“Autonomous vehicles are not yet realistic for normal roads.”Akio Toyoda, August 27, 2021, after Toyota robo-car crashes into visually impaired pedestrian on specially-designed street
This is the basic hypothesis of Death by Car: Automobiles are the lifeblood of corporate capitalism. Without them, the system implodes, due to demand shrinkage (aka efficiency). Hence, they have been and are *dictated* to us, no choices or even coherent discussion allowed.
Saint McKibben continues with his efforts to portray “the fossil-fuel industry” as a mere bad apple that could somehow be killed off through divestment.
In truth, fossil fuels are far more integral to corporate capitalism than McKibben acknowledges, not least because corporate capitalism is utterly dependent not on fossil fuels, but on automobiles and economic waste. If we don’t move to minimize automobile use, oil (and other fossil fuels) will continue to get produced and burnt.
McKibben wants to have his cake and eat it, too, on this topic. In his latest self-explanation, he says that “fossil-fuel financing accounts for only about seven per cent of Chase’s lending and underwriting.” This not only begs the question of the internal profitability of fossil fuel businesses, but also implies that fossil fuels are really only 7 percent of the overall corporate capitalist economy.
The elementary facts, meanwhile, are these:
ExxonMobil reported a net income of $20 billion dollars in 2018.
Meanwhile, just the U.S. automobile sector alone is several times larger in its overall economic impact than McKibben’s silly 7 percent number.
It also happens to now be our #1 source of GHG emissions in the good ol’ US of A.
Somehow, though, cars never make it into McKibben’s diagnosis:
It’s all but impossible for most of us to stop using fossil fuels immediately, especially since, in many places, the fossil-fuel and utility industries have made it difficult and expensive to install solar panels on your roof. But it’s both simple and powerful to switch your bank account.
Solar panels and credit unions? Seriously? This movement is in deep trouble, folks. We aren’t going to sweet-talk our way around the huge problems we’re facing in this make-or-break century. We must speak the truth about power, and Bill McKibben doesn’t do that.
In subtler times, the overclass merely used GM heads to front the Pentagon. Now, they need not feign even that much distance. Boeing execs now sit themselves right down in the public seat, to zero controversy.
The attached talk, never very subtle, is now utterly shameless.
According to The New York Times, here is what the new Defense Secretary said at a recent insider meeting:
“We are not the Department of No,” Mr. Shanahan told Pentagon officials after Space Force was announced.
Not the Department of No. Mark that one down.
The military being a department of yeses is extremely relevant to the ongoing reign of the automobile, since both that phenomenon and the Pentagon budget pass the social order stringent apublic-spending litmus test. The terms of that test come straight from corporate capitalism, which mandates that government spending be huge and growing, yet occur only in the very few product-usage areas that neither directly supplant capitalist sales nor establish precedents harmful to the reigning insistence that profit-maximizers’ schemes are the only possible way to meet human needs.
The idea being peddled is that Google is going to figure out how to have computers take over all the tasks involved in driving automobiles, so that “a self-driving car that can shoulder this burden for us.” The main promise of such an outcome seems to be a big jump in the safety and convenience of riding in personal automobiles.
To promote this promise, Google not only downplays the collective-choice dilemma it faces — who will own a self-driving car unless and until everybody else does? — but tells only half the technical story. Drivers make mistakes and do stupid (heavily sponsored) things while behind the wheel, Google reports.
What Google does not report, meanwhile, is the profound complexity of automobile driving, both in terms of the environmental conditions and mental processes involved. As Google knows all too well, there are huge numbers of ways to generate big failures in dealing with such complexities.
Of course, Google also never mentions an even bigger elephant in it’s technogasm: the one great catastrophe that would undoubtedly result from the success of its Project.
Here is how Google frames the ultimate question, under pictures of giggling, hand-holding, rejoicing passengers enjoying robo-rides:
Why self-driving cars matter
Imagine if everyone could get around easily and safely, regardless of their ability to drive.
Yes, by all means, do imagine this!
What would the triumph of Google Cars mean for the ongoing reign of the automobile as the main mode of personal travel in the world’s richest societies? It would deepen and extend that reign, would it not? And what, dear Google, you supposed pursuer of reason and science and true human interests, is THAT likely to mean for us humans?
Of course, Google is just about as genuinely interested in human welfare and the deployment of science for social betterment as are other capitalists, which is to say: not bloody much.
Anybody who actually cares about these things has to face up to the radical unsustainability of cars-first transportation.
Google, meanwhile, is busy polishing its brand and positioning itself to sell hundreds of millions of automotive navigation systems.
Our grandchildren, should they somehow inherit the ability to sustain print-literate societies, will not look kindly on Google Cars.
The proposition of this group seems to be that direct public subsidy is somehow crucial to the dominance of petroleum and coal in this society. A corollary suggestion is that cars will run on something, anything — oranges maybe? — in the future.
Both ideas are utterly preposterous. But nothing sells as activism these days like easy, off-target gestures.
Research on traffic in the City of Portland shows that auto accidents there cost locals about one billion dollars a year.
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The unstated means of availing oneself of that achingly-needed built-in vacuum cleaner? Purchasing the top trim level of this Honda Odyssey minivan, the “Touring Elite,” base price $44.450. The least expensive version of the Odyssey minivan? $28.825.
None other than Car & Driver calls this amazing up-selling ploy “the world’s most expensive vacuum cleaner.”
Hilarious report on the performance of the Tesla S over at The New York Times. One of the many lowlights is this lovely little aspect of the tow that resulted from the car running out of electricity:
Tesla’s New York service manager, Adam Williams, found a towing service in Milford that sent a skilled and very patient driver, Rick Ibsen, to rescue me with a flatbed truck. Not so quick: the car’s electrically actuated parking brake would not release without battery power, and hooking the car’s 12-volt charging post behind the front grille to the tow truck’s portable charger would not release the brake. So he had to drag it onto the flatbed, a painstaking process that took 45 minutes. Fortunately, the cab of the tow truck was toasty.
All for the low, low price of $72,400!