Category Archives: Safety

Tesla Fire

As we continue to await Elon Musk’s ten-minute battery charge, it seems that his $70,000 boondoggles are liable to to be entirely destroyed by running over “large metal objects” in the road:

Love the excuses from Tesla’s damage-control department:

Yesterday, a Model S collided with a large metallic object in the middle of the road, causing significant damage to the vehicle. The car’s alert system signaled a problem and instructed the driver to pull over safely, which he did. No one was injured, and the sole occupant had sufficient time to exit the vehicle safely and call the authorities. Subsequently, a fire caused by the substantial damage sustained during the collision was contained to the front of the vehicle thanks to the design and construction of the vehicle and battery pack. All indications are that the fire never entered the interior cabin of the car.

The real story, of course, is that a commonplace under-car impact that would have caused little or no damage to a conventional gasoline-burning automobile totaled a $70,000 Tesla and put both its occupant(s) and fire fighters in severe danger, while creating a huge traffic jam, all thanks to the design and construction of the vehicle and battery pack.

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Hackable Cars

As the capitalists labor to boost profit margins by building more computers into cars, they are apparently opening their product up to remote sabotage.

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A ROFL and a Confession

strings 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.

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Hands-Free Murder

skullcar Turns out writing letters while operating an automobile is an especially terrible idea. The New York Times today reports:

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.

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“Safety Issues”

grind

In a statement, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland stressed vigilance: “Even as we celebrate [yes, he said "celebrate"] the progress we’ve made in recent years, we must remain focused on addressing the safety issues that are continuing to claim more than 30,000 lives each year.”

“The safety issues” of which Administrator Strickland speaks? “Those” would be the automobile itself, would “they” not?

As for “the progress we’ve made in recent years,” that is otherwise known as the Great Recession.

Look for a huge spike in U.S. traffic deaths in 2012. Should be another lesson in Big Brotherism when they make that jump official.

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Road Rage: Sexist Malarkey

My friend Douglas Pressman noticed this recent story about road rage and gender:

Study Reveals Women More Prone To Road Rage Than Men


It is, of course, preposterous in the extreme, and a lesson in how awfully the commercial media often handle basic surveys and statistics.

As anybody with any substantial time on the cars-first roads knows, there is absolutely no way women are more into road rage than men.

So, how did this survey find that up is down and black is white? By asking respondents how often they feel road rage.

Of course, feeling outraged is not road rage. Road rage is aggressive driving triggered by feeling outraged.

This survey might say something about the gendering of emotional awareness and honesty, but it is preposterous as a way of knowing who does road rage. Asking about feelings to measure that is like watching the storks for signs of new babies.

The real measure of road rage would be crime statistics, but, of course, road rage/aggressive driving is only loosely captured as a crime. Cops are extremely hesitant to write reckless/careless driving tickets.

Nonetheless, the real evidence is massively clear: It’s overwhelmingly men who do the rageful driving.

But such is the state of journalism. Something that sounds so titillatingly counter-intuitive might either be genuinely counter-intuitive and newsworthy, or it might be an intentional falsity designed to exploit the obvious titillation to attract page hits to self-interested sponsors.

In this case, it’s clearly the latter phenomenon, as the sponsor of the survey is something sad and awful called careerbuilder.com (yes, “career,” circa 2012: ROFL).

A real journalist would sort this out and act accordingly. Our system, in contrast, is a megaphone for such shameless shenanigans.

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More Murder for Money

crash 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:

“They’re going to do those things whether it’s through the vehicle or through a handheld electronic that they bring with them in the car,” [AAM PR agent Wade] Newton said.

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.

“If the auto manufacturers focused as much on safety as they do on marketing their products, we would save a lot of lives,” National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman.

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.

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Archives of Hidden History: “Safety” Efforts

From the outset, the corporate capitalist automotive-industrial complex has both generated and benefited from one the greatest floods of propaganda in human history.  Buried under countless PR operations and relentless incantations about how “Americans are having a love affair with the car,” the actual history of the making of cars-first transportation in the United States has long since been ignored and forgotten, even by the would-be critics.  Fortunately, fragments of this real history still exist, if you know where to look.

Today’s example is a reminder of the actual history of car capitalists’ efforts in the area of “safety,” or, more accurately, danger management.

By its nature, cars-first transportation is massively, needlessly dangerous.  The death toll from car collisions alone (i.e., not counting those resulting from pollution, bodily deconditioning, and oil wars) has been somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 million in the United States alone over the past century.  Many times that number have been injured in crashes.

Q:  Until the popular uprisings of the 1960s, what was the auto-industrial complex’s main response to the fact that their product is a severe public health menace?

A:  To harangue drivers about the importance of “courtesy” on the road.

Click on this image to see what DbC means:

Highway_Highlights-Nov-1947

This is the lead article from the November 1947 edition of Highway Highlights, the magazine of the National Highway Users Conference, a front group designed to cloak the automotive-industrial complex’s lobbying efforts in the mantle of ordinary automobile users, as DbC explained recently here.

At about this same time, the NHUC was forming its “Motor Manners Project,” through which it aimed to ensure that the thesis “driver and pedestrian behavior is a key factor in [automotive] accidents” would be the leading point of concern in safety debates. Part of this Project was retention of none other than Emily Post to write and promote Motor Manners, a booklet devoted to the MMP’s theme that “impolite driving” was the root cause of the nation’s automotive death toll. Motor Manners was, of course, “distributed free to individual motorists.”

As you can see in the linked piece above, such was the NHUC’s chutzpah that it not only made the effort to transfer blame for the inherent danger of their product to drivers, but also to passengers. “The right kind of backseat driver,” it preached, “may be able to cut the nation’s traffic toll….Perhaps in many of these cases [of careless or speeding drivers] the passengers could have saved their lives if they had been willing to speak up and remonstrate with the driver.”

The following month, Highway Highlights published a follow-up piece, in which it endorsed the precedent set by Maryland Circuit Court judge Stephen R. Collins, who had ruled — perhaps after having read something distributed by the NHUC itself — that “the degree of care and vigilance which the guest is required to exercise for his own protection is not different from that required of the driver.”

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