Airbags are good, lack of regulations are bad

Takata is back in the news for another round of defects. Anthony learns that seatbelts are regulated and tend not to fail but airbags are not regulated and hence why we keep hearing about defects. Senator Markey asks car companies to explain why they are collecting so much data and what they are doing with it. California is making diagnostic ports on EVs standardized which is good but they are still falling down when it comes to self driving trucks which is bad. And Fred explains desiccants.


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note: this is a machine generated transcript and may not be completely accurate. This is provided for convience and should not be used for attribution.

Anthony: You’re listening to there auto be a law, the center for auto safety podcast with executive director, Michael Brooks, chief engineer, Fred Perkins, and hosted by me, Anthony Simonoff. For over 50 years, the center for auto safety has worked to make cars safer.

Michael: Okay. I’m good. Good morning. Okay.

Anthony: Yeah. Okay. So normally everyone’s aggressive. So normally hit record and it gives me an option of where I’m recording. It didn’t give me that option today. Hey, fingers crossed that we’re recording. Hey, listeners, did you really need to know about that? No, but what you do need to know is Takata is back in the news.

Takata notorious for making their exploding airbags exploding in the wrong way. BMW is recalling a small number of SUVs in the U. S. because of the drive because of the airbag inflators they can blow apart and crash. The recall raises questions about the safety of about 30 million Takata inflators that are still under investigation by NHTSA.

Most have not been recalled. Wait, I thought Takata. So this is the thing where the the inflator will just, you’re driving down the street and then all of a sudden, boom, it explodes in your face. You get bits of metal shrapnel in your face. You did nothing wrong and now you’re severely maimed or possibly dead.

I thought these were stopped being manufactured like a decade ago. I thought they’d all been recalled.

Michael: No. I think the last ones of the batch you’re talking about where they stopped being put into vehicles around 2017 model year or so but those were, there were two generally two. Sets of airbag inflators that were being looked at in that investigation.

One big batch of around 70 million inflators were the ones that had ammonium nitrate propellant that did not have a drying agent or a desiccant in the inflator to prevent the humidity. Accumulation that resulted in degradation of the propellant pellets, propellant pellets, and resulted in the defect, which is basically the propellant was not able to basically explode in a controlled manner that it’s designed to, to inflate your airbag and ended up, exploding, creating so much effectively creating so much Propellant so quickly that it is blowing the airbag inflator apart versus inflating the airbag.

That was the initial batch of Takata recalls that everyone’s heard about it again and again did not have that drying agent. And that’s a basically said, if it has this, it’s going to prevent the pellet for being degraded and we’re not going to see this problem. So what’s

Anthony: going on with these new ones?

Michael: Or is this they have the desiccant. So they have this, basically it’s, I think I’ve described it before is that little packet you get in your beef jerky, silica gel. I don’t think it’s silica gel, but it serves a similar purpose. It’s to prevent the, airbag propellant from over time through accumulating humidity and degrading.

So supposedly that’s what it does. And, the BMW recall it issue here. BMW says in the five, seven, three report, this is a manufacturing defect, we believe we’re still looking, we’re still analyzing it, but we think this is, one problem that’s occurred in this lot. Of airbag inflators which is certainly plausible, but it’s also the same excuse that every manufacturer has made from the be beginning of Tata and in the a RC airbag investigation that’s going on right now.

Manufacturers do a recall of, a couple hundred to a thousand vehicles. Supposedly, the airbag inflator came out of a bad lot, and that’s why the defect happened. But that doesn’t really assuade our concerns that there might be, more going on here. That the, these airbags weren’t being installed in vehicles, this newest Takata issue, they weren’t being installed in vehicles until around the 2013 model year.

The original batch of non desiccated bags started going to vehicles in 2002. So we started seeing those crashes occur around seven years later, after those airbags were installed into vehicles. And in this case, we’re starting to see a similar pattern. Although it’s hard to be certain, it’s certainly possible that it’s a manufacturing, something that happened on Friday afternoon.

And that these airbags are going to be safe for the useful life of the vehicle. We just simply don’t have enough evidence one way or the other at this point to determine that. Yeah,

Anthony: so in an article that we’ll link to from ABC quoting from that, in a statement, BMW blamed the ruptured inflator on a welding defect in manufacturing and said it is limited to a small lot of inflators.

So this sounds like what they’re saying with the arc. airbag situation. So this is for listeners. This is if you have a BMW, this is for 2014 model year. This is not for more recent models, right? 2013, 2014. I don’t think they’ve fully defined this batch yet. Stop me if I’m wrong, gentlemen.

And Takata itself doesn’t exist as a company anymore. They went bankrupt because of the first batch of airbag issues in like 2017, right?

Michael: I

Fred: think they still exist as a company, but I think they’re operating in bankruptcy, isn’t that

Michael: they are, there’s a company, basically a new company was created, I think it’s called TK Holdings.

That is In operation, but I’m not, I think they’ve basically been taken over by another company. I think it’s Joyce and safety system or something like that. But there’s not, I don’t think there’s any more money left in the kitty from the Takata bankruptcy to cover what would be happening in this recall.

I think that would be something that the manufacturers are going to have to eat on their own, which, maybe another reason why they might be resistant to recalling this new batch, what, one of the really. I guess it’s a, it’s something that’s really important to us about this whole situation, taking all these airbag recalls in, into account.

You’ve got 70 million airbags in the initial Takata problem, 30 million in this batch of desiccated bags and 50 million of the ARC airbags that’s 150 million airbags, which, we have 250, 270 million vehicles on the road in America. You’re. I don’t think it’s because not all those airbags are in vehicles now, but you’re looking at numbers, you could have 100 million vehicles on the road at some point that have a questionable airbag system and not just questionable and that it doesn’t protect occupants in the crash effectively questionable and that it’s creating a completely separate threat to drivers and passengers that are in the vehicle.

And, that really makes. Yeah. Us wonder, it definitely makes me wonder if maybe the government should have, or even, industry standards should have more specific standards that manufacturers need to follow when manufacturing and designing airbags to ensure, first of all, that, not only is this type of problem not occurring but that it’s.

