underwrites the supposedly “private” automobile.
The latest development on that latter front is the National Highway Traffic
Subsidy Safety Administration’s announcement that it will be undertaking vehicle design research on an urgent basis. Per Automotive News:
DETROIT — A computer-driven car may not be commercially viable for at least another decade, but federal regulators are taking it seriously.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a research project to figure out what sort of cockpit controls would be appropriate for a human motorist in a computer-driven vehicle.
Tim Johnson, NHTSA’s director of crash avoidance and electronic controls research, said the agency would conduct the $1.75 million research project with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.
The researchers want to design controls that would enable a motorist to let the computer do the driving, then take over safely if the computer is flummoxed by an unexpected event.
“That is the work we are starting up right now,” Johnson said here Tuesday, Oct. 16, during the SAE Convergence 2012 conference sponsored by SAE International. “We are putting a high priority on this. We are trying to figure this out.”
Why is robo-car research such a high priority, you might wonder. It seems like — and might actually be — a pipedream.
The answer lies in photo at right above. Capitalists would love nothing more than to eventually free up people riding in automobiles to go ahead and participate as fully in mass media experiences while in-car as they do in-home. That would be a marketing bonanza, in a market-totalitarian society in which commuting time remains, along with sleep and paid work, a last, stubborn frontier.
Is it the role of the nation’s main transportation safety agency to be doing corporate capitalists’ exploratory research for them, especially in this area? Conversely, can you imagine the outcry if it started conducting product development research to advance the design and appeal of, say, light-rail trains?
Our grandchildren will be very amused by our present answers to that seemingly obvious questions.
Not joking. Heated steering wheels are one of the latest geegaws being peddled by the car capitalists. Oh, the glory and the pathos! How on Earth has humanity managed to live so long without heated steering wheels in our 95 percent idle 4,000-pound petroleum burners? Who among us can reckon the massive suffering that has happened before now, what with all those agonizingly chilly control rings?
Of course, the obvious next question is how long must we wait for cooled steering wheels?
Remember when the Chevy Volt was going to be an “electric” car, meaning one powered (confining one’s attention to the car itself) only by a battery? Remember how that worked out? Yep, a crappy, overpriced hybrid car with a gasoline-burning engine.
Remember, too, when Fisker Automotive was the cutting-edge “electric car” manufacturer that was going to put GM to shame with its sleek, truly high-tech products? Guess what’s happened to that publicly-subsidized promise? Yep, it, too, is vaporware. The next wave of Fisker products is going to have gasoline-burning engines.
Neither that fact, nor the laughable business performance of Fisker stops it from blowing massive smoke up the public’s backside. The model name for its (supposedly) forthcoming over-priced, gas-burning hybrid? The Fisker Nina. That’s right, Nina — as in the ship from the mini-armada that launched the Columbian Conquest/Columbian Exchange, a transition rightly described as the most significant event in human history since the rise of agriculture.
That’s about as subtle as a rock, and 100 percent pure baloney to boot.
Remember how, massively contrary to mainstream claims, automobile ownership is actually one of the most unequally distributed of all so-called “consumer” product categories? While their apologists manufacture dogmas about how cars unite the whole society across class lines, the reality is that, for the rich, cars are luxurious toys paid for out of petty cash.
This fact is an interesting aspect of the social psychology of the overclass as it relates to the perpetuation of cars-first transportation. The main factor in that endeavor is surely institutional, a matter of corporate imperatives and the corollary pressures of mainstream politics. But the ability to tolerate and encourage that institutional momentum is certainly rooted in the monied mindset. As recent research has begun to show with precision, the rich are different — they are more personally grasping and socially oblivious than the rest of us. My guess is that this is partly because power/privilege attracts the corrupt, and also because living with great privilege tends to go to anybody’s head.
In any event, here at DbC, we consider it part of our mission to track how the overclass uses, as well as pushes, cars.
The topic arises today because DbC has just learned that Porsche is about to break ground on two Porsche Performance Centers here in the United States — one in Los Angeles and one in Atlanta. (Other PPCs already exist in Germany and England.)
