More GM Cruise fails and we learn the word ablative

This week Michael and Anthony claim to be visited by the deep state (or just happen to be around helicopters) and Fred has his voice replaced by an AI (head cold). Could it be GM? Nah, they are too busy putting a lawyer in charge of their GM Cruise division. Anyone got the over/under on whether their CEO Kyle will make it to the end of year? Lucky for him American corporations tend let people fail upwards.

Did you know that anti-lock brakes are not required on motorcycles? And that lots of people don’t want the ability for their car to be remotely disabled. What if they are drunk? Would it be good or bad to prevent a car from starting if their driver were impaired?

The Tesla whistleblower is dealing with retaliation for telling Elon that his factory is unsafe, Fred nerds out on road lane width, we discuss the dumbness of the Ram Charger EV and a couple of recalls.

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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 Cimino for over 50 years, the center for auto safety has worked to make cars safer.

Michael: All

Fred: right. Good morning.

Anthony: Listeners, we do not have a new guest. We do not have a special host. That is Fred Perkins. He’s been practicing to be a blues singer. And so his voice has gotten very deep and bassy.

Fred: I’ve been an engineer so long. It all looks like a rivett to me. .

Anthony: Yay. Very wide. Yeah. , you sold your soul down at the down at

Fred: the SAE bar.

Anthony: Alright. Enough of that nonsense. Listeners, if you hear the sounds of jackhammers in the background, it’s unfortunately people are jackhammering the side of my building right now, which is not fun. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about, are we, Michael? No. No. We’re here to talk about, I don’t know, let’s see, how do we start off?

I think we have to start off with the most important auto safety thing that’s coming up this weekend, okay, that everyone’s concerned about. The F1 Grand Prix in Las Vegas. They’re running at night, it’s gonna be cold. Those cars are not designed for that, those temperatures. The humanity.

Michael: I’m just not into car racing in any form or fashion, so I can’t even, I know that people think F1 is a lot cooler than NASCAR, but and it’s much more popular overseas, but that is the extent of my knowledge.

Anthony: Okay, it doesn’t go in a big circle.

Fred: I thought that you were going to be talking about the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

Anthony: Wait, there’s a parade here?

Fred: Yeah, that’s a big event over the weekend, isn’t it? Oh, that’s next week, am I off? I guess I’m off. You’re on by a week. Yeah, but hey, that voice makes up for it. That’s the side effect of having a low voice.

Anthony: Oh, yeah. Okay I didn’t want to start off this way, folks, I really didn’t, but, Cruise keeps cruisin so we mentioned last week, I think I mentioned that I’m, I think Kyle, the CEO of GMCruise, is on a corporate death watch.

Two months ago, he’s if anyone reacts poorly to what we do, they’re just being sensationalistic. Then they dragged a human underneath their car and tried to pretend it didn’t happen, lied to regulators about it, edited video, got caught, and they’re like, whoa, we’re gonna take a pause and try and rebuild the public’s trust.

Which Michael’s pointed out, I don’t think the public ever trusted you. And now GM, their corporate overlord, is you know what, we don’t trust you. So GM has put in The Executive Vice President of Legal and Policy, Craig Glidden. To oversee crews. Now, I’m looking at this going, Okay, Craig Glidden, he’s a lawyer, but maybe he’s one of these engineer lawyers.

Maybe he’s got something to help out. No. He is strictly, I’m your daddy now. I am a legal and policy guy. I couldn’t tell you a sprocket from a faucet. I am here to make sure we are not criminals. It’s fascinating.

Fred: What’s interesting about this to me is that for years, decades, maybe a century, GM and the other companies have been putting out cars that are unsafe, but they’ve been always able to transfer the blame to the drivers.

Say it wasn’t my fault that you had a speedometer that said you can go 150 miles an hour. It’s just a choice that you made. One of the interesting things about cruise is that GM is now having to confront the fact that they are responsible for the liability associated with the crap they’re putting out.

It’s really a turnaround, I think an unanticipated legal structure that they probably don’t like very much. Michael, what do you think about that?

Michael: They’ve actually stopped running vehicles at all. It seems they’ve paused their driverless operations, even with the safety driver now, which is a new event.

So they are really apparently really looking at from the top down. They’ve hired exponent, which is a, group of engineers that does a lot of work on the defense side of product liability cases and does a lot of really in depth analysis. I think they’ve looked at some of the, maybe the arc airbag stuff, some of the Hyundai issue, Hyundai and Kia fire issues that we’ve seen.

They get a lot of business from the auto industry, looking deeply into the engineering problems behind some of these crashes and events that we see. And so they’re really looking at it closely. This is something that. This is not quite the same, but a similar to the incident that brought Mary Barra into GM in the 1st place, which was the ignition switch issues and the recalls there.

And, in that case, as Fred alluded to, they. Tended on a engineer and, pretended not to have a lot of knowledge of the situation as a corporate entity, but in the end, they got into a lot of trouble there. And I know that Mary is very concerned about what’s going on here.

Mainly to do with the amount of money they’ve sunk into it and the fact that she’s seen this before and probably understands that, they really need to go back and connect some dots before they move forward.

Anthony: I think if you’re any company, no matter what you make, what product or service and all of a sudden, lawyers are overseeing everything you do, that’s that’s never a good sign for your business’s long term health.

I don’t know of other companies that do well with that, I think. The only thing I can think of is Procter and G no, it was Pacific Gas and Electric. I think at one point they had a lawyer step in and they had to pay billions and billions of dollars for polluting water, but I don’t know. But even more troubling than that we have an article from TechCrunch we would link to.

