Automatic Emergency Braking and Mr. Bean
For our 50th episode we take a deep dive into Automatic Emergency Braking and NHTSA’s proposed rule to make it required for all cars. We like that idea. Can they propose a rule for no angry drivers?
Plus, Fred channels Mr. Bean and discusses more about the environmental details of electric cars and how we get power. In Recall Roundup we learn that Tesla’s need steering wheels. Who knew?
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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.
VO: You are listening to the Center for Auto Safety Podcast with executive director Michael Brooks, chief engineer Fred Perkins, and hosted by Anthony Seminole. For over 50 years, the Center for Auto Safety has been working to make cars safer. Find out [email protected].
Fred: Current standards. I’m talking about, I’m talking about the future.
Anthony: Everything will always be better in the future. Yes. Maybe. So hey guys, are we starting the show? Because
Michael: we can, I think, I don’t know if we want to dive into Automatic Emergency Braking right away. That might be a little deep start. I’ll let you determine
Anthony: that. I’m thinking that’s what we’re gonna do.
So this is episode 50. Five zero. They said it couldn’t happen. They said no one would listen, but they’re wrong. The three of us, listen. Two outta three of us. Listen. Okay.
Fred: My sister listens. My sister listens every time.
Anthony: Okay. There you go. This is episode 50. This is amazing and I, and we said this after the show last week and Michael’s like 50.
Who cares? That’s just some nonsense. Wait for the full year. So two more weeks will be one full year of episodes. Ooh, thanks listeners for being with us and thanks for telling your friends, your families and more, most importantly, thanks for donating cuz that’s going much better than I expected. Not as good as it should be though.
But I wanna celebrate those who have donated and I wanna prod those who
Fred: still want to, Hey, yeah, I’ve got a grizzly bear story. If we can use that to pump a few more subscriptions.
Anthony: All right. We’re gonna have to review your grizzly bear story after we record to make sure it’s family friendly.
Okay. Not like your drug stories. Yes. Stock stories. Okay.
Michael: So I have to do his statute of limitations. Check on everything Fred wants to talk about. Yeah. All of
Anthony: his felonies and who knows what he did with a bear. And, Peter could get involved, but hey, let’s forget that acronym. Let’s go to a different acronym.
AEB. Yeah. We’re gonna dive deep into Automatic Emergency Braking. And for those of you haven’t paid attention. This is one of the first acronyms we covered way back in week. And this is, it’s been around a while. A lot of more modern cars have this, and this is a radar system that will say, Hey, you’re getting too close to the object in front of you, and automatically apply the brakes view.
Great idea. Amazing. I did a little research this morning to the history of it. And did you guys know, when was this invented? Come on.
Michael: I gotta say in the nineties,
Fred: and Fred, I’m gonna guess who was in the sixties and
Anthony: World War II, a man named George Rashid invented and patented the first radar controlled braking system for automated vehicles to reduce the number of accidents caused by foggy weather.
And in fact, in the 1959 Cadillac Cyclone concept car had it, it was a concept car that never made it. And the Cadillac Cyclone, it looks like something that flash Gordon would drive. Super cool, super deadly looking. But this has been going on for a while and. Really, as Michael did point out, it started getting rolled out into higher end vehicles in the nineties.
But really it was in the two thousands where it really took off, especially the 20 teens where it’s coming out. And and in the Center for Auto Safety had been pushing NHTSA, the National Highway traffic, slow poke administration to make this mandatory on cars like had been done with airbags and seat belts and things like that.
And now Michael go into a deep dive on a new rule from NHTSA on. They’re requiring it, not a new rule. He made a face when I said the word rule and now he’s licking his lips oh yeah, I’m gonna get into this. We really should make this a video about how they’re now gonna be requiring Automatic Emergency Braking on cars, Michael.
Michael: So this is something that’s announced last week. It is a proposed rule, not a rule. So as part of the administrative process, I won’t bore every one of those too much. And it’s a, gets all its research aligned and then proposes a rule that’s going to be commented on by the public, by automakers, any stakeholders.
And then they’re gonna decide what’s going into the final rule. In the proposed rule it’s, it’s great that NHTSA is getting out a rule on Automatic Emergency Braking, and there are some parts of it that are awesome. Some things that, were, we were, I was a little surprised that, they did as well in some parts as they did, but there are other parts that are still somewhat problematic.
For the listener’s perspective, basically this rule is covering a few areas, forward collision warning is something that you might also have, which beeps or provides a haptic warning there a number of different formulations of it because there hasn’t been a regulation yet.
To the driver. When you’re approaching a vehicle you will probably have this go off once or twice a year when in a number of different conditions, you have to make a quick stop or something like that. Sometimes the vehicle will actually sense the car in front of you before you do and start to break, which is great.
We also are covering Automatic Emergency Braking. Nits is covering Automatic Emergency Braking in this rule, which is functionally you’re preventing a rear crash vehicle to vehicle. NHSA doesn’t appear to be requiring any offset type tests that would test multiple different rear collision scenarios as basically a vehicle going directly in the back of another.
And then pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking is the third category. So
Anthony: let me ask out the rear thing. So is it my car? So right now my car has the forward facing radar emergency braking. Is it also gonna have a rear facing one?
Michael: No, it prevents rear collision. So it’s preventing the trailing vehicle from running into the rear of the car.
Heading car in front. Okay. And it’s, we. In 2015 and 16 when they were coming up with this voluntary agreement to start getting a B into vehicles. That’s the a b that was required. And I think we’ve talked about this before, is like a kindergarten level, a b, it’s very it would work at very low speeds, not the kind of speeds where we see the majority of fatalities.
