Annals of Misreporting

car skull The East Coast Blizzard of 2016 is killing people, report the corporate media. Balderdash. By keeping people from driving their cars, the snowstorm is saving lives on a big scale, as is very occasionally almost acknowledged in self-same media.

“I think in reporting any story, journalists are taught that human life is the ultimate value,” said Joe Saltzman, professor of journalism at the University of Southern California. “So the first question we ask on any story is, what’s the death toll?”

Yes, quite so, except when the story is cars. There, the ultimate value is profits for corporate capitalists, so the basic facts are not newsworthy.

Centers for Damage Control

fox guarding henhouse This week’s howler comes from Gwen Bergen, PhD, MPH, MS, behavioral scientist in the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control [the DUIPNCIPC!] at the Centers for Disease Control:

“Motor vehicle crashes and related injuries are preventable.”

That of course, is not only official doctrine, but complete malarkey. No amount of safety technology is going to stop large subsets of 200,000,000+ independently steered (or remotely commanded) metals boxes traveling at high speeds on intersecting and undulating paths from colliding with one another and thereby injuring their occupants.

But even those whose careers stem from genuine worry over the appalling, undiscussed carnage of cars-first transportation can’t summon the chutzpah to face and state the plain truth that automotive travel is remarkably dangerous to the human person. Admitting this technological fact is simply and deeply verboten in our market-totalitarian society.

Instead, you get apparently sincere professional hopes pinned to utterly unexamined strings of reassuring presumptions:

“Although much has been done to help keep people safe on the road, no state has fully implemented all the interventions proven to increase the use of car seats, booster seats, and seat belts; reduce drinking and driving; and improve teen driver safety.”

News flash: Not only are no states going to do everything possible (which would include criminalizing cell phone use inside cars), but TCT says it again: Even if some state did everything on Dr. Bergen’s list, it would still be home to huge surpluses of preventable, inexcusable injuries and premature deaths.

Eyes on the Dough

The auto and “tech” capitalists are peddling the idea that putting voice command electronics in cars is all about safety, because it allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road. It is, of course, horseshit.

According to Automotive News, the research turns up the usual reality:

Car companies have turned to voice controls to cut down on distracted driving. But systems such as Apple Inc.’s Siri electronic assistant, which automakers started installing in vehicles in 2013, may be as mentally taxing as the buttons and knobs they replace, research released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests.

The companies have turned to things like this not for safety, but because they are highly profitable add-ons. Anyhow:

For the AAA-commissioned experiments, conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, test subjects in a driving simulator used Siri to send text messages, post updates on Facebook and modify their calendar appointments. The test subjects averaged 4 points on a 5-point scale used to gauge mental strain while using Siri — a heavier workload than experienced when talking on a handheld cell phone or changing the radio. Three virtual crashes took place in the driving simulator during the experiments. Two of them occurred while using Siri.

David Strayer, the University of Utah psychology professor who led the research, recalled watching footage of one of the crashes, in which the test subject rear-ended an abruptly stopping car. He described it as a textbook case of “inattentional blindness” — the driver’s eyes “were looking out the windshield, her hands were on the steering wheel, but she was taken aback completely by that vehicle,” he said. “The push to voice-based technology acknowledges that people need to keep their eyes on the road,” Strayer said in an interview. “Our research suggests that’s not enough. You need to be paying attention to what you’re looking at.”

Undoubtedly aware of all this from the get-go, the car capitalists have their excuses ready to roll, though it’s all but certain that nothing serious will ever be done by the purchased political system:

“This study focused on a very narrow aspect of distraction: cognitive load,” Wade Newton, the spokesman, wrote in an e-mail. “Because the study did not address either visual or manual distractions, the results tell us very little about the relative benefits of in-vehicle versus handheld systems or about the relationship between cognitive load and crash risks in the real world.”

Annalisa Bluhm, a Chevrolet spokeswoman, said that the University of Utah research used Cruze and Impala sedans from model year 2013 that were equipped with older, less sophisticated voice recognition systems. She said GM still believes hands-free controls are safer than using a cellphone behind the wheel, and that it is working hard to improve those systems.

Improve, not remove, of course.

The Wages of Opportunism

C. Wright Mills complained of the U.S. left’s “liberal practicality,” by which he meant a tendency to sell out at the first chance, a “kind of democratic opportunism.”

quixote Ralph Nader, for all his upsides, is a major case-in-point, and precisely in the area that delivered him his fame — cars.

Consider the pathetic lawsuit just filed by Public Citizen and allies. The goal? To force car capitalists to make back-up cameras standard on all car models sold in the United States. The alleged reason? Such cameras “would prevent 95 to 112 deaths and 7,072 to 8,374 injuries each year.”

Now, let’s take 112 deaths as a real number. In 2012, a total of 34,080 people were killed in U.S. automotive collisions. 112 divided by 34,080 equals 0.003. That’s three-tenths of one percent.