Not occurring within, the first 30 or 40 years possibly of a vehicle’s life. They functionally need to eliminate the chance of explosive inflators in cars. And I think that’s possible. I don’t know. Is that possible, Fred? Is that, or is that something that would cost them so much money that they could never come back?

Fred: I’m glad you asked. I’m quoting from a Takata report, technical report on the current status of the Takata root cause evaluation effort, July 22, 2016, which is marked Takata confidential and proprietary, but it’s available on the Internet. So I’m just going to ignore that. All right, but the quoting from the report, it says the results of the testing for humidity Conducted with a strong desiccant driving the moisture transfer and 2004 and 3110 driving the moisture transfer.

Those numbers refer to the formulations of the ingredients in the airbag inflator. Show that the moisture ingress is significantly faster in the diffusion test than the permeation test. Unfortunately, The industry standard helium leak test is only suitable for identifying leak paths important in the permeation driven transport mechanism.

So what does that mean? It means that in 2016, Takata itself said that the industry standard test for determining the long term integrity of the airbag inflators was insufficient. And so this is a report that was given to NHTSA, and in response to that, NHTSA did nothing. So that’s an interesting response to notification that the industry standard test is insufficient to assure people’s safety.

As we’ve said a couple of times in the past, the military and industry and other venues is used to making very high quality, similar devices. And in fact, the it was interesting that the ARC spokesperson in a hearing a couple of weeks ago talked about with a lot of pride that they have 95 percent reliability with 50 percent confidence.

He thought that was pretty good. So I’m looking at a. Um, advertising brochure from a company called pack side, which is in a similar business. They make pyrotechnic initiators and things like explosive bolts and things that you’ve heard about. No

Anthony: one’s heard of explosive bolts before. Oh, sure.

Fred: Come on.

You’ve seen rockets go up and separate into stages and everybody has a few of those in their garage. Anyway, so these industry standard. Reliability predictions here are point nine, nine, nine. Or greater at 90 percent confidence level. So this contrasts with the 95% uh, reliability and the 50 percent confidence level that ARC was touting as their safety standard.

Michael: So that 50 sounds really low to me. Is that, I thought it was like 90. 99 and 95 or something. That’s their confidence. Confidence. Sounds like me walking out the door every day.

Fred: Yeah. Yeah. You’ve probably got 50 percent confidence that you have your car keys in your pocket. So how often have you gone back in the house to get your car keys?

Anyway as we stated when the ARC numbers came out a couple weeks ago, basically, the industry is free to put junk in your car that can kill you and they have made no attempt to achieve the kind of safety. That is customary in military and industrial uses of similar technology. So take that, friends, and recognize that’s what’s in your steering column every time you start your car.

Anthony: Listeners, all of that doom and gloom does not mean that you should go take a screwdriver right now and try to pry out your airbag. Okay, airbags are not perfect, but please do not try to remove your airbag. But if you do, film it and send us the link.

Fred: No, do not do that, folks, because when you try to take it out, you may well set it off.

This is a

Michael: rule. There is actually an incident, I believe, where the guy was hitting the airbag with a hammer and one of the Takata incidents and it blew up. no, don’t do that. We already know what happens.

Fred: Anthony, bite your tongue, young man. Okay,

Anthony: yeah, don’t remove your airbag. Airbags make your car safer.

This is more of a failing of regulations and lack of them.

Michael: And that’s something that I want to emphasize here too. I was thinking about that yesterday. We talk bad about these airbags and these inflators, but that’s, that the number of lives saved and injuries that are prevented by airbags every year outweighs this, the injuries and deaths related to all of these Takata airbag.

Fred: And my wife and daughter are among those people. It’s just

Michael: It’s not even close. Seat belts, obviously are the number one safety device and they save more people than anything. But airbags are pretty, very high up the list. And we’re nowhere close to the idea that airbags are somehow more damaging to humans than, then they should be or that they’re actually causing more problems and they are saving lives. That’s not even in the calculations, right? Couldn’t be further from the truth.

Anthony: Airbags good. Regulations of airbags even better. So this is a solvable problem. They made seatbelts regulated, right?

Please tell me that seatbelts have some sort of safety standard around them. Oh, yes. Oh, good. Thank God. So they can do the same thing for airbags. Why not? Hey, we have crumple zones. There’s probably a regulation around that, right? Please, am I jumping too far down the rabbit hole? Do you

Michael: really think that regulation exists for crumple zones?

Have you seen the cyber truck?

Anthony: Okay we can get airbag regulations. People, this is what we can do. Good. Keep your airbags in. Now, hey, let’s Fred’s talking from his compound in the lovely state of Massachusetts. Let’s go to find an update from another man in the lovely state of Massachusetts.

Senator Edward Markey of that liberal bastion of Black Sox and Birkenstocks came out and this is an article we’re linking to from Ars Technica. Quoting, Markey noted that the Mozilla Foundation, in his letters, were sent to BMW, Ford, GM, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. The senator is concerned about the large amount of data that modern cars can collect, including the troubling potential to use biometric data.

Like the rate of a, that a driver blinks and breathes as well as their pulse to infer mood or mental health. Senator Markey is also worried about automaker’s use of Bluetooth, which he said has expanded their surveillance to include information that has nothing to do with the vehicle’s operation, such as data from smartphones that are wirelessly connected to the vehicle.

So I just jumped right into the deep end here. So let’s take a step back. Markey’s writing about the privacy concerns around modern vehicles and that. Us as occupants, not even just the driver, but just as occupants in the vehicle, we have no rights around privacy, it seems, because somebody in the car at some point said agree to a long screen blah blah blah just so they can drive to the Piggly Wiggly and get groceries.

Done. Out. Good night.

Michael: There’s, it’s really interesting thinking about this because there are so many things that the vehicle collects that you would pause and go how are they using, your heartbeat monitor? That sounds stupid. My car’s gathering information like that. But if you have a driver monitoring system that is built to ensure that medical events don’t result in crashes, it makes perfect sense.

And the dividing line here, at least for me and looking at this, there’s a lot of information that cars are collecting when the big problem is monetization of that data. When that data leaves General Motors and goes to someone, a third party that has nothing to do with automobiles or safety, and they’re using that data to sell you.

