Motorcycles are cool?

A 17 year old special guests tells us why he wants a motorcycle, Fred explains physics to him and explains airbags to us. Plus Tesla is full of self driving.

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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: Okay. So regular listeners, you hear me lament all the time about my son and his idea of I want to get a motorcycle

It causes his poor mother to have heart palpitations. She’s left the state we live in cuz she’s so traumatized. So he’s our guest this week for a bit. And so a day. Please tell people why you as a 17 year old living in Manhattan wants a motorcycle.

Adey: Okay. First of all, I think it’s most important to.

Get this first point outta the way. It’s cool. motorcycles are cool. That’s a universal fact. I think that’s objective. Even if they’re not safe.

Fred: But let me just ask you if they’re cool when they’re vertical or if they’re cool when they’re horizontal. , yes.

Adey: I think both of you land correctly.

Anthony: No, .

Michael: But they’re clearly cool. Let’s just get that outta way. They’re clearly cool. You’ve seen the guys riding them most part. Cool dudes.

Fred: For the record, I had one when I was 15 and I, who the hell’s that actor? The Fonda Peter Fonda. I thought I was Peter Fonda. I dunno. That definitely has a cool factor as I’m plotting around back roads with no exhaust pipes at all.

Out of the manifold .

Anthony: You’re not helping here. Okay. Neither of you. Okay. Continue about your reasons for wanting a motorcycle besides to kill your mother.

Adey: You brought up as a kid that lives in Manhattan now, I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s a difficult thing to park in Manhattan. And I doubt I’m gonna have a private space as a 17 year old kid.

So having a nice small vehicle to put between other cars, I think that’s convenient sub for one. All

Michael: Yeah. But all the time, inconvenient.

Adey: It’s cool and convenient. And your point about the subway, I, as a city kid, I don’t wanna be in the city almost ever. I spend way too much time here.

I think, most of anybody on this call that I enjoy, hiking and doing things outside of here. A vehicle in general to not be here. So

Anthony: the cool, convenient and the country. Okay. The country.

Michael: You’re man, after my own heart on that one. Although I get there with a car, , , I live there.

Adey: It’s cheaper from what I’ve seen.

Michael: No I think it, it probably is if you’re not factoring in, increased hospital expenses. Yeah. And possibly, it’s also not just cheaper, but it’s probably, better for the environment. It’s, the more fuel efficient than vehicles.


Anthony: are you all right

Adey: doing . Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. That is welcome. Yeah. Here’s another. Another point. You see this on my chair. This is a leather jacket that I never get to wear while riding a motorcycle. And I think that’s a crime.

Michael: I think that’s a crime. That’s cool. That’s back in the cool area, but I can, I could see that,

Anthony: yeah. You know why they wear leathers riding motorcycles? Because,

Road rash when you fall off and you were sliding on that. Okay. Okay.

Adey: Yeah. Yeah. This isn’t like there are actual jackets made for protecting you in that department. This is not rated for that, but Sure.

I still wanna wear it on a motorcycle. .

Fred: Yeah. Those protective jackets are gonna add a thousand dollars to your motorcycle cost, by the way. So True. True. Just be ready for that,

Anthony: finally, a voice of reason. Okay. Okay. Is there any other reasons you want a motorcycle? because I ask where do you put your girlfriend on your motorcycle?

Wouldn’t you rather have a backseat? They’re shaking my heads at me saying I’m doing this wrong. No, it’s wrong.

Michael: That scares me to death every time I see someone riding on the back of a motorcycle. But, that’s I suppose that’s the only way for some folks to get it around.

You see it certainly and more crowded and other countries more than you world countries. But, I see it a lot here. I’ve seen plenty of people riding what do you call that? Piggyback? I don’t even know the terminology, Fred. Yeah. I,

Fred: they’ve got passenger seats but yeah, it’s of course you get close contact with whomever is riding in the back, so that, that’s true.