What is a Porsche Performance Center? Essentially, a DisneyLand for Porsche owners. The main attraction is the Porsche test track, on which, for a fee, visitors can live out their race-car and/or auto-mountaineering fantasies:
The centerpiece of the complex will be a world-class test track and handling course, including areas where special surfaces replicate rain, ice, and snow conditions. These training sections include the Ice Hill, where a steep slope, computer-controlled water jets, and a low-friction surface will challenge even the most experienced drivers and help them improve their real-world skills. A special off-road area will combine 45-degree declines and ascents – ideal terrain for unleashing a Porsche Cayenne.
Of course, part of the idea is not just deepening Porsche owners’ brand loyalty, but also selling some Porsches:
The new West Coast location will be situated near the intersection of two major Los Angeles area traffic arteries, the 405 and 110 Freeways, is just minutes from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and is basically in the heart of Southern California, Porsche’s largest market in the United States.
At LAX alone, over 59 million travelers passed through the airport in 2010. Another 15 million consumers reside within a 50-mile radius from the facility, and even more are based within a few hours travel time by car, including Orange and San Diego counties, California and major markets to the North.
“Our mission is to help everyone who loves automobiles and car culture to experience the pure joy, the art, and the science of driving,” said James Taylor, general manager, Porsche Experience Center. ”Whether you want to experience the latest Porsche models like the new seventh-generation Porsche 911, upgrade your personal performance as a racer or athlete, or host a car club event or a product launch, we look forward to working with customers to create a memorable program.”
That “everyone,” of course, is hyperbole, given Porsche’s prices. The really interesting demographic is the number of capitalists who pass through LAX and reside in the area.
Meanwhile, while at the PPC, the aspiring racer/mountain scaler/athlete/product launcher can:
Come and learn about the exciting range of options available when buying a Porsche. The Personlisation Lounges allow you to sit down with an expert consultant and discuss the full range of options available when purchasing a Porsche. Uniquely to the Porsche Experience Centre you can test the more technical options in the cars when you are on your driving experience. Options on many vehicles on the driving experience fleet include the PDK gearbox and Sport Chrono Plus.
To see the more aesthetic options available you can build your dream Porsche using the Porsche Car Configurator with expert advice from our consultants. We want to show you what we can do down to the smallest detail. The only limit is your imagination. Make an appointment with your local Porsche Centre to discuss your requirements. Alternatively let us know when you are booking your driving experience or event if you are interested in a personalisation consultation session.
Not uninterestingly, here is Porsche’s admission about why PPCs are an attractive idea:
“Helping enthusiasts feel and connect with their vehicle’s full potential through intelligent engineering has always been a part of the Porsche philosophy,” said Detlev von Platen, President and CEO of Porsche Cars North America. “Now, we are excited to turn dreams into reality for all driving enthusiasts by creating a safe, exhilarating environment for experiencing the pleasure of being in the driver’s seat.”
In other words, Porsche knows it is in the business of selling its customers way more car than can actually be used. Race cars sit in traffic jams just like 25 year-old jalopies, and draw huge tickets, license sanctions, and lawsuits, if “unleashed” on public roads. Luxury SUVs, as every maker knows, are almost never driven off-road. Hence, in order to “connect with their vehicle’s full potential,” Porsche’s privileged market needs access to playlands where speeding and hill-climbing can be done in closed, Disney-fied conditions.
The price of a Porsche Cayenne SUV, by the way? $48,200 to $107,100.
The price of one “Porsche Cayenne Driving Experience” at the English PPC? £275.00, aka $440. Lunch at the Porsche Restaurant? £30 per person.
The ultimate cost of our overseers’ special blend of greed, childishness, and eco-social heedlessness? You tell me…
Neil Postman once argued that permitting corporate capitalists to continue their dominance over off-the-job experience and communications would progressively turn us into a nation of mental teenagers. Was he right? Consider this new offering from the bailed-out Fiat-Chrysler corporation — a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3-themed Jeep Wrangler!
This fine, appropriate, grown-up offering for our age of Peak Oil will be listed at “$36,495 for the two-door model and $40,070 for the four-door (Jeep Wrangler Unlimited) model.” The MPG for this 4,000-pound machine? 17 in the city and 21 on the highway.
And what will our hordes of armchair tough-guys do with their new Jeeps? Some, of course, will go destroy what remains of a local forest. Many more will stick to the usual.
You just can’t make this stuff up.
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