Popcorn or whatever it is. That’s the problem. Using in vehicle data to make the vehicles better or to improve their quality or to improve the customer experience. It’s perfectly valid as long as that information is sealed and can’t be transferred to a third party. Now that there’s another sector here of passengers, why are we collecting data on passengers?

And that’s that doesn’t really get into some of, You shouldn’t be collecting data on the heartbeat of passengers, I don’t believe, unless maybe there’s some type of medical car in the future that, is going to take care of us all and drive us to the hospital if there’s a problem.

That’s not even worth thinking about at the moment, but It’s there’s basically two sets here. There’s good data, which is the data that is going towards improving the safety of the vehicle and is being collected could be anything it’s collecting about your behavior. There are a lot of there’s a lot of information that a driver monitoring system would need to collect in order to figure out if you’re drunk, if you’re in the middle of a medical episode, if you’re drowsy and Require the vehicle to pull over or to ensure that condition is not going to impact yourself or other people on the road, getting that data to a third party, selling it, monetizing it, which we think a lot of manufacturers are doing and which Senator Markey’s letter request specific details on, what are you guys doing with this data is an important part of it.

That’s where the real problems come in. And I don’t think anyone who drives a car wants their data being sold to third parties. Yet the system for opting out isn’t clearly defined. It’s different from every manufacturer. And so it’s just a giant mess there. And the industry likes it that way.

Cause as long as it’s a mess, they can continue monetizing that data. The last thing they want are strict regulations that, define where that data is going after it’s collected. So this is a really important issue to us for a number of reasons. I think driver monitoring systems, it’s really important there because there are a lot of people who, you know.

If some of these companies don’t want driver, don’t want to have to install driver monitoring systems in their vehicles, or don’t want to improve the vehicles by installing any type of monitoring that prevents drivers from doing bad things, speeding, driving drunk, and all these things, then they’re going to use the privacy threat to scare consumers away from the technology.

We’ve already seen people doing this with driver monitoring where, when, in fact, that type of data should be collected, used. In the immediate period to, to advise the vehicle and the driver monitoring system of whether the drivers engage and then it should be functionally, if not used for improving safety, it should be thrown away.

There’s no reason for that data to be retained and there’s certainly no reason for it to be sold to any other 3rd parties. So that’s a, it’s a really important. Important part of a lot of the new electronics coming into vehicles is that we make sure we’re monitoring how companies are using the data they collect from them.


Anthony: the thing that struck me about what you just said was popcorn. So how come no one has sold an in car popcorn maker? Come

Michael: on. Oh, I, if you really wanted to do that, I’m sure you could buy a little air popper and plug it into a USB or,

Anthony: whatever. And then they can track my heart rate as it goes up to happy levels as I’m making popcorn driving down the road.

Fred, you seem to be drifting

Fred: away from our mission here.

Anthony: Look, I’m hungry, apparently. And he mentioned popcorn . Okay, let’s jump to consumer reports that came out with some rebi. Reliable. Reliable. Let’s try that again from the top. Three, two consumer reports came out with some, ah, it doesn’t matter.

Reliability. It’s reliability. Reliability. Reliability. Thank you. It’s reliability. Wow. Reliability rankings. And it looks like Hey. Let me, before we jump into this, are you guys familiar with the auto safety, the center for auto safety, because if you go to that website and you click on donate, in a week or two, we’ll show you our reliability rating.

God, never mind, let’s go back to Consumer Reports. So they came out with their list of reliability ratings, so they Survey all of their members and say, Hey, what’s, how much do you like your car a year later, two years later, five years later? And they’re saying that EVs, electric vehicles, not really holding up that well.

That they have 79 percent more problems than conventional cars. Which is shocking because, as we all know, they have 79 percent less moving parts. Is it just because these are new and they’re still working out the bugs? Is it

Fred: I suspect it’s because they’re heavier, and the suspension components that they’ve been developing for, oh, a hundred years or so for lighter cars are not up to the task.

Anthony: Okay, so your guess is around that. Okay.

Michael: I mean it’s certainly because they’re new, I would also guess that there’s some disenchantment. We know that consumers are complaining on mass about some of the interfaces that these vehicles give you, whether it’s the infotainment system or, simple things like turning off your def frogger def de def defogger.

Yeah. I will. Defogger and Def Defroster and driving through biblical events. There’s simple tasks that, that go through, that you have to go through as a driver or even passenger sometimes that you’ve known how to do all your life with buttons that are now being moved to a computer screen. And, I think some of the reliability ratings may reflect that disenchantment.

And there’s a lot of new bells and whistles on these cars that consumers have to get adjusted to as well. So.

Fred: MIchael, thank you. I’ve never before seen a biblical reference to EVs. The plague of frogs. It’s good to know that we’re ready. Hey, a

Anthony: defrogger button. Every car needs that.

Michael: One of the things that was really stuck out to me is that, EVs, yeah, 79 percent sounds bad, but I think it was, um, plug in hybrids were, had a worse, far worse.

rating. They were 146 percent more problem than gas vehicles. And I think some of that has been driven by the Chrysler Pacifica plug in hybrid, which has just been a disaster for people who bought it. To be able to plug it in and charge it and go to work without using gas. And then we’re told you can’t plug it in anymore because of the safety recall.

And there’ve been a lot of problems with those Pacifica plug in hybrids and some other plug in hybrids. I think we’ve even got a plug in hybrid Jeep recall another Stellantis product today, which shows you why for that Chrysler, if you look at the reliability ratings by manufacturer on the consumer reports website, Chrysler is.

Really down at the bottom. And their numbers don’t look good at all. I think they were just, I think it’s

Fred: important to

Michael: know it’s not a good way to describe

Fred: it. It’s important to note that the reliability varies widely among different brands and the plugin hybrids by Toyota ranked very well.

There’s, I’m not sure if the outlier is the the cheap plugin hybrids that don’t work well, or the high quality. Hybrid plugins that work very well. So anyway consumers should note that there is brand sensitivity and read the report to make sure you’ve got the full story.

Anthony: It’s interesting, so they do their full brand reliability ratings, and the top of the list is what you’d expect of people being the most happy with Lexus and Toyota.