That’s true. Particularly around the age of 17. That’s an important consideration. .

Michael: Alright. Okay. He’s blushing. All right. I hit with that one. Here’s the, here’s where motorcycles. aren’t that cool and convenient when finally when they crash, right? And, , I’ve been trying to figure out, it’s hard to figure out and pin down the data on at fault.

Whether motorcyclists are at fault, other drivers are at fault. That seems to be somewhere around 50 50 or in that range. But the risk when you’re on a motorcycle seems to be a lot more higher. So these are 2020 numbers. So in 2020 fatalities on motorcycles, there was 31.64 for every a hundred million miles traveled.

For cars, that number is only 1.34.

Anthony: So over 30 times is dangerous.

Michael: About 24 times more likely to die on a motorcycle per unit of distance Travel in, in America in 2020 Now. Injuries aren’t much better. There is, it’s about 468 injuries per a hundred million miles travel, and about 79 per a hundred million miles traveling vehicles.

So you’re about six times more likely to be injured. The, one of the things that Nitzer was stated was that you’re about if you’re in a vehicle, I think it’s about 20% of crashes result in an injury or death. But if you’re on a motorcycle, that happens about 80% of the time. The numbers aren’t looking good here for you.

And then, , there are some things that mitigate those numbers. I think they go down fairly significantly. These are the things your dads don’t want to hear. , if you wear a helmet, if , you aren’t drunk, or any other drugs or distracted, that type of thing. No. That’s a non-negotiable.

And if you actually have a license you’re your death and injury rate appears to go down . But you still have a significant risk of much higher than vehicles, at least, of experiencing a death or injury on a motorcycle. , and even if you’re sober helmeted license and all those things, and very paranoid, which I understand is important.

If you’re on a motorcycle and you’re having to watch the some of our fellow humans drive very poorly these days. So combine that with the fact that motorcycles are inherently less stable than cars, , you lose, , if you lose balance in a car, you might, personally, you’re, nothing’s gonna happen to you, but if you lose your balance on a motorcycle, you’re gonna spill.

And that’s, they’re just not as stable as a car, and that’s part of this problem. Also you’re, and cars are built to keep you inside the vehicle within the structure. There are a lot of protective aspects about that. In addition to airbags and other things, you don’t have any of those benefits on a motorcycle.

Although there are. foot to head to foot. Airbags that have been, that appear to be sold to some motorcyclists, which effectively since a crash pulse. And then some I’ve seen are full body airbag. . Some are just vests depending on what you buy and how much you’re willing to spin it. It looks like you can cover yourself in a bubble for a crash.

So that might be something your dad wants to invest in as well.

Anthony: I’m not investing in any of this. are, you’re outta your goddamn minds. No, I don’t care about these airbags.

Fred: All right. Hey, let me try to personalize this. Okay. Oh, sure. . Number one, I have a friend who bought a moped in college for all the same reasons that you’re discussing University of Maryland.

As he was going down the street one day, mining his own business, the handlebars parted a company from the rest of the moped. Oh. And so he ended up into bushes. and happily wasn’t injured too badly, but it got scratched up. Things happen and when you get your motorcycle and you start to drive it, oh man, it’s great.

It’s like being on drugs. It’s fantastic. But, it wears off. That’s what I’m thinking. As soon as the first, pardon the expression, jackass pulls out in front of you and you have to do an emergency maneuver to avoid that it gets to be less fun. But to personalize it you live in a place called New York City, right?

I do. And you live in an apartment building? I do. And it has many stories, right? From one to X, right? Yeah. L let me ask you a related question. Did you ever walk into a wall?

Adey: I’ve done it once or

Fred: twice. Yeah. How did it

Michael: feel?


Fred: great. Not great. Good. . And what do you think your speed was as you walked into the wall? Probably

Adey: five,

Fred: six miles per hour. Oh no. Two , two, two miles an hour, my friend, if, even though, so that’s not very much. And it didn’t feel great, did it? No. Let me ask you, since you have experience in the apartment building roughly how many stories high in that apartment building would you feel comfortable jumping out the window?

