Another Subsidy

media-car 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.

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