The bottom of the list being Chrysler and Mercedes Benz. tHat was surprising to see Mercedes Benz number 29 out of 30 on the list, because I figure if you’re spending a hundred maybe, I don’t know, I’ve never thought to spend a hundred thousand dollars on a car. I have no idea how much a Mercedes costs, but I’m going to guess 100, 000.

I figured I’d be like, hey, it’s the greatest thing ever. I can’t get to any wrong. No?

Michael: I don’t know. Maybe Mercedes owners are persnickety for some reason. But, from a safety and design perspective, Mercedes generally Does pretty well from what we see. I just, I don’t have any experience at all with Mercedes quality.

I’m sure repairs after you’re out of warranty can be tough there.

Fred: I owned one once 1986 uh, Mercedes 300 DT, uh, for the first hundred thousand miles or so it was fantastic after that it became a nightmare. It was thousands of dollars several times a year to fix this and that, so I, I think that the cars are fantastic if you keep up with the maintenance, but they don’t seem to be designed for long term use with low maintenance.

I found the same thing with the Volkswagens that I’ve owned. They hit the wall at around 100, 000 miles and then they become a nightmare. I have not seen the same thing with the Japanese designed cars.

Anthony: No. I briefly mentioned, I tried to mention that the Santa Barbara Safety, we collect a bunch of complaints, people write in, by the time they get to us and submit a complaint, they’ve already gone through everybody else and we get all this data.

So we do not have a reliability rating coming up, but we have, hey, these are the top 10 cars that people have submitted the most complaints about. It’s the inverse of what Consumer Reports does. Consumer Reports says, hey, these cars are good to buy, where we can list out the last year, these are the cars that people hate.

And they’ve written in, and so stay tuned for that. That will be coming up soon. And it’s not necessarily all hey, 22 models. It goes back to 2012 and whatnot of various vehicles that people are just not that happy with. It’s a very exciting list, and I’ll give you a hint. Ford’s on the list. A number of times,

but now let’s jump into ODBs for EVs. We’ve talked about this before. You got an electric vehicle and you want to take it to the repair shop. You can do this with your ICE vehicle. You plug it in, you get some diagnostic codes, your local mechanic can go, Oh, I know what this is. Your local dealer can say, Oh, I know what this is.

But then you’ve upgraded, you’ve saved, you’ve seen the light and you’re like, I want an electric vehicle and you can take it to your local repair shop. And they say, I we can’t do anything with this. I can’t do that. You can take it to your dealer and they can go that guy isn’t here today.

What do we do? So now they’re coming up with, thankfully, standards on how these things will repair, diagnostic tools will monitor and link into your EV to find out what broke and why.

Fred: OBD stands for Onboard Diagnostic System. This was surprisingly initiated by the Environmental Protection Agency because people were complaining about the Price and awkward machinery associated with testing for the continued operation of pollution controls.

thE industry and government came up with the idea that if you have on board sensors that monitor the oxygen. Composition of your exhaust and the chemical composition of your exhaust, that is a way of assuring that your pollution controls are still operating as intended, but. People needed a way to get the data out of that.

So the EPA initiated this technology, which is called onboard diagnostic systems, which let people plug into the car and find out that the pollution controls were still working as intended. This turned out to be very popular. And so the industry extended that to other parts of the car so that mechanics themselves, garages could plug in and find out what’s going on in the car and all of the Systems that are being monitored by the OBD.

So that’s the background on this. It wasn’t originally intended to monitor overall car operation, but has grown in that direction. And as Anthony said, doesn’t work well for unique features. And incidentally, it does not work at all for built in technology for automatic safety processes, like the onboard automatic emergency breaking.

Lane keeping systems, all of those safety systems that are built into your computer system right now. It’s important to get that information out. It’s important to know that those systems are operating as intended. But it’s just not there yet. So starting in

Anthony: 2026, California has a regulation, part of the state’s advanced clean cars to program that will require automakers to phase in a standard EV diagnostic system.

So that’s a good thing. Looks like California, again, leading the way on these things. And Michael’s very animated and he forgot the mute button. But

Michael: California has the the only confirmed NHTSA administrator that we’ve had in the past seven years or so after the cafe rule went through left after three months of being confirmed and went back to California to CARB and is working on these rules now.

That is. I think that the OBD2 and the electric version of it are monitoring a lot of engine and emissions related things, possibly some things in real time that impact safety, but most of the safety data in your vehicle that is being collected and can be checked as being stored in the.

Black box or the electronic data recorder, as well as, in a lot of systems that manufacturers aren’t making accessible to consumers, whether it’s an OBD or not. Tesla, for instance, collects a thousand or more different vehicle performance characteristics every millisecond or so, and they’re storing that in the cloud and.

It’s a Tesla owner. You don’t have access to all of that. You have access to some things, but not all of that. And that’s the wave of the future. Our cars. We know that Toyota is capturing camera and there’s a lot of cars are capturing camera images, possibly video and a lot of data now. And, outside of this area, there needs to be more regulation there as well. We need to see consistency and how, crash investigators could show up to a scene and figure out what was going on at the crash based on the data the car has. And they’re finding that it’s really difficult to do that because every manufacturer has a different system in place.

And there’s to be fixed. No ability to go in and, just download the data and have it be usable and ready for use by crash investigation professionals. So that’s something that’s going to have to change. And it’s something that the MTSB is noted in its investigations of Tesla as well.

Anthony: This sounds pretty good.

And no, it also sounds pretty good. Going to autosafety. org and clicking on donate. Do it now. Do it twice. Do it three times. Do it thrice. Thrice, sure, why not? Hey, we’re talking about California. Let’s stick with California. California’s doing the right thing. What we’re just talking about with this ODB2 stuff.

Now, maybe California’s not doing such a right thing with driverless semis. We’ve talked about this in the past. And there’s a number of driverless semi companies and they want safety drivers. The Teamsters and everybody else on the road wants a safety driver involved in this, and the companies are like, Nah, we don’t need anybody behind the wheel.

Drive those cars, they take care of themselves, they’re good to go. And Governor Newsom’s Okay, write me a check. I agree. I don’t know if he said, write me a check, but maybe, I don’t know, something. This is my impression. These opinions are strictly my own, not that of the Center for Auto Safety.