Probably the second floor of max second floor. And if you hit the ground from the second floor, your speed would be more than two , 21 miles per

Anthony: hour. I’m sorry, how much, how fast was that?

Fred: 21 miles per hour? Yeah. Okay. I’ve been neglecting air resistance, but we’ll just let it go over that. Oh, sure. So 21 miles an hour.

Are you always gonna drive around New York and your way to the country at 21 miles per hour? Surely not. Probably not. , probably going somewhere faster takes away from the cruel factor. So what do you think is a reasonable speed for you to be driving your motorcycle around 60

Adey: miles per hour? Outside of the city?

Fred: I’m sorry, say again? Outside

Adey: of the city, around 60 miles per hour. Reasonably

Fred: 60 miles per hour. Oh, let’s see. Going down my list here, that’s right down there, you would be somewhere around 15 stories high, jumping out a window to hit the ground at 60 miles per hour. Do you think that would be a good idea?

No. No. I can’t say. See, this is, this kind of carries over to the little motorcycle experience because once the bike goes down, background gets awfully hard, awfully fast. There’s a big density difference between air and ground , particularly if the ground has got things like steel studs in it to keep you from going off the side of the road.

Most of the things that can happen after that incident are bad. , trust

Michael: me on that. .

Fred: I, so I did another calculation. Let’s say that you’re you’re driving up the New York throughway and Speed Limits posted at 65 miles an hour, and you being 17 years old and cool, decide to go up to 76 miles per hour.

, do you think that might ever happen? I’d wager yes. Yes. That’s certainly a possibility. . So what is the equivalent jumping out of the window story height for your accident at 76 miles per.

and this, by the way, more than 15, you can’t do at home. You can do this calculation at home using basic physical Oh, okay. Sure, go ahead. You’re let’s say

Adey: 17 miles per hour, or sorry, 17 floors,

Fred: 17 close, 20 floors. Oh wow. That be, starts ramping up . It’s pretty cool. Anyway when you walked into the door and had that unpleasant sensation, you were going about two miles per hour. I’m gonna guess that hitting the ground after jumping out of a 20th story window would be less pleasant. Do you agree? I’d

Adey: have to agree with you there.

Michael: Yeah. ,

Fred: how much do you think your leather jacket will protect you in that circumstance?

Not much. Crown numbers not much. Yeah. I think that’s not much a pretty good estimate. And another simple test you can do is to. , take a coconut and hit it with a baseball bat. Just a representative of what will happen to your head when you jump out of that 20th floor. . So that’s all I can do with the physics here today, folks.

It’s over to you.

Anthony: That was, thank you. Was great.

Adey: Thank you very much. That’s sobering.

Anthony: Good. So maybe a two-seater. You could still be cool. Your girlfriend could sit next to you , and it has airbags. There’s seats. , there’s a seat. You’ve got air, you can use it in the winter because there’s Ooh.

A roof and there’s heat. , right? Yeah. I don’t know. You know what’s a relatively inexpensive Amiata. How’s Amiata doing? Crash dusts? They don’t make them anymore, do they?

Michael: I think they actually might, but I, it’s very small vehicle and it’s a convertible typically Probably not.


Fred: Now, I don’t know what type of women or other romantic partners you might be interested in. . But you can go a long way by telling people that you’re a long distance bicyclist and and that you have the what do they call these things? Quads. Quads to prove it. quads. Just a helpful head, I’m trying to help you here.


Michael: there’s always dirt track racing too. Did you, does your know about that? And then you don’t have to worry about all these other bad drive and that usually happens out in the country. It’s pretty cool too.

Adey: You’re right. I should look into that. Yeah. Thank you. No. But I’ll say this about , the girlfriend point.

I don’t think my current one would be too thrilled with me getting. A bike. She’s told me she’s a keeper, so

Michael: marry her. Marry her quickly.