And, of course, one major question is how much good a back-up camera actually does. If a child darts in front or back of a moving car, how much does the camera speed driver reaction time? It certain can’t be 100%, and might well be close to zero. Meanwhile, according to the Naderian logic of lawsuit, once the cameras are mandatory, the inherent dangers of automobiles to darting children are just fine and dandy.

Such tragi-comic flea-fucking, is, alas, the beginning, middle, and end of what passes for transportation militancy in this market totalitarian society, despite the times.

Automotive Deaths Since 9/11/2001

ossuary From 1/1/2002 through 12/31/2011, National Highway Traffic Safety [sic] Administration statistics show that 392,621 people were killed by motor vehicle collisions in the United States. So, that’s about 100 9/11s. (And it does not count those who died from automotive air pollution and physical deconditioning.)

The all-time death toll from car crashes, going back to 1899? 3,547,113.

Sources: Here and here.

The news reporting on this topic? Such as it is, it’s all just a series of terrific news, especially now that the deaths-per-miles trick has been swallowed and adopted by the corporate press. (See the typical packaging of the story in the second link above.)

Big Brother Medical School

vancrash “The International Center for Automotive Medicine.” Savor the flavor of that for a few seconds.

Bold medical scientists, having sworn “I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure,” are now dedicating themselves, with the generous support of automotive capitalists, to tweaking the bandages with which they so lucratively adorn the gaping public health wound that is cars-first transportation.

One might contrast the oath to prevention with the statement-of-purpose governing ICAM:

Our team at the International Center of Automotive Medicine is uniquely positioned to marry the exceptional medical, engineering, and educational resources of the University of Michigan with the unmatched automotive technical and industrial resources of southeast Michigan. The center’s mission is to foster synergistic research between medical specialties, and biomedical and automotive engineering-efforts that translates quickly into new technologies, medical treatments, education, and policies that prevent injuries and improve care.

Building a (slightly) better guillotine! Thank you again, you saints in surgical garb! Keep on “marrying” the Grim Reaper, and we’ll keep on shoveling mountains of cash your way.

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.

Commodification Machine

Capitalists love cars because cars are as profitable as they are wasteful and unsustainable.

University of Illinois outcomes modeler Sheldon Jacobson estimates the dimensions of two of the ways in which cars-first living pumps up allied industries by generating the obesity epidemic in the United States:

After analyzing data from national statistics measured between 1985 and 2007, Jacobson discovered vehicle use correlated “in the 99-percent range” with national annual obesity rates.

“If we drive more, we become heavier as a nation, and the cumulative lack of activity may eventually lead to, at the aggregate level, obesity,” he said. “When you are sitting in a car, you are doing nothing, so your body is burning the least amount of energy possible, And if you are eating food in your car, it becomes even worse.”

Ultimately, Jacobson said, we are going to have to rethink the way we use our automobiles if we want to address obesity.

“We have had 60-plus years of infrastructure that has facilitated the obesity epidemic,” he said. [Source]

The resulting boon to the medical-industrial complex? A twenty to fifty percent increase in per capita medical spending among obese people, according to Reuters.

The boost to the much over-blamed oil industry?

Some costs of obesity reflect basic physics. It requires twice as much energy to move 250 pounds than 125 pounds. As a result, a vehicle burns more gasoline carrying heavier passengers than lighter ones.

“Growing obesity rates increase fuel consumption,” said engineer Sheldon Jacobson of the University of Illinois. How much? An additional 938 million gallons of gasoline each year due to overweight and obesity in the United States, or 0.8 percent, he calculated. That’s $4 billion extra.

Is this self-reinforcing cycle vicious or virtuous? Depends on whether or not you’re a capitalist, doesn’t it?

Homicide Platform

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.

entuneThe 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.

Not Like Cigarettes?

ratcig This past week, Ford Motor Company scion Bill Ford hosted a dinner “for a small group of journalists at the Detroit auto show.”  The purpose?  To burnish Ford’s green claims, of course.

Highlights [via Automotive News]:

Ford has been thinking about “how we’re going to have mobility in a world of urbanization and 75 percent of the world’s population living in cities. We’re going to have 4 billion cars and 9 billion people by midcentury.

There are currently just over 1 billion automobiles, counting cars, trucks, and buses, on the planet, btw.

So, ROFL on that one.

Meanwhile, Bill Ford also told the assembled reporters that cars-first transportation isn’t like selling nicotine:

“I never wanted us to be like the tobacco [companies], where our employees would have to apologize to their family and friends for working there. If that happens, we are not going to get the best and brightest.”

It’s an interesting contrast, isn’t it? If Ford’s products are freedom vehicles and wonder machines, why this apparent slip into cigarette talk?

Perhaps it’s because Ford knows the numbers are rather comparably large and the deaths equally stupid. In the USA, lung cancer now kills about 160,000 people a year. If one assumes that tailpipe exhaust accounts for 25% percent of air pollution deaths and auto use accounts for 10% of deconditioning deaths, cars snuff out about half that amount every year.

And, of course, the era of war over access to tobacco-friendly climes has passed. Now, if there is to be a World War III, does anybody doubt it will instead have rather more to do with what goes into gas tanks?