Michael: No, he definitely falls into our, if we’re going to rank governors on the tech bro satisfaction scale, he’s got to be number one, right?

Anthony: So yeah, he’s basically said, yeah, you don’t need drivers behind these 18 wheelers. The cars will just drive themselves. Scary stuff.

Michael: But there’s still a lot of, the article was talking about how this year is a big year for those trucks and whether, because they’ve continued to say similar things to other companies, we’re deploying any day we’re taking the safety driver out any day and they need to show their investors just GM Cruise did that these things can actually operate without a driver.

The bill that was vetoed by Newsom would have guaranteed that they couldn’t do that and preserve safety for a period that didn’t happen. So there’s a chance that will be occurring in the near future. I’m not sure what type of an ancillary effects there have been from the cruise debacle and whether some of the CEOs who are.

Involved in trucks have taken note of that. It doesn’t seem like they’ve taken too much note of it. I saw in this article that they’re continuing to repeat the same kind of thing we were hearing from GM crews, human drives are terrible. Our computers don’t drive drunk, don’t drive stoned, blah, blah, blah.

And yet, we don’t have enough experience with these vehicles to know what, the electronic version of stone drunk or whatever is there’s. They’ve not been on the road long. They’re going to have lots of failures that need to be addressed in the future, just like humans. And yet we know about the human failure.

So they’re continually pointing that out as though it proves that their vehicles are safe when in fact they haven’t really proven it at all. And that’s Something we’re going to continue to watch as these trucks roll out I, I got to think that they’re going to be moving a little more slowly now, given the events that have occurred in the past three

Fred: months or so.

This is a study by is it Orion? Is that the name of the company in Texas that’s promoting the self driving trucks where

Michael: they look at, there’s

Fred: Aurora. That’s what I was thinking. Aurora came up with a study and they looked at the numbers of uh, collisions that had occurred with heavy trucks on the route that they intend to use for their automatic vehicles.

And there was some number like 24, something like that. And they. That was interesting. They said, we put these in our simulation and we showed through our simulations that all of these would have been avoided if we’d only had the automatic driving system in place and instead of these damn human drivers.

And I thought that was really interesting because the expression I’ve used a couple of times here is that simulations are doomed to succeed, and you basically just keep working on the simulations, which are always abstractions, necessarily, of the real world until you come up with a solution that you like.

In no case did they ever actually replicate the dangerous situation on a test track. Or anywhere else to validate their simulations. And if this is the best they can do, they can’t really do very well to assure the safety of the self driving trucks. The other thing I wanted to bring up is that Anthony mentioned 18 wheelers.

There’s no limitation, as far as I know, on whether it’s an 18 wheeler or a 34 wheeler or a 50 wheeler. The industry wants to have these trains essentially running on the highways because, the inconvenience of human drivers in every truck cost them money. So you may have the pleasure of seeing 60 tons of, Is this 20 tons per trailer? Michael, is that the right number?

Michael: I believe you can, your entire operation can laugh. I think it’s, I want to say it’s 40.

Fred: 40 tons, so you can have 120 tons if you have a train of three trailers rolling down the interstate with no human being in control of that, uh, at very high speeds.

This is, uh, this is going to be a real problem.

Anthony: Unless it’s a Tesla semi, because they can only haul potato chips right now. It’ll be much lighter. From the article in The Verge there’s a quote, The technology is finally at a point where driverless is here, and it’s been a long time coming.

Says Kodiak an autonomous 18 wheeler It’s here. It’s here. Coming said Kodiak’s co founder and CEO, Don Burnett, who’s been working in the self driving vehicle space for 15 years. We’ve really solved all of the fundamental technology hurdles that we need to. Now it’s just about proving the safety.

Michael: That’s just stupid. Yeah, that’s just PR. Yeah, we’ve

Fred: built the airplane, now we just have to show that it flies.

Michael: That attitude goes against the attitude you have to have of continual development to make sure these things are safe. It just, it. Basically, it shows that guy doesn’t understand what he’s doing.

Anthony: Yeah. We’ve proved the technology works, but we just can’t prove that it won’t kill you. It just, it’s madness. It’s the tech bros. Oh boy. Hey, continuing the tech bros. My favorite subject of all time. Can anyone guess? Anyone guess? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Yes! GM Cruise! Okay, GM crew.

We’ve talked about how Kyle got fired. Oh, no, he got to resign because when you get paid millions of dollars, you don’t get fired, you get to resign. he And other people got resigned as well. And lawyers took it over and GM is basically we’re shutting this down. This is stupid.

So part of this process that they get to go fully autonomous and Take up pay for charge people for rides all the time was the California Public Utilities Commission said, Yes, these things are safe. Yes, go right ahead and do it. And no, we were not your former general counsel at GM Cruise says one of the voting members of the California Public Utility Commission.

And now after GM Cruise dragged one of those pesky humans underneath its cars, the California Public Utility Commission said the self driving car company admitted critical information about the safety of its vehicles were And now, the CPUC is investigating Cruz and saying, Hey, damn it now. We went to bat for you and you’re making us look stupid!

Come on! And you made my stocks worthless! I went on to this commission because I wanted to vote for you and then come back to work for the company! Says former GM, Cruz general counsel, who sits on the California public utility commission.

Michael: That’s pure speculation though.

Anthony: It is pure speculation, but I’m, I, it’s pretty good speculation.

I think they,

Michael: I think they, this is part of the reflexive kind of. Anger, or disappointment that these, the regulators in these cases feel when you’ve been lied to. They were told that this crash occurred because of X, Y, and Z, and that was not the case. And Cruz was lying by omission to prevent them finding out what actually happened.

So I hope that, the CPUC is not the only government body that’s pursuing Fines against GM crews for this. They’re, nitzos standing general order contains provisions that I think could be used to find them, based on their first report, which was clearly misleading to the federal government.

And you also have the California DMV here involved in this and they have some, Penalty provisions as well that I think need to be deployed because there just needs to be a signal sent to the rest of the people operating this industry, whether they’re building robo taxis or giant autonomous trucks that you’re not going to be able to bullshit your way into being allowed to operate on roads if you can’t prove and demonstrate that the vehicles are safe.

That’s ultimately what’s got to happen here. You have to punish people who are willing to lie to regulators to get their product on the streets.