Anthony: She’s a good woman. Marry her. Smart girl. Always liked her.

Adey: Yeah. ,

Fred: so if you’d like help with the physics, just give me a call and I’ll send her the notes.


Anthony: I’d love that. All right.

Adey: And I’ll have to break this to you all at this current moment, I’ve been pretty much convinced not to get one for a couple months now. I’m just I’m happy to be

Michael: here though, , no I prefer you torturing your father for months on end. That’s a

Adey: lot better.

I’ll definitely get a license and I’ll be able to drive one and I’ll drive one at some point, maybe passively. Yeah.

Michael: That’s another thing I was gonna recommend and I’d recommend to everyone considering a motorcycle, is to drive on the roads in a car for a few years and watch what occurs and that might help you in your decision .

Fred: Yeah. I’ve been told that private pilots have a peak in accidents at about 200 hours of experience, cuz that’s when they think they understand how to fly the airplane and that’s when they don’t know how to fly the airplane. In all circumstances and things can go bad in a hurry and once things go bad in a hurry generally nothing good comes from it.

Adey: I like that sounds very specifically directed,

but I love the point, I’m sure you’re.

Anthony: All right. Thanks for joining us today. I’m glad you’re not getting a motorcycle. Your mother would be thrilled to find that out. I didn’t

Adey: say. I’m

Anthony: not what? Come on, ever. I

Adey: will, but I’m convinced it’s a bad idea. Good.

For now,

Fred: So what are you saying that you.

endorse bad ideas on certain circumstances. I’m

Adey: saying I might get more reckless. I have in

Anthony: the past. I’m gonna kick him off of this call.

Michael: Okay, ,

Fred: good to be here.

Michael: Thanks today. Bye-bye.

Anthony: Bye. All right. Yeah. Listeners, if you want your children to be discouraged and or possibly encouraged to drop a motorcycle, just let us know.

We’ll have them on. And Michael will give potentially really bad advice. , tell them to use dirt bikes. Come on.

Michael: They are, they’re not really within the scope of our work here, but they sure do look fun. I rode one as a child on a couple of occasions and it was great.

But, I’m scared to death of driving on roads after seeing some of the folks that are driving around us. .

Anthony: Yeah I agree. So speaking of also people who can’t drive correctly, is it time for an autopilot update or full self-driving update? Because I think the Tesla engineers think, Hey, we’ve got 200 hours or 20,000 hours.

These cars are okay, but we’re seeing more and more. That is not true. In fact, there is a senior Tesla engineer, senior autopilot engineer who said Tesla’s famous 2016 autopilot demonstration where they have the driver in the car yet, I don’t know if you’ve people have seen this, but, and it says, this person’s just here just for legal reasons.

And the car drives itself through San Francisco. It does all these amazing, incredible things and it parks itself. The entire video was staged. It was not representative of reality, and the car, when it was going to park itself crashed into a fence. , which is it’s unbelievable. I hated when

Fred: that happens.

Anthony: Yeah. I’m, but it’s just so blatant that they’re like, they fake this. I remember a long time ago working for Apple, they had this operating system demonstration was like, Ooh. It was very cool. Look at all the stuff that was happening. It was all faked. The whole thing was faked. That CEO was fired.

Everything, batters replaced, but no one would die because of that software. Because of that demo. Unfortunately, Tesla is just, Hey, let’s see how many people we can kill.

Michael: No, it’s just a, it’s another in a long line of, actions that Tesla’s taking through their marketing, through their advertising and interviews where they’re promising a future that might exist one day and they’re trying to suggest that their cars are the solution there.

But their cars simply. are not part of that future right now. At least as far as driving themselves and safely allowing people who are operating, they’re gonna take their hands off the wheel for any long time or, there’s a lot of distraction that’s at play here. And, it’s, we’re continuing to see vehicles.