It would it didn’t have any type of pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking in it at all at that point, and it wasn’t good enough. We petitioned it to put a regulation in 2016. They ignored our petition, so we took them to court. We got kicked out of court because it’s really hard to force an agency to write a rule that it doesn’t want to.
There’s a lot of deference paid to agencies by the courts. So they finally gotten around to it. They basically took four years off during the previous administration on the rule. Finally, they’ve gotten around to it under this one and they’ve bumped the speeds up from what were about 25 miles per hour to 62 miles per hour with manual braking applied and 50 miles per hour without manual braking applied.
So those are much higher speeds and represent the speeds at which we do see a lot of crashes and fatalities, obviously. We want that to see that continue to go up as high as possible. And NHTSA said something similar. They said that the data demonstrate that the safety need for AEB systems to activate should be set as high of a speed as can practical PR practically be achieved.
They’re. That’s great. One of the problems here is when we’ve seen the development of this rule, it takes many years for these rulemakings to occur and for minimum standard to be put in place on vehicles. And looking at this rule, it’s not going to take effect until next year, sometime when they get it completed.
Hopefully they get it completed next year, and then there’s another. I believe four years compliance period in which manufacturers have the opportunity to build up to the next level. So that’s 20, it’s gonna be somewhere around 20, 29 when we finally start to see these vehicles come out. And in the interim, there’s still no minimum standards for what’s going into your vehicles.
And it’s, every manufacturer has their own system. They’re, they work at different speeds, their pedestrian a b works at different levels of effectiveness in night and day. We recommend that buyers, take a look at the Insurance Institute for highway safeties ratings there, because NHTSA hasn’t gotten it together on crash avoidance ratings yet to, to figure out, wh which vehicles perform best in both a, e b and pedestrian scenarios.
So that’s a general look at where we are and it’s, some of the good things. Were pedestrian. AEB was not a requirement that Congress put in the infrastructure act. And it says, done that of its own volition. And we strongly support that. There’s a huge pedestrian fatality crisis.
It’s ongoing, as we’ve talked about too many times their vehicles are getting heavier and batteries are being thrown into them and making them even heavier. And that translates into more pedestrian deaths and into, it’s a crisis frankly, at this point. And pedestrian AEB can play a major role in solving that.
Would you like a to
Fred: Michael, let me, lemme jump in here for just a second, Michael. I want to explain to our listeners why this is needed. You’ve all seen on TV by now ads for cars where they’re touting their Automatic Emergency Braking. They show a WHI list pedestrian. Walking in front of a car and the o owner of the car is surprised that the car stops and all is well.
But it’s not a requirement. It’s something that, as Michael has said, is the wild west and people can do whatever they want. Actually, if you look on page 1 28 of the the notice, there’s a great rationale for why this is required. And then, and it says quoting as an example, the owner’s manual of V five vehicle five shows the T AEB pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking system working from five kilometers per hour or three miles per hour, up to 120 kilometers per hour, 75 miles per hour.
But when, excuse me, but when tested, V five failed to avoid collision on all trials at 16 kilometers per hour. This points out that the standards that companies are using are meaningless and they can mean whatever they want them to mean. And the company may have had a test that passed, but there’s nothing in the independent test conducted by NHTSA that says that the system worked at all despite what the company may have been advertising.
Unfortunately, they don’t identify which vehicle is vehicle five. They are agnostic about ownership of the vehicle as the manufacturer of the vehicles, but this is clearly a case of false representation by the manufacturer to use a critical safety system as a means of promoting their own vehicle, even though it doesn’t have the capability that’s needed to actually protect anybody.
Michael, back to you.
Anthony: I’m gonna jump in. So a simple thing on this then is, so my car claims it has pedestrian. Automatic Emergency Braking. I’ve not wanted to try it out. The alarm system will go off at times when a certain driver in my household drives, comes up all the time. But so they claim that it works at different miles per hour and it does different things, but without any sort of regulation, there’s no way for the government to say, Hey, this is actually happening.
Fred: that’s correct. That’s absolutely correct. And consequently, because there’s no standard by the government, there’s no mechanism for the government to have a recall against the standard if the vehicle doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.
Anthony: It would be, so it wouldn’t be NHTSA or the DOT or anyone with automobiles doing this.
This would be more of like false advertising essential. That’s
Fred: correct. That’s exactly right. And your only recourse as a consumer would be to go to the courts? Isn’t that right, Michael? You’re the legal man.
Michael: Yep. False advertising. That’s what it would be. And that’s a, and good luck. I mean that it’s tough because the manufacturer would say, oh, we did this test and it showed, that’s what it showed.
Not mentioning that consumer, that test was specifically designed to, to help that.
Anthony: And what consumer’s gonna go down that road and try and have all of that money to prove that, whereas that’s
Michael: a losing proposition, I think. Yeah. And that’s the problem. There’s no way to hold them to account.
And that’s why we need the FTC to be a lot more active when manufacturers are falsely advertising the capabilities of vehicles. Tesla Tesla. It’s just. It’s obnoxious to me that the FTC hasn’t gotten more involved there, so that’s their job.
Anthony: Are there any technical limitations of why they have these seemingly arbitrary miles per hour of, Hey, this thing works, this speed, but above 25 miles per hour?
Eh, we turn off this safety system. Like they don’t do that with airbags, like our seat belts, Hey. Oh, it’s not,
Michael: I don’t think it’s turning off. It’s just that at those miles per hour, that’s basically the technological limitations for, every company has different technology, so some who have been slow to the game and haven’t really put a lot of research into it might barely be complying with the 25 mile per standard in the volunteer agreement.
They can continue to do that for another five to six years until this compliance date comes into effect, which means we’re not, sorry.