And quoting from the very end of the article, it says, A survey that Blind, an anonymous forum for verified employees conducted for TechCrunch, found that half of cruise employees are either not at all confident or only slightly confident in cruise’s safety culture. Over three quarters of the 136 cruise employees surveyed from November 7th to the 8th.

Said they believed Cruise was trying to scale too quickly. Forget about rebuilding public trust. If your own employees are like, I think we’re creating bad things.

Michael: That’s right there. There’s, that, that survey happened after the incident happened. It would be interesting to see what it would have been like before the incident maybe who knows how it would have changed, but that’s a, such a significant amount of employees standing there saying.

We are putting this stuff out there too fast and which presumably because it’s not safe enough yet.

Fred: See, that’s one of the problems with hiring engineers. They tend to look at facts. That’s a, it’s a professional liability we’ve all got.

Anthony: Oh my god, yeah, we’re gonna get into a a problem with an engineer looking into facts and safety in a minute.

But we’re just gonna wrap up Cruise real quick. The Intercept they got some internal messages and emails at Cruise and quoting from an article on The Intercept. Even before its public relation crisis of recent weeks, i. e. dragging a human, previously unreported internal materials such as chat logs show Cruise has known internally about two pressing safety issues.

Driverless Cruise cars struggle to detect large holes in the road and have so much trouble recognizing children in certain scenarios. That they risked hitting them. What? Like how do you can’t find a large hole in the road? Yeah. Yeah. Humans are terrible drivers. Come on.

Michael: I think there was an incident where they basically pulled right up to some maintenance workers in a hole and they were.

Actively having to wave flags, the vehicle to prevent it from going any further and getting stuck in the hole or injuring anyone. So that’s clearly a problem there. I don’t know if it points to anything specific if they’re not recognizing both of those are small objects in front of the vehicle that are relatively difficult to detect.

I think we’ll talk later about or. We, about how Cruise is struggling to detect children. And so that’s a, that’s a pretty big concern. And it’s one of many hazards that is small and appear around the vehicle that, that. Humans have to notice and take notice of to avoid crashes.

So it’s, it’s not like manholes or some new thing that’s appearing in roads across America. It’s something that should be in their software or something they should expect and something they should be able to drive safely around.

Fred: There’s two things that you should have in a safety culture that are really important.

One is you need to have a clear channel between the people who are understanding the problem to the executive who’s in charge. Apparently that was not done at Cruise. It’s now…

The other thing that’s really important to have is what’s called a non advocate review of the safety design. And that means that you bring in people who have no vested interest in the success of the program to take a look at the entire safety apparatus and the safety design to see whether or not it passes muster.

The problem in a lot of companies is that they hire and they incentivize people. To put this stuff out the door as quickly as possible, so there’s no pushback. On people who are trying to ram through unsafe designs. Just as a helpful hint to crews, do these two things. Put a non advocate review as an intrinsic part of your safety design and safety management system.

As well as a direct channel up to the CEO. Buy somebody who is not reporting to the CEO because you don’t want their salary and their future challenged by bad information they might have to bring forward.

Michael: Yeah, and I think ideally that would be, an independent group or that was designed for that purpose of the auto industry.

It could be, we’ve talked about some similar things. We spoke with the insurance group, the insurance folks who were pushing the idea that um, they’re creating software to create, a structure for a safety case that these autonomous vehicles need to pass before they can be deployed.

And. Building a safety case like that with a secondary party overseeing, the steps you have to meet is something that’s also similar to that process. It basically brings an independent review in before you can deploy these things to the public. And, I don’t think anyone can look back and say that wouldn’t have helped in this situation.

Anthony: Shouldn’t NHTSA and groups like that be reviewing these things before they get out to the public?

Michael: NHTSA only has the authority at this point to basically accept the manufacturer’s word when it comes to certifying to federal motor vehicle safety standards and things like that. There are plans in the future over at NHTSA for some sort of co op, more cooperative evaluation function, I believe.

I think they’re going to propose something. The AV step program that has a little more cooperation between the agency and the manufacturers, but ultimately, if. I don’t know that NHTSA has the technical ability to do those types of evaluations at this point, and having an independent monitor who does is going to be critical.

Either Congress needs to step up and get NHTSA a lot more money to hire, 400, 000 software engineers and the other really expensive folks who don’t necessarily fall under government salary structure. They’re going to need to get those types of folks in to do this work. And they’re, they are trying to do.

So they are actively building the technical abilities of the agency to evaluate this type of thing. But it’s. Being done now, and, who knows what’s going to happen in the future since there’s an election coming up and politics always tend to screw up advances in many areas. So we will that is a wait and see what happens on that end,

Fred: but that is exactly the business model for underwriters laboratory.

And organizations that do ISO certification, that’s just exactly what they do. They take the standard and they provide an independent overview of what the company’s participation is in whatever thing they’re auditing, like safety, like product design. There’s a lot of different standards that are out there, but that industry exists.

It’s well populated. People know how to do it. It’s just a question of Industry adopting that practice and letting it fly. Wow.

Anthony: So if you’re a, an employee at cruise, we’d love to hear from you reach out, contact at autosafety. org and let us know how safe you think your work environment is.

Michael: Yeah. I love how he just requests that people violate non disclosure agreements.

Anthony: Hey, I’m not a lawyer. What do I, come on. A lot of NDAs are, how enforceable are they? Okay. Look. Go ahead and do this. You responded to an anonymous quote unquote survey on some, website. We’re better than some website.

We’re the Center for Auto Safety. And you can also write in and tell us how much you love Fred Perkins voice this week. And then donate. Let’s move on to our friends at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Lot of great stuff out of these guys this week. Tons and tons of great stuff. They’ve got some good articles.