And if, looking at some of the things that came out of the consumer Electronics show a couple of weeks ago, you would think that they’ve already perfected this whole level two level three problem because they were suggesting even things like. , putting alternate realities on top of the actual reality in the windshields.

I don’t know why they would do that. I guess drivers are so bored and we’ve gotten so safe that we can, see alternate realities in our windshield as we drive now. Some of these things I just find preposterous and it’s just part of this whole industry trend that I think is exemplified by Tesla of promising the future, but not being able to deliver it.

And in the process endangering people. There,

Fred: the trends are headed in the right direction though, because the last guy to start a major car company was, I think John DeLorean, and he simply went straightforward into drug trafficking. We’ve moved from drug trafficking to merely misrepresentation, and maybe it’s a, that’s a good trajectory,

Michael: right?

I don’t, and I don’t, I guess that depends on what you think about Twitter. Versus drunk truck traffic. That’s a good point.

Anthony: Hey, DeLorean, that was a cool looking car.

Michael: It was cool. Yeah. And it ran on lightning .

Anthony: I don’t think it had hair airbags though. But so the New York Times did this whole article on their Sunday magazine coming up this weekend.

The, today’s the 17th, right? Of January. And it talks about ha the reporter goes and meets with these essentially Tesla fans, people who’ve been in crashes with full self-driving on, but they blame themselves a great line from the article. Musk’s referring to Elon Musk’s ideal customer was someone like key, the person in this article who was willing to accept the blame when something went wrong, but possessing almost unlimitless faith in the next update.

So this person’s driving or having full self-driving, take them somewhere full self-driving freaks out crashes, and this person thinks it’s my fault. , I’m pretty sure this is how Scientology started.

Michael: Yeah, it’s an odd exercise in faith that, that we see going on a lot of folks, and we saw it, we talked about this a number of times, how, or about 50% of the folks who are driving these super tech vehicles of all manners think that they can drive themselves now and that they don’t have to pay as much attention as they might, which is simply not true.

And. It’s hard to overstate the problem as we, as we continue to put these cars out there, like we saw at c e s vehicles that are basically advertising video games and movies and all sorts of entertaining experiences in the car that e even involve the driver. And we think it’s just way too early to even think about letting drivers watch movies or interact with anything really other than the road.

And we don’t think that’s coming very quick. Certainly not as quickly as they’d like to advertise that it is. So that’s something that I think all consumers need to take right now with a hefty dose of skepticism. Because there are a lot of folks out there who seem to think that Tesla’s driving themselves is only a matter of time and a matter of faith.

Anthony: Yeah. What Michael keeps referring to is CES is the consumer electronic show. And this past one, there was a number of car companies b w I think Mercedes, where they were, and it wasn’t just German car companies where they were like, Hey, we have video games inside the car. We’ll project as you drive downtown, your windshield screen will put like anime characters over your windshield screen to entertain you while you barrel this, multi ton vehicle at super fast speeds down the highway.

I, I don’t understand. I get why in the back seat you wanna, cuz you’re a bad parent and you wanna distract your children, let them watch movies and stuff, but they’re having this in the front. Like for the driver, which

Michael: is right. And, it’s, it makes, you see who’s behind someone.

I believe Sony was behind one version of that. And they’re in the entertainment business. They’re not gonna make any money building cars. So where their value comes in is an advertising, things like that, and pretending that’s what’s gonna be going in cars soon. But I ju I just think that the cart is way out in front of the horse on some of these in-car experience, things that are being advertised and this stuff about putting the metaverse in your car.

Obviously if your kids are in the backseat doing all this, it’s one thing, but anything that impacts the driver their attention or their ability to control the vehicle it’s, we’re not there yet. We’re not there with driver monitoring and we’re not there with all of the crash avoidance and a d s features.

And we’re certainly not there with cars that can drive themselves. .

Anthony: I can even see with the screens in the backseats, cuz sometimes you see it would be distracting to the driver and the car behind because you’re watching their movie now while they’re watching something and you’re like, wait, what?