Fred: One of the things nits is on that with this notice, which I think is very good, is that. They’ve noted that there’s a wide disparity among the various manufacturers and what these systems can do.
In every case that I’ve noticed, they’re using the best possible technology that anybody has demonstrated yet as the basis for the rule that they’re saying everybody, all the others must conform to within a period of a few years. So they’re not setting the bar as low as possible. They’re setting the bar as high as is practicable given current technology.
The prob a problem associated with that is they’ve never projected to say, they have never projected to say what is reasonable to assume the companies could do a few years ahead of time. What they’re saying is that the best technology that’s available now is what everybody will need to conform with in a few years.
Hopefully the manufacturers will continue to improve the technology, higher bandwidth. Sensors. Better revisit times, all those kind of technical things that go into both the radar and the cameras that are used for data fusion supporting the P AEB in particular. Another shortcoming of the standard, I’m sure Michael is getting to it, but I’ll just jump in, is that they’re not considering motorcycles, they’re not considering wheelchairs, they’re not considering bicycles, they’re not considering a lot of the apparatus that are common on roads.
Now, as part of the, of this part of the basis, what they’re saying is there’s no consistent test data that they’ve been able to come up with and no consistent protocols they’ve been able to use to establish what those standards are. But it is a shortcoming of the proposed rule that really needs to be addressed.
Anthony: I’m lost now. So I assumed Automatic Emergency Braking. It doesn’t care what’s in front of it, whether it’s another car or a pedestrian or a wall. As long as that radar signal when it comes back, it’s Hey, there’s some sort of object here. Shouldn’t it engage? Like, why is it saying that’s not a car, let’s, I
I don’t think it’s I wouldn’t say that automatic merger breaking is doing that. It’s gonna sense depending on the company. See, this is one of the problems here. We have no idea what all the different capabilities are. There are many different systems used. Some of them are gonna sense walls, some of ’em are gonna sense Deere, some of them are really awesome.
And can do a lot and have, but they’re probably the most expensive right now. That’s, one thing NHTSA put in here that is, that’s really good. That is significantly different from the voluntary agreement, which only required vehicles to slow down a certain amount.
NHTSA is requiring vehicles to completely avoid the object that’s detected. So that’s collision avoidance. Which is great because in the previous scenario you would see systems that only slowed down a certain amount prior to a collision, which obviously can still result in injuries and deaths.
And now complete avoidance is the standard. They certainly deserve props for putting that in a standard versus the other.
Anthony: Fred, do you have any idea of the cost of these radar sensors? Cause I know Lidar, the laser sensing system, those are expensive, but Radar’s been around for, a very long time.
Is this radar sensor that expensive? Or is this auto companies being like, we don’t wanna spend an extra nickel?
Fred: We’ve, yeah. More than a nickel. I think the, I think they are in high production. I think the of the order of a hundred dollars a piece but it’s not necessarily so that the system has to rely on a radar.
Some of the systems use cameras rather than radars. The best systems use both cameras and radars. They may also use ultrasonic sensors. There’s a lot of data fusion capability that is, is available to them. But I think the total cost of the best systems is probably of the order of a hundred dollars or so in parts.
Then of course, there’s a non-recurring cost of integration and calibration and all that stuff, but that gets amortized over the entire production run. So the recurring cost is of the order of a hu a hundred dollars or so. I would. I would estimate, I don’t have proprietary numbers from the manufacturers to support that, but that’s my best guess.
Michael: think it, it varies depending on the speeds they’re trying to do. Some of the manufacturers that are really pursuing the high speed a Automatic Emergency Braking are probably using technologies that’s going to cost more than that. What one of the interesting things here in pedestrian on the pedestrian side the testing that Nitza did showed that pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking at this point basically isn’t working over 40 miles per hour.
So there’s certainly a lot of improvement there. There, there’s obviously a reason they can bump the AEB up to 62 and 50 miles per hour and have to keep the pedestrian load because you have a smaller object you’re trying to detect and moving in a different way, a manner. But. That’s, that just shows you how much room there is for improvement in this rule.
Pedestrians are basically not going to be protected from speeding vehicles. So that’s a problem. Another issue that we, I still have questions about are, there’s a 6.2 minimum requirement before these systems can activate and, two miles per hour. 6.2, right? Which is 10 miles
Anthony: per hour.
So no, just
Michael: the miles per hour part,
Fred: 10 kilo kilometers per second, 6.2 miles per hour. We wonder,
Michael: Is that going to 10 kilometers per hour? Hour?
Michael: me. We were hoping that would, that, AEB the pedestrian, AEB might protect, children in driveways in front of instance. The type of things we’ve seen where I don’t know that the vehicle would that the automatic, the pedestrian, Automatic Emergency Braking would necessarily kick in before a collision.
Where the child is, directly in front of the vehicle and the vehicle is accelerating. It doesn’t sound like it will protect in that scenario. And so that’s a problem. If, if we’re not going to mandate 360 degree cameras, better visibility in giant vehicles with hoods, that, that hide a portion of the field of view, then we need to put something else in to help that.
We thought pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking might be that thing, but I’m a concerned that it’s not going to be,
Fred: Michael, doesn’t the rule proposed rule also include a provision for vehicle design within an endcap that does do the pedestrian protection? At least in, at least in the, with respect to the hood and the visitor in the front.
Michael: That’s similar to what’s what Europe is doing for years. And so we pointed out a number of times about vehicle and pedestrian crash worthiness where designing vehicles to protect pedestrians in the event of a collision with better hoods and, other structural changes that could really help.
This is a rule that NHTSA’s has had sitting in its regulatory agenda for a number of years and not done anything on. I know that’s surprising to our listeners. But it’s, it’s really needed. And I thought that, that’s on my good list. I, we really want a vehicle hood rule or something that can, end a lot of the trauma we see to pedestrians when they’re struck by vehicles with really high hoods that are designed for anything but pedestrian protection.