Let’s see, one is Large pickups offer strong side protection but falter in backseat safety. The Ram 1500 Crew Cab, Ford F 150 Crew Cab, and Toyota Tundra Crew Cab, all 2023 models. Earned good readings in the IIHS updated side crash test that maybe nits us a steal. While the 2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 Crew Crab is rated acceptable.

However, in the updated moderate overlap front crash test, which now emphasizes backseat safety, only the Tundra manages a marginal rating. Everyone else rated poor. Don’t sit in the backseat of an extended crew cab? What the hell is a crew cab?

Michael: That’s basically when you add on a, add some seats behind the front seats and you’re, you turn really, you’re either turning a vehicle into a truck that can carry your crew to wherever you’re going to work.

Yeah, that’s a 6 passenger pickup. Basically, I think they’re mostly used now to carry, kids, soccer practice and things like that, though, which makes a lot less sense. We’ve talked about people’s vehicle choices and how some are buying giant crew cab so they can look like a big man as they drive to their office job and then put their kids in the back on the way to soccer practice on the weekends.

And there’s no real need to have a vehicle that large consuming that much gas with the safety concerns around it for that purpose. And here’s just another problem with a company basically lengthening a truck or shortening the bed and sticking passenger seating in there. It’s not a great, it’s just, it’s, it hasn’t been something that’s been developed over a long period of time.

They’re basically just stuffing some passenger seating onto a pickup chassis and. I don’t know if this is a problem, not just in pickups for sure. Ever since IHS has started putting dummies in the back seats, which is something that still needs to do, they have continually found that the performance.

And the rear seats, the safety performance of the systems there, the seatbelts and other things just aren’t working. And that’s primarily because, NHTSA has simply hasn’t required the rear seats to be tested for safety and it’s NCAP programs or, in its regulations now for many years, it’s just been assumed that the rear seat is a safe place and it’s not.

Fred: Okay, so I’m gonna, I’m gonna rant here just a little bit now. Yeah, it’s unusual for me. I know, but here it comes. We talked about regulations and standards earlier, and one of the things we talked about over the last couple of weeks is something called the minimal risk condition, which is a misnomer, but it’s established in a document called S. A. E. J. 30 16, which anybody can download if they want to do that.

Anthony: Hey, don’t turn our listeners off, okay?

Fred: All right, that’s fair enough. But what I want to point out, though, is that is being used as a reference for some safe harbor for bad behavior. In other words, when things go bad, the vehicle’s supposed to go into a minimal risk condition and everything will be okay.

According to that definition, in this particular case, if these heavy pickups Were to sense an imminent head on collision and then accelerate the rear wheels and spin them and become Make the vehicle spin so that it isn’t said has a sideways impact That would actually serve to protect the people in the backseat because they do better under side impact and front impact so the idea that a Vehicle and imminent impact accelerates spins the rear wheels goes into a 90 degree spin so that it can be hit sideways is completely consistent with the wording in the SAE standard for a minimal risk condition.

And so I just want to point that out to my friends in the industry who are listening to this that there really needs to be corrected. There really needs to be more attention to the language in these standards. And one of the ironies is these standards are built by engineers and engineers tend to be very imprecise about the language that they use.

End of rant.

Anthony: Okay, you heard it here first. Engineers are imprecise in the language they use. So I don’t understand this whole truck extended crew cab thing. Riding the truck bed. That’s what I did as a kid. It was like, come on, we’re going somewhere. Hey, wait a second now. Come on. Look,

Michael: a lot of truck beds.

It was, not an unusual thing to as a child in Mississippi in the 1970s and eighties to ride in a truck bed. Yeah.

Anthony: I didn’t even grow up in Mississippi, and I rode in a truck bed

Michael: it. It’s just, it’s normal, but it’s obviously now, like riding without a seatbelt, it’s completely unsafe.

And it’s, riding in a truck bed is the quickest way to be ejected in an accident there is, I believe. It’s…

Anthony: If you’re going to go, you’re going to go in style.

Michael: Yeah, there’s, that’s it’s incredibly dangerous. And I’m sure some states now have laws passed to prevent that. And, that’s something I’ve never really looked into.

Anthony: What states uh, prohibit passengers riding in the truck bed? I wonder.

Michael: Every state with a seatbelt law, you would think, right? Wait, every state… Which is most of them. Because there are no seatbelts in the trunk bed. So I guess that’s the easy answer.

Anthony: Wait, but every state doesn’t have a seatbelt law?

I think they do. Okay


Michael: look at that. New Hampshire does not,

Fred: New Hampshire is the only state in support of freedom. New Hampshire does not require seatbelts.

Michael: The freedom to die.

Anthony: Wow. That’s a silly rule. Hey,

Fred: so I’ve got to throw in here a Recollection from a friend who grew up in Nebraska, the most unsafe thing I’ve ever heard of voluntarily being done in pickup trucks.

They had a, one of their, it’s a rural area and one of the things that they used to like to do is they would all go out at night and get drunk and then stand in the back of a pickup truck with their firearms and then drive the pickup truck over the fields chasing jackrabbits. And shooting at the jack rabbits while they were traversing the fields at high speed, standing in the back of a pickup truck.

So there are limits, on how unsafe things can get, but that’s weird

Michael: that appeals to me somehow.

Fred: Yeah, it’s it’s a freedom thing,

Anthony: it sounds like an amazing video game. Someone needs to create truck bed drinkers. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So we were talking about seatbelts being required now, the insurance is due for highway safety and the highway loss data Institute.

Have filed a second petition with federal regulators for a mandate for anti lock braking systems on all new motorcycles. See, I apologize. I read this at first and I was like, oh, ABS is going to be airbag systems required. And I was like, how are they going to require airbags on motorcycles? But wait, motorcycles don’t have antilock

Michael: brakes?