What’s on that screen? I’ve seen it where someone was playing in their car system in adult film, and I’m not trying to watch their movie, but all of a sudden you’re like, wait, what’s that? And your eyes are off the road because you’re seeing something you don’t expect to see. And

Michael: anyway, Yeah, I mean I, I’ve never had that experience, but it sounds like somebody needs to be a little more private.

Anthony: I agree. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned this, . I don’t have screens in the backseat of my toilet. I’m

Fred: looking around now. I don’t see anything like that. Just Michael

Anthony: So one of the last things on this Tesla, New York Times article, I want to ask cuz people, a people seem to fall for this line that Tesla puts out there, that their full self-driving is safer than a human driver. They’ve been repeating this claim for a while and they use some crazy math to get to this.

It seems. What do either of the real story on. ?

Michael: I would just classify it in the same BS file of everything that comes out of Tesla regarding statistics. They’ve continued to trumpet that number, that their Teslas are safer, but they haven’t provided the underlying data.

I don’t expect them to, cause I don’t think it exists. I don’t think they can show right now that those vehicles are safer than humans. Particularly for per a hundred million miles traveled. We were just talking about that on motorcycles and, it’s only 1.34 fatalities per a hundred million miles traveled.

And vehicles and, we’ve seen a lot of emergency responders killed and other people by Tesla. Some of those cases are already going to court. So I wanna see a real comparison of, how far these vehicles have gone on autopilot. And as we’ve discussed also on, on the podcast many times, The car that they were driving during those first 10,000 to 20,000 to, a hundred thousand or a million miles, has been modified by software umpteen time since then.

So you can’t really make a comparison about the safety of something that is completely changed from start to finish because it’s not the same product during each one of those

Fred: miles. According to the New York Times and an article published this weekend, the statistics that Tesla offers on the safety of their cars is better than the statistics overall for highway safety.

So what are the caveats? Number one, you can’t have a lot of statistical confidence in that number because they simply haven’t driven enough miles to establish the kind of base that we have with cars overall. Number two, most of the miles that they drove were on protected highways. Protected highways are always much safer than any other kind of transportation system.

Sever, urban roads or suburban roads are much more dangerous than limited access highways where most of the Tesla miles are being driven. Number three, many of the Tesla miles are being driven in California and other places that have very nice weather. Typically not last couple of weeks, not withstanding, typically the weather’s a lot nicer.

And the other point they bring out is that new cars and affluent neighborhoods always have very low accident rates, and all the Teslas are essentially new cars and almost all of them are in affluent neighborhoods. So you would expect any vehicle in that environment to have a very low accident collision rate.

So even if the numbers that Tesla puts out there, are accurate and faithful based upon what they’ve actually recorded in the vehicles. The numbers are just comparable and similar to the numbers that have been demonstrated for other luxury vehicles in the same population being driven by the same population that Tesla owners populate.

So the numbers are, the numbers may be good, but they’re insubstantial and they have been tempered by long use of the cars. Older cars, they haven’t been tempered by lousy roads or just, really bad weather and bad environments. Those numbers will come, but they’re not available yet.

Anthony: And I think we’ve heard it first, Fred argues that rich people are better drivers. I think that’s the takeaway from that.

Fred: Rich people tend to live in places that have better roads. and they tend to have newer cars, so they may not be inherently better drivers than anybody else, but the net safety level of those people, because of the privileged position in society both vertically and laterally, if you will does make it, gives them a higher life expectancy.

Man, I think we all know that’s why people often prefer to be wealthy rather than not wealthy.

Anthony: I

Michael: need a new job. Yeah. I wish I’d done all that before I went into nonprofits. . Yeah. Oh man.

Fred: No. Pro company accepted, okay, good. It motivates a lot

Anthony: of people. So this past week, the N tsb, the National Traffic Safety Board, the head of it came out and talked about the safety risks that heavy electric vehicles pose if they collide with lighter vehicles.