Fred: I stood in front of a new Ford pickup. A couple days ago and I was surprised to find that the top of the hood was at my eye level and I’m over six feet tall. I was staring eye to eye across the top of the hood, right into the dashboard of the car. It was, it’s amazingly huge. These things are just enormous.
That’s absurdity. Because I’m enormous. And so we were peers.
Anthony: That’s good. You get some cup of coffee or something.
Michael: Sorry, one more thing I wanted to make sure I mentioned that was good. Was and something we’ve talked about before as well and supported the Insurance Institute’s petition on this was they’re making sure they do pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking testing in a number of lighting conditions since we’ve seen so many problems with that at night.
From just a basic standpoint, I don’t trust vehicles that are only relying on cameras for this because they, they’re requiring a lot of things they’re requiring on headlights, illuminating pedestrians in order to see them. I don’t think that cameras only are ultimately gonna be the solution here, and particularly for the higher speeds and detecting pedestrians that are a hundred yards out in front of the vehicle or more to avoid collisions.
That’s really good that they’re doing that. The Insurance Institute is also testing vehicles already for that kind of thing. So you can find ratings on that at their website.
Anthony: So a lot with we’ve run into like phantom breaking issues with a number of cars. How is this addressed at all in this scenario?
I know there’s something called, what was it? The trench plate test? Yeah. And I, that’s
Michael: a false activation requirement. So that they included, now that’s an option. There are a number of options presented there, so it’s, that’s something we’re gonna find out when the final rule comes out. Which one they selected?
There is a trench plate test. What is that? And ibel it looked like it was basically one of those steel trench plates you’ll see that are covering road construction or utility construction. And this trench plates and train tracks are one of the things that set off vehicles with cameras or at least seem to based on our petition around Nissan rogues and for the defect where those were phantom breaking.
So that’s a test that can set off a false activation. I think my concern in using that as a test would be that it would allow manufacturers simply not to engage AEB when a trench plate is detected and pass the test, but, If you have pedestrians walking over and around trench plates in cities, you don’t want the AEB being, being disengaged.
So I, we look, it’s a 300 page document. I haven’t delved deeply into that particular requirement, but that one just seemed iffy from the start. There’s a pass through test and the third, I think the pass through test on first read or second read is probably our favorite. The third test is robust documentation by manufacturers, which is, sounds like a new word, describing some sort of self-certification process that allows the manufacturers to meet a documentation standard in theory, but not actually put safe vehicles in the road.
So we’re not too big of a fan of that, I don’t think. So that’s basically the phantom breaking, there’s a kind of a cohort to that, which is the malfunction detection requirement. This is a system that would. Basically run tests on your Automatic Emergency Braking system before you pull outta your driveway to determine whether or not there’s debris, whether or not the software’s been corrupted, whether your cameras are working, if the radar is performing a lot of different tests to ensure that it’s performing so that false activation doesn’t become a problem or the other problems with the system.
So that’s another area where we’re looking for. It wasn’t really clearly defined how the malfunction detection requirement was going to work, and it seems like there. Putting it, it’s going to be only a warning. So you’re gonna be able to say, oh my, my ABS or my AEB is malfunctioning. And instead of turning it off, it’s going to allow you to continue to drive down the road, possibly have a fan of brake incident, possibly not have the use of your emergency braking capability.
I’m not sure how we feel about the warning. I don’t, I think that, if the AEB’s not working and I think Fred will agree, you should turn off the system
Fred: well. Yeah, I’m not a fan of systems that don’t work particularly because, as pointed out in the standard of sale, people tend to rely upon these very heavily as they’re driving down the road.
And, as we’ve seen in some of the Tesla videos that haven’t been available People tend to hedge their bets on pedestrians walking across the road. And one guy celebrated the fact that his Tesla calculated the clearance between his vehicle and an oncoming pedestrian in the crosswalk.
And the guy was elated that in fact the car sneaked by without killing the pedestrian, which is a good result. But if people are relying upon these automatic systems very heavily for safety and they are hedging their bets about proximity to pedestrians, that becomes even more important. That if a built-in diagnostic routine determines the system is not working properly, that the operator is not able to go ahead with normal driving practices, assuming that the system will be working there.
There’s gotta be a way of backing off from that, making sure that people aren’t relying. On safety critical systems that simply do not work. We’ve brought this issue up in many of our discussions about other automatic safety mechanisms as well. It’s overlooked in the developmental standards being produced by industry groups for reasons that are not clear to me, because it’s just hard to do.
But people need to know if the systems are not working properly, if they’re relying upon them for their or pedestrian safety.
Michael: And related to that NHTSA is proposing that, folks can turn off this technology. I know you like to turn your pedestrian Auto American an automatic emergency breaking off.
Anthony. No. What I don’t, obviously some of the new crash avoidance features are things that drivers become annoyed with and want to turn off. Lane Keeping Assist is one that I hear frequently from Right Everyone I know, including my parents, that they want to turn it off. I love. But I don’t know, with Automatic Emergency Braking sometimes I wonder if providing that option, it was.
Is going to result in a tragedy? I think it probably will given the numbers of rear collisions we see every year to have that system a driver selectable off switch for that system that, the next buyer or someone else driving the car might not know is off. And I don’t know, that’s problematic for me.
I know we like to give Americans free choice, but in that matter and even when it comes to speed limiters and other things, giving drivers the ability to turn off those safety systems is something that I, everybody seems to want to ride an autonomous vehicle that does everything for them nowadays, but if you put them in a car where you’re gonna have some of the similar restrictions, they scream that their freedoms are being taken away.