Anthony: So don’t lie about regulators. Don’t wait. Don’t lie to regulators. I don’t know. Before we jump into the TAO, I want to jump into a little a little something I’ve learned about Michael Brooks, okay?

Michael Brooks, lawyer, safety advocate, man about town, and also Yakov Smirnoff fan. Cause he sent around notes to this week, and we generally just send around links to each other all week long, and he compiles them nicely, and One he decided to label, The Road Charges You! Which is a very Yakov Smirnoff thing to say.

This is an interesting little article. There’s a Ford outside of their research facility in Michigan. They have part of the road that’s set up to help charge EVs as they drive down the road. Which I think is pretty clever. The Israelis have something similar to this going on for buses. It’s a cool, everything’s going to be better in the future type situation.

We have the link to the article on Jalopnik and I’m sure the two of you have questions, comments, and concerns.

Fred: Oh, none at all. This seems like a really wonderful idea. So have you ever, do you have you ever had the experience of sitting in front of a radiant heater in your house, a space heater and it’s glowing red, right?

And it’s heating up the room and it feels nice and cozy. That is about 1500 watts. Which is roughly two horsepower.

Anthony: Don’t try that horsepower bullshit with me. We’ve discussed horsepower, okay? Nice try.

Fred: Move on. If it’s got to do with horsepower, it’s horseshit. It’s not bullshit. Just to be clear.

Sorry. Alright, so the point is, you’ve got two horsepower coming through your radiant heater. In order to run your car, your vehicle down the road, highway speeds, You need to have about 20 horsepower. So the amount of power that you would need to come from the road into your car is the equivalent of about 10 space heaters continuously driving power through the pavement.

How the hell is this gonna work? That’s a lot of power. That’s a lot of stinking power and Yeah, they’ve shown there they can put through about one kilowatt. That’s very nice, but

Anthony: No, 16 kilowatts. I’m sorry? It’s 16 kilowatts. 16 kilowatts? To a test van driving at 9 miles per

Fred: hour. At 9 miles per hour.

Anthony: Okay. It’s very early days. Come

Fred: on. Very early days. Man, that’s a lot of power out there. And if it’s freely accessible to vehicles, it’s going to be freely accessible to people who want to steal it as well. thIs this seems truly like a bad idea whose time has come, maybe. Wait,

Anthony: How do you mean that people would steal it?

I don’t understand. People

Fred: steal power all the time from electrical overhead wires. They put up another wire and is inductively coupled. To the overhead wires and the power flows into people’s houses. That’s how people steal electric power all the time. If you’ve got the power in the roadway you can set up a coil of wire next to the roadway and go ahead and steal the power that’s flying, that’s flowing through it.

If you’ve got the, the current surging. It’s just a lot of current. It’s just an awful lot of power. I don’t know how this is going to work. I don’t maybe that’s just my ignorance talking, or maybe it’s my inner Luddite speaking, I’m not sure, but this really seems like a bad idea.

Anthony: I just put lead weights on the electrical meter so it doesn’t run as fast.

Fred: No that’s a Tesla steering wheel you’re thinking of.

Michael: I can’t I, my only real comment on this one would be, that just sounds incredibly expensive and something that to produce at scale across America’s roads is there are a lot more safety and infrastructure projects we need to have in place before we’re charging our vehicles from the road.

Anthony: Boo to both of you. Boo. I thought it sounded cool. Yeah, it’s impractical. It is cool. It is

Michael: cool. But, but it’s not as cool as the roads that play music when you drive over them because they have the hops arranged in certain ways, right? Whoa, wait, what? Oh, and by the way, it would be a lot less I was being

Fred: lied.

A lot less expensive to put up protected bike paths. that people can use and, make the kind of infrastructure improvements that will reduce the number of vehicles on the road, thereby enhancing safety for everybody.

Michael: Yeah. Plus, this is America. Charge your EV on your own dime, bro.

Anthony: Oh, man. I don’t know what to think anymore.

But with that, I think this is the perfect transition to the Tao of Fred, because I’m just going to go cry for a bit. But today we’re going to cover how does a desiccant work? And if I have a desiccant inserted into my tear ducts, will it prevent me from crying?

Fred: It depends on the story that you’re reading.

Some of them So what is a desiccant? A desiccant is something that absorbs moisture and and hangs onto it so that it doesn’t slip into other parts of the package. So you’ve got a desiccant in a lot of moisture sensitive foods that you buy and it’s a little silica gel packet that says, do not eat.

And that’s good advice, by the way, because it’s basically just sand. Anthony, a question for you. Have you ever Take an aspirin. Yes. Have you ever taken an aspirin pill? Yes. And you put the pill in your mouth and you drink some water and down it goes, right? This is a

Anthony: little personal, but okay, I’ll go with that.

Have you ever

Fred: chewed an aspirin? Yes. And does that taste the same or is that kind of a worse experience? Much worse. Much worse. And the reason is because when you chew the aspirin, Excuse me. You dramatically increase the surface area. Of the chemical components in the aspirin, what happens is it dissolves very rapidly in your mouth because of that increase in surface area and creates that wonderful yuck sensation that many people have experienced.

So the same thing happens with certain propellants that are in the airbag inflators when they’re exposed to moisture and turns out that the airbag inflators are actually. Very complex. There’s a thing in them called an accelerator, which is what accepts the electrical signal and creates a small flame.

Then that accelerator Sends the flame down over the ammonium nitrate in the in the airbag inflator and the ammonium nitrate starts to burn now when it starts to burn burns on the surface as it burns and gets hotter, it burns even more rapidly. So it’s like an avalanche, right? Where you’ve got a rock or something perched high in a mountain.

It’s got a lot of potential energy and something knocks that Rock off the top of the mountain or starts the avalanche sliding and then it builds and builds until the energy is released. So that’s what’s happening inside of the airbag inflator as the material burns. But since it only burns on the surface, if you increase the surface area.

Then it burns more rapidly, just simply because there’s more surface area, like biting on the aspirin rather than just swallowing it. Now what happens with the infusion of water into the Takata airbag with the accelerant is that It moves through the accelerant and into the ammonium nitrate under certain thermal conditions.

