Not-So-Robo Cars

Self-driving cars…where are they?

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:

rankings chart
Consumer Reports, February 2021 edition

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robo-driving’s real purpose is to burnish the erroneous notion that automobiles are somehow cutting-edge, rather than outdated and inherently defective, technology.

Political Quiz

Q: When does the entire political establishment — both wings of the Business Party — ever achieve Congressional unanimity?

[Hint: Despite the disgusting near-misses on imperialism and illegal wars, it only happens on one topic.]

A: When public subsidies to cars-first transportation arise.

Consider the interesting exception represented by the 2005 passage, amid oil war and the onset of global warming, of SAFETEA-LU. The final Congressional vote there was 502 yea to 13 nay. The 13 nays were Republicans grandstanding their supposed opposition to public spending.

The point? There is zero coherent opposition to cars-first transportation in the United States, even at this extremely late date.

Cars Can Be Hacked

Turns out there’s another problem — you know, other than their wild, ecocidal unsustainability — with the cars of the future. The integration of computers is rendering them externally controllable.

Andy Greenberg reports in Wired:

I’d come to St. Louis to be Miller and Valasek’s digital crash-test dummy, a willing subject on whom they could test the car-hacking research they’d been doing over the past year. The result of their work was a hacking technique—what the security industry calls a zero-day exploit—that can target Jeep Cherokees and give the attacker wireless control, via the Internet, to any of thousands of vehicles. Their code is an automaker’s nightmare: software that lets hackers send commands through the Jeep’s entertainment system to its dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission, all from a laptop that may be across the country.

Greenberg’s piece is worth reading.