So I don’t understand it, but I think if AEB was mandatory I would be willing to accept that in my vehicle.
Anthony: Yeah, I wanna remove AEB and remove the crumple zones from my car. I wanna go back to driving a steel tank. So this is just a proposed rule, and if everything goes smoothly, we’re talking five years out for this to be mandatory, right?
Hey, and how do things like this get mandatory? And five years out, there’s a whole back and forth process where manufacturers say we don’t wanna do that. And consumer advocate groups like the Center for Auto Safety with your donations, we’ll fight on the other hand and be like, Hey, we wanna save people’s lives.
So if you wanna save people’s lives, go to auto safety.org, click donate. If you’re all for death, then still give us money and we will just do it. Ironically, that was very strange. Okay, so we mentioned Tesla and. And let’s get a little lighthearted here, cuz Oh boy is Tesla funny.
So Elon Musk he says he’s open to licensing their autopilot software
that’s Hey, I’m that’d be like Microsoft saying, Hey, we’re opening open to licensing Windows 98. Yeah, that might be a little harsh, but gee, Elon, your stuff doesn’t work. And other people have come up with stuff that’s better and it works. And I don’t see, a gm, a Ford, A B m, BMW or Mercedes being like, Hey, let’s drop all the work we did into creating systems that are better and work reliably and replace it with stuff that’s proven to not work well and is fairly outdated.
It’s just me.
Michael: Seems nuts. I think if I think what’s keeping GM and Ford away from taking on that type of thing, even though Ford and Tesla seem to have a budding bromance, I think that what’s keeping them from doing that is that they look around and see how many active wrongful death and injury lawsuits Tesla is facing because of the, basically the in capabilities of its technology, the bad marketing with which they rolled it out and some of the.
Basically false representations they’ve been making about the technology since it’s been in the car. They’ve been calling these things full self-driving for what, since 20 16, 20 17. Auto Pilot was somewhere in there too. That all, that is a lie. And, people have relied on those representations and gotten themselves in a lot of trouble or killed.
And a lot of those people are suing Musk and Tesla, and they’re, he keeps saying every year these things are gonna be robo taxis, even though all they’re using is cameras. So I don’t know. It’s, every time I think about that situation, it’s very frustrating because there hasn’t been a lot of action, the rollout of that junk.
And, it, it’s. Scary. When you think about Tesla’s licensing, it’s faulty technology to other people. I don’t think GM and Ford are gonna bite on that, but someone, someone might lose, like loose mother struggling EV company might, so who
Fred: knows? Michael, you said bad marketing, I, this has gotta be a a textbook case for good marketing because Tesla has actually gotten people to pay extra money for the privilege of being test drivers, of unproven technology.
Typically in a company, you have to pay people to become test pilots. So I, I’ve gotta, I’ve gotta say it is brilliant marketing. Unethical, yes, dangerous, yes. Probably a bad idea. Yes. But brilliant marketing. So I differ with you on that, my friend. I
Anthony: agree. Fred is right. Michael is wrong.
Michael: I’m still calling it bad marketing.
Anthony: It’s a, it’s amazing marketing. General Motor, CEO. Mary Barara says she doesn’t see profitable electric cars in the 30,000 to 40,000 range until the end of the decade or even later, which is disappointing and bizarre considering that GM was selling and is still currently selling their inventory of Chevy Bolt EVs, which started at $26,000.
And the reviews on the Chevy Bolt EVs were like, wow, Chevy made a really good car. It’s good, it’s small, it’s lightweight, it does what it says. And they’re also coming out with a, an Equinox ev that’s gonna start at like $30,000. But GM just wants to say, Hey, let’s just all, everyone just buy a Hummer.
Okay. 9,000 pounds of Pure Death on wheels. Let’s go. I, is this just her trying to push the giant fat American SUV because there’s more profit margin, or is there something that I’m missing? I’m not missing
Michael: anything. I all, I know electric car for quite some time. They’re, let’s try that
Your internet connection cut out for a second and said, all I know and
Michael: all I know is that I won’t be able to afford an electric ve vehicle for quite some time. These things appear to be rolling out in the form of massive SUVs and, basically the kind of cars that be able to afford and.
What does that do? How does that help EV’s replace the vehicles on the road that we’re driving now? Most of the EVs I’m seeing are just big trucks that I don’t like driving. I like a little zippy car to drive around in. GM had the bolt, and from what I can, she’s saying that the bolt was not profitable for them otherwise it sounds like they’d still be producing it at those prices.
I’m having trouble rectifying that. They’re basically, they basically canceled their only mini sedan type v, smallest EV is going to be the Equinox, which is not a tiny car going up to the Hummer, which is loaded over 10,000 pounds. So I don’t think that’s the ev fleet that, the environmentalists wanted to see when they were pushing a lot of the electric vehicle things that the E p A and other folks have done.
Anthony: Listeners, we apologize for Michael’s internet cutting in and out there. But he also said he couldn’t afford an EV for the next decade. And he’s got poor internet quality. Perhaps if you donated generously to the Center for Auto Safety, he could upgrade his internet and then he could be driving around in a zippy little EV if anybody made a zippy little EV instead of a giant truck.
Fred: Anthony, that is a brilliant segue. Thank you. And I’ve gotta say, I have a zippy little EV It’s called an E-bike. It’s has a one kilowatt hour battery and it can go 80 miles, which is all anybody really needs. So Michael, there you go. There’s your zippy little affordable vehicle. And
Anthony: I think we’re just gonna, since we’re talking about EVs and the world of EVs and Mr.