Other conditions, it moves back the other way, so there’s a lot of transfer that’s taking place. And when, over time, that transfer of water, uh, causes the development of micropores in the wafers that contain the ammonium nitrate. And these micropores dramatically increase the surface area. of the ammonium nitrate, so a lot more surface area where the burning can take place.

Now, it’s not clear to me what the desiccant is that they put into the airbag inflators. This one article Are there any

Anthony: regulations around what desiccant they can use? Oh, of course not.

Fred: Ah. This gets, but ultimately This gets back to the whole idea of qualification of the of the airbag inflators, but narrowly speaking, the desiccant is intended to suck all the moisture out of the airbag inflator to ensure the integrity of the wafers that contain the ammonium nitrate, which, you want to have burning rapidly.

Yes, but only just so rapidly so that you don’t overwhelm the

Michael: poor And this is all happening in just a very short period of time. So milliseconds, milliseconds, yeah,

Fred: probably microseconds when things go haywire, the difference between a millisecond and a microsecond is a factor of a thousand.

So that’s basically what’s going on. And the desiccant is supposed to stop that from happening. So what’s the problem? The problem is that there’s no standards on how the inflators are supposed to be built. That desiccants will only absorb a certain amount of moisture and no more, because that’s just what they can do.

So if they’re in an environment where there’s continual ingress of moisture Uh, it could be, and I don’t know that this is it could be that the desiccants are simply getting overwhelmed and they’ve reached beyond their capacity. What we do know is that the thermal cycles in a, um, humid environment is associated with the increased failure rate.

Of the inflators, so it’s reasonable to think that, it is a cycling of the moisture between the different components in the airbag inflator that’s causing the micropore development. And this is, it sounds like a lot of blah, blah, blah, but really it’s quite simple. Swallow the aspirin without chewing it or chew it.

And when you chew it, you have a response in your mouth that is really analogous to the overwhelming burn rate of the airbag inflator that’s going to rupture. Does that make sense? It sounds confusing to me. Yeah,

Anthony: it’s just boring. Oh, sorry, wait. No, that makes sense to me. I understand it now.

Michael: This is good.

One of the, one of the deployments was in we, I think there have been two. In this type of airbag, there was one in Brazil in a GM vehicle that was recalled that batch was recalled in August where you would, I just think of Brazil and I think humidity. So I’m assuming that, but the most recent BMW recall that one occurred in Chicago, which doesn’t make as much sense.

So we’re talking about humidity, but,

Fred: But we have to talk about the manufacturing process as well. So I don’t know that the airbag inflator has an O ring, but most of them do have O rings that they use as a seal to keep the moisture out. thE efficacy of an O ring depends upon the dimensions of the O ring and the dimensions of the seal, the manufacturing tolerances that are associated with the airbag inflator assembly, and the Overall stack up of all of these tolerances, inevitably, when you have a very complex system and the integrity of the system relies upon a long chain of manufacturing tolerances, it’s hard to control them in every case, such that it comes out to be adequate orings in general.

Are not 100 percent effective in keeping moisture out of a system. So if you combine the fact that the o rings themselves are not 100 percent effective with the stack up of tolerances that are required to put the airbag inflator together, uh, you’ve just got a problem if the underlying propellant is sensitive to the moisture ingress.

And again, we don’t know, we don’t know what all the details are of this. Particular problem. But if we look at a typical airbag inflator, there’s just a lot of ways for the moisture to get in. And as Takata noted in their study, the industry standard helium leak test is only suitable for identifying leak paths important in the permeation driven transport mechanism, but not diffusion.

Okay, so they noted in that report that they don’t really understand the mechanism. They don’t have a test for the integrity of the airbag inflator. That actually responds to the mechanism that’s causing them to fail. This is in 2016, so who knows what they’ve got now, but, it’s deep within their proprietary bowels.

Anthony: Aren’t airbags can somebody, look, can somebody manufacture an airbag? Or does somebody right now manufacture an airbag that is free of these defects? That will work, that doesn’t have a problem. Yes.

Fred: I don’t know the answer to that. All I know is that there’s no standard for performance, there’s no standard for qualification for airbag inflators in cars.

Now, I also want to point out that in military systems, there’s something called a fail fail safe mechanism, which is anytime you’ve got a pyrotechnic device like this, there is a safe and arm system associated with it. Basically, what happens is there’s a mechanical system that is in one position.

That makes sure the system is safe. It cannot go off independently. That’s typically a motor, or something like a motor. And then before, when you arm the missile, or you arm the device, the motor Physically turns a contact into completing an electrical circuit that can then allow the single shot device, which is what an airbag inflator is to be fired.

Cars don’t have this same mechanism. People decided that, it’s not as important to assure the safety of somebody in a car as is to assure the fact that a missile is going to fire when you try to fire it. And you’ve probably seen this in movies where, you’ve got the pilot there, and there’s a bad guy coming, and they flip a switch that says, arm the missile.

When they do that’s what’s happening. There’s a mechanical motion that makes the electrical contact, which will then enable the missile to be fired. That’s completely missing in a car and it makes sense that it’s missing in a car because you don’t have the time to arm the airbag. Before a collision occurs.

So essentially your arm in the airbag, every time you turn the ignition on. tHese are always ready to go. And it’s interesting, the difference in the safety protocols that are deemed acceptable in military systems versus the commercial systems that people use every day. I don’t understand that gap.

I don’t understand why. NHTSA allows systems to be built where there’s no industry standard test to assure the integrity of that system. I don’t understand why NHTSA is unique in all of the government agencies of which I’m familiar, of not putting a standard in place for the safety of pyrotechnic devices that are going to expose the public to danger.

This is a baffling, baffling absence to me.

Anthony: There’s got to be at least one airbag manufacturer that has been producing airbags for a couple decades that hasn’t had these manufactured. Okay, so we haven’t

Michael: seen these outside of Takata And ARC. And yeah, and ARC airbags. I think there’s Joyson and there’s Continental and there’s a number of groups that make airbags where we haven’t seen these kind of deployments.

So And a lot of that may have to do with the fact that a lot of these folks may not have been using, ammonium nitrate, which has proved to be a particularly troublesome formulation.