No, motorcycles don’t have antilock brakes. What? Antilock brakes for car. I think antilock brakes were first invented for the Concorde, sometimes sometime in the 1960s and they started to show up on cars in the 70s. But they were not required, despite a lot of efforts to have them required by NHTSA until 2011.

No, that late, really? Big gap there, but, here we are 13 years later. 12 years later, and, we haven’t made any progress on getting analog brakes on the motorcycles, which, they show, according to IHS, pretty significant reduction in fatalities about 22 percent rate in the reduction of fatalities in those types of crashes where ABS would be effective.

So that’s a. That’s something NHTSA needs to get on. And it’s, it doesn’t seem like it’s really all that hard. I don’t know if it’s just not on their priority list. I know they’re busy doing a lot of things over there right now, but this one is just a slam dunk. It makes total sense. Why not have analog brakes on motorcycles?

Anthony: Michael, it sounds like you’ve been a little nice to NHTSA this week. You’ve been very, Oh, they’re very busy. Oh, there are things going on. What’s going on? You haven’t, I knew you’d get a,

Michael: there are a lot of people in there that are working hard on this stuff. And then, every four to eight years they get an administration plopped in on that lets them do nothing.

So they have a lot of catching up to do in the next four years. And that’s what they’re doing right now. Okay. So that’s the function of politics and this whole thing. Got it. Those independent reviews by the government of autonomous vehicles get a lot different under certain administrations than they do under others.

Obviously Republican administrations are gonna be more friendly to corporations. That’s pretty clear. And these and, obviously Nitsa got nothing done in under the previous Republic administration, across the board, so it’s, you can put some of these programs into place, but.

When there’s an administration that’s not willing to enforce and not willing to, point out bad actors who aren’t doing well then what’s the point of having the programs in the first place, right?

Anthony: There you go again with your woke agenda for safety. Ah, seriously on the anti lock brake thing, so you’re saying they weren’t requiring cars till 2011?

But they pretty much, okay, but wasn’t required

Michael: in a lot of cars before. And that’s right now. I think they’re in almost half of motorcycles or more, a little over half. So they’re in the motorcycles. But the problem is again, like in cars, you’re seeing the better technology is going out to the people who have the means to pay for it.

Anyone buying the low end motorcycles or the low end vehicles right now is not getting the benefit of the safety technology that exists.

Anthony: cRazy. Alright, let’s jump to a different topic. So the other day I went to Trader Joe’s, I parked my car and I come out and somebody hit my fender!

They dented my fender and they didn’t leave a note or anything like that. And so if you’re listening and you were at the Trader Joe’s in White Plains, I’m coming after you. Okay, different subject. This is an article on MSN. And this is something that we’ve talked about in the past and I want some clarity on it.

This is an editorial called… Why are people worried about let’s try that again. Why are people worried about automotive kill switch mandates? And now, I know Michael, you’ve talked about, hey, wouldn’t it be great if, you see some drunk driver down the road and the police can, hit a switch and disable that vehicle?

In that scenario, I think everyone agrees with you. But what about I’m fighting against the deep state and they’re coming after me and they’re turning off my car that way?

Michael: Yeah, that doesn’t exist. I don’t know that everyone agrees with you on the first point, which is the real problem here.

People are, I’m sorry if there’s a massive helicopter in my background, that’s completely distracting me. Yeah,

Anthony: we don’t hear that. You guys haven’t heard of my jackhammer yet either. Wow. These are not euphemisms. See, they’re coming for you. It’s the deep state. They’re coming to shut you down with your seat belts.

Michael: So a lot of people, don’t want this stuff anywhere near their cars. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been trying to push back on Republicans in the house who are trying to get inserted into the appropriations bill, a provision that would eliminate the language that was in the Infrastructure Act from a couple of years back that requires NHTSA to go ahead and get anti, alcohol sensors in vehicles to make sure that people aren’t drunk driving and sensors that would actively, you know, or, passively, sorry, detect the alcohol and prevent the vehicle from being operated.

People are against that they’re against a lot of things, this article talks about. It references these things as kill switches, but the fact is, that kill switch turns off the engine, but it’s an anti kill switch because it’s preventing people from being killed by that engine being started and driving the car down the road where it can hit people.

This is something that needs to happen. Like it doesn’t just need to happen in law enforcement where, they could stop stolen vehicles. They could stop reckless drivers in their tracks. They could stop known felons who might be, who knows what, they could stop terrorists. They’re just, the list goes on for police, but also, this is the same kind of thing that we’re going to see with speed limiting technology.

People are highly resistant to the idea that they don’t get to go as fast as they want because they paid their taxes. It’s their road and they can speed all that, that kind of People hate the idea that somehow their car is going to be controlling them. If you’re caught, I don’t hear anyone complaining when their car, when their automatic emergency braking kicks in and prevents them from hitting the car in front of them.

But for some reason, these things that, that, that affects speeding, speeding is one that people really don’t want the technology in the vehicles that would actively slow them down to speeds that are safe. People don’t want that. I guess the drunk drivers out there don’t want technology in their vehicle that’s going to shut down the car when it detects alcohol in their breath.

But the fact is humans continue to screw up and this is, they sound like Kyle for a minute here, but humans continue to screw up. And as technology that comes out that can eliminate those screw ups, eliminate, uh, driving drunk and eliminate speeding. If humans don’t get their shit together soon, that’s going to happen.

And frankly, I don’t think humans are going to get it together. So I would expect this type of technology in the next 20 years to be in every car.

Fred: Oh it’s definitely going to happen. And particularly if you look at the proliferation of ADAS and, which is automated driver assistance systems and autonomous vehicles.

Because if you don’t have a human behind the wheel, how in the world are the police going to stop a runaway car? How are they going to force a car that’s violating safety restrictions in an accident zone to stop and go away?