Bean, oh wait, we didn’t mention Mr. Bean yet. We’re gonna mention Mr. Bean, you guys, Rowan Atkinson, he had this great little article inside The Guardian. It’s some communist leftist, right? I got the Europe talking about how EV’s just not quite ready yet. And I think that’s gonna be the subject for today’s Tao of Fred.
Fred, are you ready?
Michael: Here we
VO: go. You’ve now entered
Anthony: the towel, Fred. Oh, look at that. Michael ran away. He’s I can’t handle this. All right, towel Fred. Let’s talk EVs.
Fred: Michael ran away because all of the liberal group think that we love and Cherish says that EVs are inherently a wonderful thing because they’re going to save the world.
There may be some truth in that, but the literature about it is very interesting. And Rowan Atkinson has purchased an EV and he says, ah, he is probably unlikely to do that again for a lot of good reasons. He’s a closet engineer. It turns out he has a degree in electrical engineering.
Yeah, surprising. Yeah I was certainly surprised. But he makes a lot of good points. One of them is that if you really want to save the world, buy a used car and keep your car for a long time, because the amount of energy that goes into building a new car, particularly a new electric vehicle, is enormous.
He also points out that the marginal benefit of an electric vehicle is actually relatively small unless you happen to be in an area that. PR is very heavily oriented towards renewable energy. A lot of the EV advocates will say look at Norway. 80% of the people in Norway are buying new cars that are EVs now.
That’s true, but it’s a very small market, and Norway is blessed with a lot of hydropower. I say blessed advisedly because that, of course, isn’t a blessing to arama fish, which like to move upstream to breed, but whatever. If you put that particular ecological problem, ASI or ecological catastrophe aside, then yeah it burns less fuel as it runs.
But even in a situation like that, the marginal benefit of an EV over a very long lifetime of a hundred thousand miles or so, is maybe 20 or 30% compared to a vehicle that is burning conventional gasoline. So there is that, and the rebuttal to that, and by the way I highly recommend the article.
You can read it for free on the guardian, the guardian.com. We have a link to it. Everybody should read that newspaper anyway, but it’s Rowan Atkinson. I love electric vehicles and was an early adopter, but increasingly I feel duped. So I may be alone in this liberal community by saying there’s an awful lot of group.
Think about EVs that you know, that they are really good. And somehow that group think is taken over a lot of legislation and a lot of people are just saying this is pure benevolence. In some sense what you’re doing is trading a strip mine in Minnesota that’s producing iron or a Very dirty mine in the Congo, this producing cobalt.
So that, that’s something to think about too. And the rebuttal to this, that was written in the Washington Post. I I think got it on my phone here. I can’t get, pull it up on my on my grownup computer by, there’s a climate coach rebuttal in Washington Post, and it’s titled Mr. Bean says Our honeymoon with electric cars is coming to an end.
It’s just the beginning. That’s the theme of that, of the rebuttal. That it’s just the beginning. And it’s very interesting that like a lot of the EV information that you’ll see, it’s a mixture of both current observations and also aspirational ideas about what the efficiency might become if only these things happen.
If only there’s an upgraded. Electrical system, if only there’s an upgraded, a hydro power system. If only we continue the progress towards renewable energy in our electric grids. If only this is the classic group thing. There are people have, are substituting aspirational visions of the future for what is actually achievable and what will actually happen.
The rebuttal rejects the idea of hydrogen fuel because in the current technology, you’ve gotta have a gas station where you can go and get fuel, right? And so if you don’t have a hydrogen in the gas station already, you’ve gotta put pipelines in place, you’ve gotta put distribution in place. All of that is true, but it neglects a couple of things.
One is that if you had a vehicle built around a fuel cell rather than the vehicle built around a battery, then you can avoid. The thermodynamic inefficiencies that are inherent in the electrical supply and distribution system, and also in the internal combustion engine system. And you go to the much higher efficiency of the fuel cell system, which does not rely upon combustion.
Now you’ve gotta drive it back a little bit more and say okay, that’s fine. Where does the hydrogen come from though? Hydrogen’s not a fuel. Hydrogen is like electricity. It’s a vehicle because there’s no hydrogen, there’s no hydrogen mine in the world. You can’t just tap into a hydrogen source somewhere.
You’ve gotta create it. And currently, the most economically attractive way you’re producing hydrogen is to get it from fossil fuels to, for example, change a ethane into a ethane and strip the hydrogen from it. That’s true. A more expensive way of getting it is to electrolyze water. And to get the hydrogen off it and dump the oxygen as a waste material back into the atmosphere.
That’s probably not a bad idea to do some of that. But if you look at the overall distribution system and electro generation system, all the electro generating stations would rather run at 80% of full power all the time. So they don’t have any thermal cycles. They don’t have they don’t have a lot of waste associated with it.
They’d rather run it full-time. So this excess power that could be economically produced could go into, for example, pumped hydro storage. People are doing that now, charging batteries. That’s one way of using it, but there’s a lot of losses associated with batteries. You could also use as a hydrolyzed hydrogen, or excuse me, hydrolyzed water to create hydrogen and use that for a topping cycle in a la gas turbine to help level out the load.
Particularly in a distribution system where you’ve got wind turbines, where you’ve got photo electric and the variability associated with that. If you use that excess power to generate hydrogen, which can then be burned very cleanly in a gas turbine to generate the, what they call the topping power to make sure that you level out the load appropriate for the demand, you end up with a very efficient overall system.
So it’s funny that the rebuttal would have so many aspirational ideas about what the car technology could be, but put aside all the aspirational ideas about what the alternative hydrogen economy might look like.
Anthony: But it seems like most manufacturers, they were talking a lot about hydrogen fuel cells in automobiles, like the late nineties, early two thousands, and then every single one of them, with exception of Toyota, Have walked away from that completely.