Fred: I think a lot of it’s also got to do with the fact that Takata dominated the market. And, far more of the Takata airbags were put into cars than anyone else because it was cheaper.

Anthony: Because I look at this as a, just from a consumer point of view you don’t think about an airbag when you buy a car, you don’t, you think, hey, it has airbags, great, and then you move on from that because the consumer mindset is, this is a solved problem this is like a seatbelt this is a known problem, it’s been solved there’s not, I’ve never gone into a car where it’s a different nylon material for the seatbelt, it seems that all seatbelt material is the exact same thing in the, In every car that I’ve been in, in the last, 40 plus years.

I just standard for that. Yes. Ah, see, bing, that’s what’s missing there. Okay, and so with airbags, I looked at it, that is that seems to be a solved problem. From an engineering point of view who the hell wants to work on airbags? We finished that. It’s done. I look at it in the world of software with email systems.

No one wants to work on address books. Because who cares? It’s boring. It’s done. We got that. So I, that’s why I don’t understand with airbags, why this, why we’re seeing something that looks At least from an engineering perspective, from a naive engineering perspective is a solved problem. Why do they keep messing it up?

And it just comes down to lack of regulations, huh?

Michael: When you don’t have a regulation in place, I think what it really allows for is for constant, redesigning the product to achieve something that is cheaper. aNd you’re constantly looking for the next cheapest product to bring down your costs on vehicles.

Then, you do things like switch from one propellant to ammonium nitrate. And then you have this problem because you didn’t sufficiently test prior to making that change. So even when there’s a standard in place, for instance, even when there’s a seatbelt webbing, Standard. You’re going to see manufacturers who try to push, push the bounds to find cheaper materials, cheaper ways of doing it and achieving the same or similar results in order to save money on their bottom line.

That’s, so when you think as a consumer that something’s been solved maybe someone out there has solved the problem and knows how to do it. But there’s somebody coming behind them, trying to figure out how to do it for cheaper.

Fred: In a typical military program, once you have qualified the system, if you make any change to the manufacturing process, you have to re qualify the product.

Right? The only reason you have to do that is because the standard for qualification exists and why NHTSA doesn’t have a qualification standard for energetic devices that are in your car that can kill you as is beyond

Anthony: Nitza, please solve this problem. Signed, everyone who’s ever gotten into a vehicle ever.

And with that, let’s jump into Recall Roundup, or I like to call it Rearview Camera Roundup. But this week, I don’t know if there’s a Rearview Camera Roundup.

Michael: No, it’s been a, it’s been a couple weeks. No Rearview Cameras recently.

Anthony: Amazing. First one comes from a little company called Chrysler. 32, 000 plus vehicles, 21 to 23 Jeep Wranglers.

Their plug in hybrid vehicles may have a high voltage battery, which may fail internally. The defect has not been identified and the root cause is still being investigated, along with my speech impediment today.

Michael: Yeah, you’re having some issues there. Maybe you could park outside just like these cars.

So there is a park outside warning on these. Don’t put them in your driveway. If you have one of these Wranglers, I do not recommend those vehicles and not just because of this recall, but if you’ve got one park it outside it looks like they’re still looking into what the problem is. They’re still investigating the root cause.

And, I just mentioned the Pacifica plug in hybrid problems, we’re not sure if this is a related issue or not, but Chrysler’s vehicles and their plug in hybrids specifically seem to be having some big problems with battery failures and fires. Everyone make sure they’re staying on top of this one, parking outside, and then hopefully there will be a fix available soon.

Anthony: Alright moving on, we have another Chrysler. We’ll just stick with Chrysler here. There’s a potentially 142, 000 plus vehicles, the 2023 Ram 1500 Classic.

Michael: This was the recall that we didn’t have on the list last week, right? And so what that was, and why it was a little confusing for me last week too, was an equipment manufacturer submitted a Part 573 defect report to NHTSA, and it specified that there was, a steering column control module that has

Anthony: improper Would this be BCS

Michael: Automotive?

Yes, this is BCS automotive and it’s saying that they had, that recall said, there was a problem with the clock spring in these in that was contaminated, right? So it’s not the clock Springs not working. That’s a really important part to make sure that your airbag works. And if your clock Springs messed up, your airbag light comes on, your airbag probably won’t be deployed because it’s deactivated.

Yeah. So that’s the problem BCS cited. But then you see Chrysler’s 573 and they are saying this is about, um, turn signals and high beams on, what appears to be the same part, the steering column control module that this, these other equipment manufacturers cited. So I’m still really a little confused about what the real problem is here.

Is it just, are these, in fact I’m still not even clear if these are the same recall. Although we don’t hear a lot about steering control, steering column control modules too often in, in this area. So there’s apparently a lot of Ford vehicles and General Motors vehicles that also are using this steering column control module.

They were cited in the BCS Submission. So this one is definitely worth keeping an eye on to see, that’s a lot of Chrysler vehicles that were affected 100 and around 150, 000. They actually issued two recalls on the issue. And I’m guessing that General Motors and Ford are going to have a lot of affected vehicles as well, but they haven’t yet submitted their defect reports.

Anthony: So dealers and owners will be notified. On January 17th of the coming year. So stay tuned for that. Make sure everything’s hunky dory on your end. And with that I think we’re done for the day. Thank you very much. Gentlemen, listeners, as always, please go to autosafety. org and click on donate.

It’s the end of the year. Come on today. It’s a charitable deduction. I don’t know what a charitable deduction means, but it’s one of those. If you got an accountant, tell them. And they’ll be like, ooh, look at that. You’re a good person and you can keep fun. That’s a

Michael: really nice encounter. Did you recommend him to me?


Anthony: look, it’s a, it is a 501c3. It’s a tax deduction. I don’t know how tax deductions work, but they, people do. And who cares about the tax deduction? Keep this show alive. People were doing a lot. Keep and then you get to pay attention and, we’ve got. Who else is going to show you a hip ball on roller skates, huh?

Nobody else. Okay. We will tell you all the dangers that are out on the road and scare you to death. No, we’ll try to make things better and educate you at the same time. And with that listeners, thank you so much.

Fred: Goodbye. Badger and

Michael: goodbye. Bye everybody.

Fred: For more information, visit www. autosafety.

Michael: org.


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