Michael: Yeah, if you pull up on a crash scene, how do you stop the vehicle from moving post crash and dragging the pedestrian that’s under it?


Fred: This is going to happen along with the EVs. It’s simply got to happen. I don’t see any alternative unless you agree that the robots are rightfully going to run the world.

Anthony: sO maybe this is what happened. Self driving car, whatever, robo car breaks the law. And so the police, instead of stopping that vehicle, they go to the software engineer’s house and put him in handcuffs.

That would be hilarious.

Fred: They’ve chased Tesla’s down the highway for miles and miles while the driver slept. And the only thing they could do is try to keep other people out of the way of this runaway car. It’s a ridiculous situation, but unless you’ve got some way for third parties to stop the vehicles, this is just what we’ll have to get used to.

And I don’t see that as an acceptable outcome.

Michael: Yeah, I think a software and hardware package that can pull vehicles over safely is a lot better than a pit maneuver.

Anthony: I think the one example we’ve talked about in the past, I think it was a couple weeks ago, where someone was creating some technology that could sense if the driver passively was drunk.

And it could figure out between the driver and the passenger. Now, I think something like that is great, but channeling my inner Kyle. I think you’d actually have to demonstrate that repeatedly over a long period of time to to gain public trust on that.

Michael: You have to, the fact is when NHTSA makes its regulations, they have to make a demonstration that their tests, Are repeatable and can evaluate technology in that way.

Yes, you have to, and that’s something that the company behind some other companies behind some of the passive alcohol detection have struggled with. There’s issues like, you have three drunk guys in your car, breathing out all sorts of fumes, right? You’re totally sober. Are, is your ability to drive them home going to be impacted?

And you have to, it can’t just work 50 percent of the time. It has to work 100 percent of the time or as close as possible for any type of consumer acceptance to take place in those areas. If you’re, for instance, if your speed limiter technology in your car is keeping you even, 10 miles per hour below the speed limit, it’s not working.

It has to be repeatable. It has to be doing its job properly. And a lot of the problems in, in. Getting rules and creating rules to require these technologies are ultimately dependent on making sure that these technologies are in that place where they can produce consistent outcomes.

Anthony: Listeners write in. Tell us what you think about these these types of safety features. Really I’m curious do you want to do you want your car to allow you to drive drunk, or someone else to drive your car drunk, or, you want a little passive breathalyzer inside the system?

Do you want to be able to prevent other people from driving drunk? I don’t know. It seems pretty simple, is the question, but I’m a fairly simple person, so what do I know? I’m gonna jump to somebody who’s not that simple. Unfortunately, this guy took on… The world’s wealthiest man, or one of them, close to it.

A couple months ago, the, there was a German newspaper that came out and had they had access to a whistleblower at Tesla. And they released a whole bunch of internal documents basically saying, Hey, this is a fairly dangerous company. And now the New York Times has an article about the guy who came out and did this, and he was a technician in Norway.

He came there. One of his earliest days on the job and someone had set up a charging thing wrong, started a fire, this guy reached in, disconnected it, prevented the fire, basically prevented the car and probably more from going up in flames. Elon’s hey, thanks, you’re a hero. And this guy, said, hey, I’ve got some complaints about the Norwegian operation here.

He said on the day of the fire, there were no fire extinguishers, there was cardboard boxes and other flammable material was thrown about, and employees were not briefed about where they would be working. So Elon responds, okay, please let me know if there’s anything else we should do. And basically… Bye, anything else we should do?

He’s I’m gonna make your life a living. For, how dare you for exposing me to safety concerns. I, The, they’re at my, I don’t know if you guys can hear that, but they’re at my doors right now. Someone’s banging on my windows. Anyway. Maybe it’s Elon Musk or the Deep State.

Fred: It could be, but for whatever it’s worth it’s not coming through your microphone.

Anthony: It’s really happening though, I promise. It’s not voices inside my head. Alright, good, I’m glad it’s not coming

Fred: through. We’ll notify the listeners if we see people in balaclavas behind you.

Anthony: So yeah,

Michael: the whistleblower process, I don’t know. This, I w I would go ahead and say that the way that, it’s admirable that this guy, did what he did in some ways.

He’s trying to expose safety concerns. I would suggest that it’s probably better to get all of those concerns to a government. Official who’s responsible for doing that. For instance, if you have concerns in on the United, on vehicles produced in the United States or import in the United States, you go to NHTSA, they have a team of lawyers who are experienced in whistleblower cases.

You probably want to look at getting your own attorney before you enter into that process, just because, you want to be protected. You want to make sure that you’re not compromising any agreements that could get you in trouble. Like Mr. Krupsky is. Appears to be in right now. But you probably don’t just want to hand over data directly from your company’s computer systems to a newspaper.

That’s. While admirable wanting to get safety information out there, that’s a really not a good way to do it. The newspaper can publicize those things, but they can’t really take any actions to enforce safety standards or that type of thing or any other type of enforcement, criminal civil over the company.

Our advice to whistleblowers is, visit our website. Click on the link, get in touch with us, and we will point you in the right direction if you have concerns about problems in the, facility you’re working in, whether you’re worth a supplier or manufacturer. We have worked with a number of whistleblowers over the years and can get them to the right people before they do things that might get them in hot water with their employer and could have some really big impacts, negative impacts on their life.

Anthony: Yep, no negative impacts, please. We’re going to jump into the town in a second. Freddie, you think you’re ready for that? Yes, sir. Okay, good. But before we do that, Fred, what kind of car do you drive?

Fred: I’ve got a Subaru Outback.

Anthony: Oh, you’ve got a Subaru. Oh see, there’s a article in the guardian.