So there must be something there. And the, when we always have this conversation, I always have that aspirational view. And what we’re just talking about is, okay, you have solar and wind. They’re excess power using pumped hydro for storage, which for listeners is basically you take a big pool of water and the excess energy, you pump it up a hill.
When you need that again, you release it down that hill runs through a turbine, like a like a dam hydroelectric dam which is very cool for grid level storage and power backup. There’s some other solutions with that too. So why not go more in that direction instead of going hydrogen?
Fred: It’s a question of regulation really. And there are a lot of technologies available for fuel cells that haven’t been exploited. Largely because of the very heavy subsidies that are going into other kinds of technology, like the the solar, the wind turbines, the, particularly the petroleum industry, which gets enormous subsidies.
Again, that’s aspirational to say that if Congress only did the right thing, maybe everything would be better. Hard to say. But all I’m saying is that it would be nice if the discussion about the various technologies, the use of EVs the rebuttals to the use of EVs would somehow converge around what actually is apparent in the world today.
Rather than mixing what is evident today with what might be evident in the future. Anyway, getting back the original article about about EVs. He makes Mr. Atkinson makes a lot of great points about how to save energy today. How to save money today by minimizing the use of EVs and maximizing the use of the car that you’ve already got, or buying a used car to reduce the amount of energy that’s being put into these vehicles that, that we all use today.
I think it’s a great article. Great article, and very surprising to see it from the source. We all think of him as Mr. Bean, but he’s a very articulate and intelligent guy and praise bee. He’s an engineer at heart. We’ve gotta love that.
Anthony: He’ll always be the black adder to me. So one of the most interesting parts of his article he is talked about, and this is UK centric, is that most people only own a car for three years.
Like they have a new car and then they get rid of it after three years. Is that, and it, I got the impression that this might be a UK specific thing, the way things are structured. What’s that like in the US Michael? Like
Michael: the peoples buy, it’s very similar. Leases are growing all the time. Now I just bought my Volkswagen this weekend after a four year lease, so I’m not falling into that right pattern.
I bought mine out of a three year lease. And that’s mainly because, I won’t be able to afford a hydrogen vehicle either when it comes. And you know that’s true. There’s more people who are getting rid of their vehicles quicker. Now those vehicles are, they’re not being trashed. They’re being sold to other folks, so they’re staying within the fleet.
And that’s one of the points I believe of, people like me who complain that they can’t afford an electric vehicle. The fact is electric vehicles are still being put out into the marketplace and they’re going to be more affordable, used down the road and they’re going to make up a continually larger part of the fleet.
In this context, I just don’t think we should be excluding other technologies. Hydrogen sounds like it’s one that could be great. And my only concern there really is the pressurized hydrogen that is required to run it and making sure that those canisters are, or whatever, cannot be. Punctured in a crash.
Cause I, oh, I
Anthony: cross the auto companies. They could make it.
Michael: Yeah. I’m glad you do, but that’s that’s really our only safety concern there. I believe that yet, we haven’t obviously seen them on the roads for any large period of time in, in larger fleets. I think there’s some fuel cell vehicles operating, buses and transit in some areas, but where they have, a dedicated hydrogen supply.
But otherwise, given that the infrastructure acts has really prioritized electrification over everything, there’s a long path for hydrogen to climb in America legislatively and from an infrastructure perspective.
Anthony: Yeah, again, my aspirational view is the the, in the US at least, the entire electrical grid needs to be upgraded massively.
Hey, while we’re spending money on this and doing that and aiming for this ev future, if that helps put pressure, great. And also everything being better in the future as we’ve learned the current batteries ideally being replaced with something better. Again, 100% aspirational, but, I’m an optimist at heart man we’ll see.
What’s happening there? Should we I think it’s time to dive into some recalls. How do we feel about recalls? Strap
VO: in time for the recall roundup.
Michael: I like recalls Gibb. Okay,
Anthony: I’m gonna go into, look Tesla’s apparently needs steering wheels. Who knew? So wait. This is a very small number of recalls.
This is, it is 22 to 2023 Model y vehicle is 137 vehicles. I get the impression that this is a Friday afternoon problem where an improperly torqued fastener allows the steering wheel to disconnect from the steering column. That doesn’t sound good. That sounds Friday afternoon.
Fred: I have a friend whose son bought a Chinese moped.
It had that same design feature, and he found himself driving through college Park, Maryland with no handlebars. It didn’t go well.
Fred: was he? Okay. He was okay. The bushes were not,
Anthony: oh, it’s just, it’s frightening. The next one we have is from Ford Motor Company. Now here’s a large number of vehicles, 142,000 plus from built between August 20th, 2013 and August 2nd, 2019.
This is for, it’s a
Michael: wireless. These are the Lincolns. Yeah, this is the park outside Horning that NHTSA just put out.
Anthony: And these are not ev that are going, had you on fire. These are gas powered vehicles
Michael: catching on fire. Yes, they are. And the source of the fire here is odd because it’s actually the battery monitor sensor, which I’m assuming is there to prevent the battery from catching on fire.
They’re, they get damaged when the battery or the wiring harness, I believe around the battery are serviced. That could be anytime you take your car in for service and they operate in that area. That it, so basically the battery monitor sensor is cracking, developing a short, and then that’s going to cause an electrical current overload, overheat material around it and possible fire.
So if you have a 2015 to 2019 Lincoln mkz, make sure that you’re not parking indoors or near structures or other vehicles or children’s playgrounds.
Anthony: So that’s what we got for recalls. But before we go I can’t believe I skipped this story. But this is one we have posted from Yahoo News, driverless trucks on California highways.
