If you’ve been reading DbC, you’ll know that we have long been interested in car corporations’ efforts to implant the idea that cars are somehow still high technology, and also that we stand at the brink of a great new era of automotive ease, safety, and ecological sustainability. (Not exactly a new effort, admittedly, but one that carries a new urgency in our obviously endangered times.)
This is quite interesting. It comes extremely close to being a direct admission of the cynical managerial intention behind such macro-marketing endeavors.
Indeed, it begs the question: Why is GM letting this cat out of the bag right now?
Here at DbC, our hypotheses on this are two:
Thanks to the remarkable sanctity of the automobile in our public culture, GM has decided that the odds of any journalist or politician reporting that haloware is being perpetrated on the American public by the makers of our epoch’s most important and dangerous product are close to zero.
This is a ploy to signal investors that GM will do whatever it takes — even such extra-shameless lies — to keep its ROIs flowing for as long as humanly possible.
And while you’re at it, take a look at how hep good old Design Chief Simcoe looks here — the retro glasses and haircut, the boutique duds! What a cool daddy-o! Next stop, the Red Planet, no doubt!
It will be interesting to see if GM keeps being this honest about this increasingly important aspect of car-selling. There is some distinct topical danger in doing so. If people ever figure out that the multiplying forms of automotive haloware are indeed haloware, things could get a bit bouncy for TPTB.
Here is how Consumer Reports — a publication that accepts the hypothesis that the automobile is somehow a decent product and, accordingly, hands out sweetheart numbers — rates existing robotic driving systems in this, the year of our lord 2021:
The top overall score is 68/100. That’s a D+. 16 of the 17 overall scores are Fs.
The other noteworthy (and rather comical) point here is the “Keeping the Driver Engaged” scores, all but one of which are atrocious.
A wag might point out that staying engaged is precisely what robotic driving is supposed to eliminate the need for.
On the deathly serious side, meanwhile, the existence of some force that is task-engaged is also the entire difference between a car and a 2-ton anti-personnel drone.
Of course, other than padding price-tags, robo-driving’s real purpose is to burnish the erroneous notion that automobiles are somehow cutting-edge, rather than outdated and inherently defective, technology.
The forces of reason and human progress have done a particularly lousy job of explaining the immense problems inherent in cars-first transportation, which remains, despite the times and for very deep reasons, a central project of corporate capitalism.
When such forces have dipped their toes into the pool of analysis, they have often done so by observing that, in America, we have a “car culture.” This, of course, is a tautology. The question is why we have a car culture.
Here, well-meaning folks have either parroted the longstanding — and hugely preposterous — quasi-official dogma that “Americans are having a love affair with the autmobile” is all there is to know about this key subject, or we have simply fallen silent, leaving such petulant falsehoods unchallenged.
I mention all this because one of the things that’s happened in the process is that, having chalked the topic of cars up to the realm of the inexplicable, the self-same forces of reason and progress have also stopped paying attention to how automobiles do indeed act and react as elements of American culture.
Consider, for example, yesterday’s multiply-gobsmacking announcement, by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, of “the most powerful SUV ever.”
Where would this corporation be without the continuing hold of toxic masculinity, nationalism, cowboy mythology, and sheer childishness? And, conversely, what would happen to those declining but still very pertinent trends among us “Americans,” if our main industry and #1 sponsorship source weren’t carefully perpetuating things like this?
We don’t know and generally don’t ask, in large part because the forces of reason and progress don’t pay any attention to such matters.
The automobile dominates the United States because it is the best possible platform for advancing the cause of sellable waste, which is itself a systemic requirement for the perpetuation of corporate capitalism.
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.
As automobile ownership re-stratifies along with the rest of the world, there is apparently an imminent race to produce ultra-luxury SUVs. Here is a shot from Bentley’s forthcoming $240,000 ultra-monstrosity:
Just what the world needs, no?
Despite the screaming sickness of the plan, here’s Brit PM Cameron drooling all over it:
UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who was present together with Dr Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Volkswagen Group for the announcement at Bentley headquarters in Crewe, said: “This £800 million of investment and a thousand new jobs from Bentley is fantastic news for both Crewe and for the UK as a whole. It is another important milestone in strengthening our economy.
“One sector that we know is sprinting ahead in the global race is our booming automotive industry. The UK became a net exporter of cars for the first time this year and we launched the Government’s Automotive Strategy to help continue this success for years to come.”