It says, basically, if you have a BMW, a Porsche, or a Subaru, you’re most likely to cause a crash.

Fred: I’m not that kind of Subaru driver, Anthony.

Anthony: Look, I’m reading it on the internet, right in front of me. Must be true. Yeah. A study of more than 400, 000 UK road accidents found that when risky or aggressive maneuvers, they spell maneuvers very wrong, it’s some very British thing, played a part in a collision, there’s a significant statistical difference in driver culpability across different brands.

Ah, if you were a Subaru, a Porsche, or a BMW, you are more likely to cause a problem than if you were in something called a Skoda or a Hyundai.

Fred: Justify your action. I like their reputation. I like the way their reputation precedes me as I’m going down the road. People tend to get out of the way. It’s nice, it’s kept me out of any accidents except for the damn deer.

Apparently the deer don’t read the internet.

Anthony: Damn, damn deer. Yeah, that’s funny because in the U. S. I don’t think of Subaru drivers as being aggressive, I just think, oh, they’re wearing a Peruvian made hat and they’re going to Vermont to sniff maple syrup or something.

Michael: And they believe in love.

Fred: Yeah do you read the comic strip, Zitz? No. The teenager’s father is a dentist who drives a Subaru, just for your

Anthony: reference. Wears socks and sandals. All that, yeah. Alright, so today’s… What’s wrong with that anyway? I do that. Hey, I had a doctor who was wearing socks and sandals, and I was like, I’m not going to believe anything this guy says.

And I got out of his van as fast as I could. Doctor didn’t advance. So the TAO this week my notes tell me the subject is narrow lanes, question mark. Why does this work? Why do narrow lanes and we actually mean road lanes, why do they make things safer?

Fred: You’ve now entered the TAO of safety. Brief pause for the introduction.

And there was a study. No, you saying brief pause doesn’t… There was a study that came out that stated that, in summary, that nine foot lanes can slow traffic down and thereby make urban streets safer. Nine, nine

Anthony: feet wide.

Fred: Nine feet wide, yeah, not long.

Anthony: How wide is a, cause nine feet long, that’s gonna be, I can’t even put my damn, my, my RAM charger on that.

But how wide is a lane normally?

Fred: I’m glad you asked. It turns out there’s an organization called AASHTO, which is the American Association of State, Highway, and Transportation Officials. It’s quite a mouthful. But what they are is the body that generated the design standard, which is called the Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets.

People actually read this. It’s known as the Green Book or the Bible. But that’s been in use for decades, and it basically mandates that 10 to 12 foot lanes should be the standard on urban arterials. And so all of the urban arterials have been built in conformance with that for a very long time.

What’s an arterial? It’s a main highway. Okay. Or a major road. Got it. So it’s 5th Avenue versus 49th Street. Perfect, thank you. The idea behind that is that cars are going to drive and occasionally make mistakes. So they want to have enough of a buffer around them so that people making mistakes will be able to recover.

Cars are generally no more than 8 feet wide. And vehicles are no more than eight feet wide. Check out my Hummer. Sometimes eight and a half feet. A statistical study was done of a lot of accidents in a lot of states, and looked at states where they’ve been able to produce urban highways, and sometimes rural highways, with widths as low as nine feet.

And it turns out it’s not very straightforward. They did find that the nine foot lanes have no increase In accidents or collisions or anything else relative to the 12 foot streets, but it’s very conditional and it depends a lot on where they are how they’re introduced, what is the transition to go from a 12 foot lane into a 9 foot lane.

And they also found that basically the most important thing that happens with the 9 foot lane is people perceive that they need to be more careful and so they become more careful. So if you have a 9 foot lane… In the middle of the wilderness, nobody’s going to pay attention to it. They’ll just be annoyed.

But if you have a nine foot lane in the middle of an urban environment where you have a lot of pedestrians, trees, dogs, bicyclists, all of that, all those kinds of things, they’ve found that there’s a statistically significant uh, decrease in accidents or conversely increase in safety associated with the nine foot lanes.

So why doesn’t everybody just go to a nine foot lane? And well, There’s a lot of reasons for that. Number one is it gets into land use philosophies in the cities. How do you really want to dispose of this real estate? You can put in bike lanes, you can do a lot of things if you have nine foot lanes, but then you’ve got to consider the problems that go along with that.

Nine foot lanes are probably not appropriate for streets that are supposed to be arterials because you’ve got a lot of trucks going down those, and trucks are about eight and a half feet wide, so if you’re in a nine foot lane, that’s a tight squeeze. Buses are also eight and a half feet wide, another tight squeeze.

But it’s easy to, takeaway that we just should build nine foot roads. But that’s not really what the study is all about. The study was really all about saying since 12 foot roads are the baseline, what happens in those cities where they’ve actually incorporated some of these 9 foot lanes and in the context of the urban environment and found that the rationale behind 12 foot lanes that says they’re inherently safer because there’s more room does not hold up under the statistical analysis of the accidents.

Okay, so that’s the real point of the study. VErmont’s been looking at 9 foot lanes since 1999, and, which is long before the basic study associated with the context sensitive lanes called Urban Street Design Guide came out um, and what Vermont’s experience has been that, yeah, sometimes helps, but it’s a real problem if you have to do snow removal, because, the the blades on the On the snowplow, it’s not really designed for nine foot lanes and you’ve got, a lot of obstructions there.

What they did find, though, is that there is a really strong correlation between increased density of pedestrians and bicyclists in areas where they have nine foot lanes to make the roads safer. So it’s really all about the perception by the drivers in the vehicles that they need to slow down. And that’s associated with proximity to people proximity to bicycles and other things that people can do to slow the drivers down.

One of them is to have frequent intersections. So that people can’t, really speed up a lot, and they have to slow down for red lights. I think New York City is on a lot of that, Anthony, if I remember right.