Question mark. Legislators don’t trust the D M V to ensure safety. That’s great when government doesn’t trust itself. So California’s wants to put out, wants to start experimenting with driverless 18 wheelers. That sounds.
Michael: Great. Oh, they’re, the, that, believe Aurora just announced they were gonna operate between Houston and Texas oh, this isn’t that far a, out.
But I think the difference in California and Texas is gonna be that US California appears to be leaning towards requiring safety drivers, which is something we obviously support right now until, we actually have evidence that these vehicles can operate safely without one. And we don’t. So that’s still on the table for now.
Fred: let, lemme point out, there’s a test track that’s used by the truckers. It goes from Los Angeles to Phoenix Long I 10. It’s a standard test track, if you will. It happens to be public highway, but they use it for testing out a lot of technologies on long haul trucks. And the one end of that, of course, is in California.
So part of the impetus behind this is to have a clear path for the truckers to go all the way from Los Angeles to Phoenix and take advantage of their defacto test track for these self-driving vehicles Right now, they cannot do it. They cannot extend into into California because of the regulations.
So digression, but go ahead please. Sorry.
Michael: So that, I think that bill’s still on the table, so it hasn’t been passed yet, but I expect it might might be, I think we are in favor of safety drivers in every autonomous vehicle, a d s equipped vehicle, whatever you want to call them. They’re multiple names.
Because of the things like we saw in that I believe it was Waymo and San Francisco, that where it was unable to interpret human commands given by police officers and flares Those situations could potentially end badly. And we’ve seen a number of situations where vehicles go into what we would say is a state of shock in some ways.
They don’t know how to cope with their environment and they essentially freeze and they’re blocking traffic, ambulances, firetruck during the time in which they’re freezing for an engineer to come move them. That’s a problem. And we think safety drivers would ameliorate a lot of those issues we’re seeing in cities that are dealing with this.
Anthony: I vote safety drivers until I have died, then I don’t care what happens.
Fred: One, one detail and one analogy to throw in here is that the kinetic energy of a fully loaded over the road vehicle traveling at truck, heavy truck, it’s 70 miles an hour, is has kinetic energy about equal to the chemical energy of a hellfire missile war head.
So you’ve seen some of these exploding in videos from various wars over the last decade or so. I just wanna point out there’s a lot of energy in these suckers and it’s really aspirational to say that I don’t really care about all that energy. I’m just gonna throw it on the road without a driver and everything’s gonna be okay.
Boy that’s a lot. Usually you have a lot of control over that kind of energy.
Anthony: Let’s get back to this highway being a test track. Are you just be speaking euphemistically?
Fred: No, I’m not. In the tire industry, that’s a standard way of qualifying tires. They put ’em on trucks that go in between those two points, Los Angeles and Phoenix, it’s about 500 miles and they just run the hell out of ’em to see if the new tire technology and reread technology in particular, there’s going to be suitable for highway use.
It’s a great place to test them because. Hot. It’s hot, it’s straight it’s controllable. There’s not a lot of diversions into other cities, so it’s a 500 mile long drag strip, if you
Anthony: will. You’ve just summed up my online dating profile.
Fred: A 500 mile drag strip.
Anthony: No it’s nevermind.
Hey, with that listeners, thanks so much for listening to episode 50. Oh my word. We’re old enough to buy beer, just not drink it while driving. Thanks so much. Please tell all your friends. We’ll be back next week with more exciting news and next week we’ll talk about the high Hyundai Ionic five break fall.
Cuz I skipped it this week. So
Michael: yeah, that’s a mess. We’ll talk about the Inspector General’s report on nits. Really bad Office of Defects investigation as well. That was not a good report card.
Fred: No. Hey, I have a great digression through hydrogen. Wait for next. Give me a gimme a minute. We can do it next week and we can do it now.
What would you like
VO: for more information? Visit www.auto safety.org.
Fred: All right. So there’s a lot of misconception about hydrogen fuels, and Michael said, you don’t wanna puncture the hydrogen tank if you have a fuel cell in the car. Of course you don’t wanna do that, but you’re much better off puncturing the hydrogen tank than you are puncturing a gasoline tank.
And the reason is because the hydrogen dissipates very rapidly. People in their minds go back to the movies they’ve seen of the Hindenburg burning and say, oh, that’s what hydrogen can do. That’s a mixture. Yeah. You can’t see hydrogen burning. Yeah. So all the,
Michael: That’s what scares me is you
Fred: can, all the flames that you what it, but it burns very rapidly.
So it’s not gonna be around long. I think the potential for an explosion flame that you see in the hydrogen and the Hindenburg burning are associated with the fabric that covered the balloon and the dope, which is a sealant material that was in the fabric. So people need to move on from that.
They don’t explode unless they’re confined in, some kind of volume. So the hydrogen just burns. And if you think of a rocket that’s going up into outer space with hydrogen fuel, like the old Saturn fives, not a lot of smoke associated with that. There’s a really bright spot, off they go.
So just wanted to digress, right? A little bit about hydrogen chemistry.
Michael: So you’re telling me as a passenger then I would basically be evaporated by a really quick hydrogen blow torch.
Fred: I don’t know about that, but better off than gasoline. That’s all I can say.
Michael: It’s a quick death.
Anthony: If you like Fred Perkins and you like hydrogen tune to his other podcast, element one with Fred Perkins.
It’s the most, hydrogen is your friend. Yeah, it’s the most abundant podcast in the universe. Where
Fred: would we be without hydrogen? We’d be
Anthony: nowhere. Hey, what was the Frank Zappa quote? They say the most abundant element in the universe is hydrogen. I say it’s stupidity. End of
Michael: digression. I love Frank.
Anthony: All right. That’s on the stop button now.