Anthony: Yeah, but sometimes that’s just a starting gun, the traffic

Fred: light. And there’s also traffic quieting things like speed humps and, other devices similar to that.

But the point of all this is that if you can do something to get people to slow down, you’re going to kill fewer people. I think that’s the real takeaway from this study. Okay.

Anthony: Good thing we need a study for that.

Michael: Yeah

Fred: again, the baseline is that this Green Book has been established and in use for a long time under false premises.

It was, the thought was that it was inherently safer to do it that way than to do it some other way. But the study shows no, that’s not the case. What is inherently safer is getting people to slow the hell down.

Anthony: That that sounds simpler. In my mind. But anyway, we have a link to this site in our description.

And it’s a cool little website. You scroll down the page, a car drives down the… Web page with you. It’s a lot of fun. Wow. Michael’s saying something brilliant and smart. I was just gonna put in

Michael: a pitch. It looks, Johns Hopkins. I don’t even know if we’ve mentioned who conducted the study. John, Johns Hopkins conducted the study and they put a lot of work into it.

Anthony: Yeah, it’s, it’s, it seems very cool. But we’re going to go from very cool. Let’s go to very stupid. You guys ever hear of a ram charger? Ha Cause we’re gonna jump to a ram charger

Fred: real that’s something they used in the Revolutionary War to get cannons to

Anthony: work. This is Ram is coming out with their EV.


Michael: Is it an EV?

Anthony: This is different. Is it an EV? Exactly. That is the question. It’s an EV that has a V6 engine in it. Is that right? It’s got a 3. 6 liter V6 engine on board that powers a 130 kilowatt generator. Ram said the end result, at least in terms of performance, is a truck with the ability to travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.

4 seconds. Why do you want a truck to accelerate that quickly? Why, the thing weighs a billion pounds. Why do I want a bullet, eh that’s called a Ram? This is just… This is just a lawsuit waiting to happen. Oh, I’m sorry, your honor, I had no idea that a thing called a RAM would kill people.

They’re just

Michael: matching up the features that every other EV, at least luxury EV manufacturer is putting into their vehicles. Tesla’s doing it, GM’s doing it, and the Hummer, they’re putting these special warp speed buttons in that make absolutely no sense for a pickup truck. But it’s literally to attract the people who aren’t using them as pickup trucks but are using them as a status symbol of how big and tough they are.

Anthony: If you’re suffering from male pattern baldness, erectile dysfunction, or… Perhaps this is the solution you need.

Michael: Go to a doctor, not a dealer.

Anthony: Or just go to a different type of dealer. But no, Michael, this is not at all like these other cars at all, because this is this is a lawyer’s car. This is some sort of weird little thing because it has a V6 engine on it, but the V6 engine isn’t connected to the wheels, man, so it still takes gasoline.

So I’m not one of those EV liberal Vermont Subaru drivers. OK, I use dead dinosaur juice in there, but it connects to a battery charger and the battery drives it. I’m very confused. I don’t know. I wasn’t hugged enough as a child. What the hell is that? What did they just design this so they can get some sort of battery credits?

Michael: I guess they’re pretending it’s an electric vehicle when it really functions like a hybrid not the traditional type of hybrid that we’ve seen come out of Honda and Toyota, but from a, I think this is the kind of. Engine. And I’ve heard this in a couple of places that was used on trains way back in the day, still, still used train.

Fred: So these are electric trains, but without the battery. So I think the difference between these and what we’ve become used to seeing as hybrids are that there’s no direct connection between this I C E and the drive wheels. So everything goes through the electric motor. So they’ve got a big battery. That provides buffer energy for the electric motor and I don’t know, this will appeal to somebody.

It’s a gigantic ICE, a gigantic battery, and a gigantic electric motor. If you’re a customer for gigantism, this is your truck.

Michael: Yeah, that’s one story I saw, it showed them with. Flat rear view mirrors, which is an indication that they’re going to weigh as much or more than 10, 000 pounds and don’t have to comply with some of the standards that apply to vehicles under 10, 000 pounds.

So that’s certainly concerning if the, we’re just going to now ignore the 10, 000 pound weight limits for passenger and light trucks and just. We’re going to just start selling commercial motor vehicles to people across America and calling them EVs.

Fred: Now last week we talked about life cycle analysis for EVs versus hybrids.

I want to point out to prospective customers for this Ram Charger that you’ll be replacing the tires about every 10, 000 miles and those tires are going to cost you probably well over 2, 000 per set. These are very heavy cars, very heavy tires. They are not going to come cheap, and enjoy the ride.

Anthony: So that teases something we’re working on that’s coming soon about weight. Fred, wait. My, if my car weighs more, why are my tires going to wear out? More of my tires are full of air. Come

Fred: on. Your tires are the only thing between you and death.

Anthony: You don’t know it goes through my head.

Fred: So what happens when you put on the brakes is there are what are called ablative surfaces, okay?

Which means that as you use them. They, pieces of them flake off. And one of the ablative surfaces is the pads that go on to contact the rotor, right? So when your brakes are off, the wheel spins freely, when the brakes are on, these pads contact the rotor, and pieces of them flake off in use. That’s called an ablative surface.

The other ablative surface is the tires themselves. When you, when they contact the road, when you turn right or left, when you put the brakes on, when you accelerate whenever any of these things happen, you’re actually wearing off the surface of the tire. And that rate of wear is proportional.

To the amount of pressure that’s being put on the road by your tires, um, and also the size of the tires. So they’re going to wear evenly, but bigger tires are simply going to wear more. And if there is a lot more weight, a lot more mass that they’ve got to support, they’re going to wear out that much faster.

Does that make sense?

Anthony: You lost me in a blade of surface. No, I’m kidding. We’ll save that for a future

Michael: Tao of Friend, I think. And where’s all that stuff that’s being ablated, I have asthma.

Fred: It’s going into the water, it’s going into the side of the road, it’s going into the weeds in the side of the road.

In fact the San Francisco Bay Area has found that’s one of the major pollutants that are going into the San Francisco Bay. As all those tens of thousands of millions of pounds of rubber that are flaking off the tires are getting washed into the San Francisco Bay, major component of the silt and mud that’s collecting in the bay.

It has a lot of consequential environmental effects as well, as you might imagine, but, uh, we’re not doing the environment here, we’re just doing safety and stupid and, stupid is the RAM

Michael: charger.

Anthony: Alright, that’s a two votes no on the RAM charger. Michael’s writing a check right now for it. And with that, let’s go into a Recall Roundup.

It’s a very short one this week. First one we’re going to start off with. I’ll give a pause for the Recall Roundup music. The first one is It’s not do. It’s not even close to what it sounds like. I don’t even remember what it sounds like, and I wrote it. Yeah, goddammit. Anyway the first one is not a real recall, but it’s from Rivian.

RiVian apologizes to its customers after infotainment bricking. Rivian sent out a little note to its customer and said, Hey, y’all. They actually wrote that, Hi, y’all. We made an error with the 2023. 42 OTA update. A fat finger. Where the wrong build with the wrong security certificates was sent out.

Basically, they sent out the wrong software, and I’m saying, being like hey, our system’s failed entirely. They’re like, it was a fat finger. Isn’t that adorable? You bricked my car. It was, it was my, I have chubby fingers. What kind of nonsense talk is that? I just spent 100, 000 on this truck.

I, okay, listeners at home I would never do that. My wife would murder me. And I wouldn’t know where to put it, but come on, a fat finger. That’s the part that bothers me the most. I know Michael, something else bothers you about this.

Michael: No, it’s actually something that doesn’t bother me about this, but it’s the fact that, they’ve got a problem that basically shuts down their infotainment system because it doesn’t have the proper security certificates.

But even though the infotainment system is still shut down, all the rest of the vehicle systems are still operating, including our, favorite topic on Recall Roundup the rear view camera the rear view camera, the blinkers, everything else, and every, it appears everything that is required to work to comply with motor vehicle safety standards is continue to work.

So it shows, it suggests to me, maybe this isn’t the case, but it suggests. That Rivian has actually separated those systems, which is something we’ve been advocating for, is that, we don’t want infotainment crap interfering with safety.

Anthony: Alright, good job. No one’s ever said Rivian people are dumb.

Fred: No, but people have said that they’re well heeled because they gotta fix the cars, fix the trucks from time to time. That’s true. Rivian owner as a friend,

Anthony: I guess so. Alright our our only other recall this week is is a little company called Tesla. 159 vehicles, the 2021 to 2023 Tesla Model S.

Based on the variance in design of the round steering wheel and the yoke steering wheel, a different driver airbag is designed for each steering wheel. And basically, I guess we didn’t put the right airbag in?

Michael: Yeah, that’s basically it. And this is just one more safety issue that’s arisen out of the yoke steering wheels.

I think in one case they were popping off or something was happening. And that doesn’t even go into the fact that humans are not trained to operate vehicles with yoke steering wheels and just Putting them out into your cars raises a lot of safety concerns for us. It’s just one in a series of gimmicks that Tesla has continued to put out on its vehicles to make them seem cool to all the techies out there, but in fact, raise pretty significant safety issues.

In this case, this is pretty much a screw up in the factory, putting the wrong airbags into these yoke steering wheel. Vehicles, but, this is a problem that never had to happen. If you weren’t, pursuing a yoke steering wheel in the first place, so it’s annoying.

Anthony: Listeners, how do you like your steering wheels? Sunny side up? Ha! Yolk steering wheel. I made an egg joke. Hey, go to autosafety. org, click on donate. It’s getting that time of year. Tax, it’s tax deductible, that donation. I’m not a tax attorney, but I’m pretty sure that’s correct, because if not, Michael would have told me no.

And if you

Michael: donate today, Anthony promises he’ll never tell another dad joke. Oh,

Anthony: I that’s

Fred: don’t bless me. And if you donate today… We’ll never have Barry White coming in here and saying Piggly Wiggly again. Ah!

Anthony: Wait, no, look, I think our most important things are, okay, we want some GM Cruise engineers, to reach out.

Current, former, whatever. Let us know what’s going on. Michael’s protected whistleblowers in the past. Yes, he’s nodding his head. Tell us about that. Tell us how much you prefer Fred’s head cold voice to his regular speaking voice. And why he’s such a dangerous driver in his Subaru. And then tell us if your favorite Peter Gabriel album was called Oblative Surface.

And is that how, did I say oblative? Is that right? Oblative. Yeah, that’s a good word. Yeah. All right. Oblative Surface. Maybe that’s what I’ll name this episode. And with that… I… What? No,

Fred: go ahead. I once had somebody ask me if finite element finite oblative module in their stress analysis. Just so you know how arcane it can get, but that has nothing to do with anything.

I’ll let it go.

Michael: That went straight over my head.

Anthony: Hey, and if you need some entertainment at parties, Fred’s available.

Fred: I live in that space. It went right over your head, Michael. That’s a terrible place to

Anthony: be. All right. Thanks so much listeners. Till next week. We’re back next week, right? Yes, we are. All right.

Bye bye. Thank you.

Michael: Bye bye. Bye everyone.

What kind of hand signals were those?

Anthony: I like to do that cause like sometimes… For

Michael: more information,

Fred: visit www. autosafety. org


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