She basically took a physics 1 0 1 class and went, holy cow. And then someone showed her a picture of a, an Ev Hummer, which weighs 3 billion pounds and saw that she was driving a tiny little Prius and thought, I will not survive

Michael: this. And that was Jennifer Jimi, who’s the chair of the NT s b at the there was a T R B conference recently Transportation Research Board that she was speaking at.

And, that’s something that if you’ve been listening to our podcast that I think we’ve been pointing out since the first episode is that while electric vehicles may have future benefits, we’re still really concerned about the weights that are involved, and particularly in vehicles like the one that she cited, which was the Hummer ev, which to us seems like a completely impractical show truck that has no real value other than as an added safety risk on our roads.

Anthony: Hey, it’s 9,000 pounds that goes zero to 60 and like under four seconds. That’s pretty cool.

Michael: Again, cool. .

Fred: It is pretty cool. Yeah. And it’s gonna save the planet too, because it’s electric.

Anthony: Yeah. That’s even,

Michael: wait a second. So I, and I think that, that what they’re looking at and what. We’re trying to point out here is that, there are, we’ve seen the SUVs get bigger and bigger.

We’ve seen people driving bigger and bigger cars over the year and over the years, and that’s a problem. The weight, the added weights are a problem. But in this case, you’re adding a pretty large percentage of weight to the vehicle. You’re talking about the battery in the ev hummer is weighs more than a Honda Civic.

I think it’s about 2,600 pounds. So you’re not just steadily and slowly increasing the sizes and weights, which arguably you could account for in crashworthiness protections. As the years goes by here, in this case, you’re simply adding a big chunk of weight onto each vehicle. And I certainly don’t think that the.

The distribution of that weight and where they’re placing all the vehicles and also the crashworthiness needed in other vehicles to prevent them from being crushed by giant vehicles. None of that’s taking place in a slow manner in this case, like it might have when SUVs came into the world a few years back.

In this case, there’s just a lot of weight being added almost instantly to these platforms

Fred: That added weight has lots of consequences, not only just in accidents, but also in infrastructure. For example, a parking garages are built around the idea that there’s an average weight of the vehicle that’s going to be in the parking garage, and then you have a factor of safety that you apply to that average weight, and that tells you how much concrete you’ve gotta put into the piers that are being used to construct the parking garage.

If everything gets heavier, you’re eating into that margin of safety. , those will wear out faster and there are costs associated with that. The highways will wear out faster and there are costs associated with that, but the EVs typically do not pay a fair amount of tax compared to what everybody else is paying because they’re getting their power from the elect, from the electric grid.

There’s not, in many states, a specific fee associated with electric vehicles. Some states have that, but the fee tends to be insubstantial compared to the average added wear and tear on the highways associated with these extra vehicle weights. Everybody else, has to pay for the privilege of the EV owners driving these relat.

inexpensive to fuel vehicles. I think that’s got to change. People have got to pay their fair share of the upkeep, maintenance, and construction of the in infrastructure that they use every day. Particularly if

Michael: they’re getting subsidized for the purchase of the vehicle through a tax rebate.

Anthony: Oh, I think it would just make more sense to charge not based off of vehicle weight in general.

Cuz a regular gas powered Hummer weighs a hell of a lot too

Michael: compared to my, yeah, it would make sense to charge based on weight and disincentivize people that want to buy giant cars.

Anthony: Again, I’m naive.

Fred: This is America .

Michael: Why are you guys, yeah, and in the end, the manufacturers have a choice here.

They can either not sell people what they want and make, a safer ecosystem for cars to travel in or just do what they’ve been doing for the entire history of the industry, which is sell people what they want without a general regard for safety.

Anthony: Speaking of safety, I think it’s time for the Dow of Fred.

Adey: You’ve now entered the Dow of Fred.

Fred: Oh, thank you. My favorite

Anthony: part. You’re welcome. This week we’re gonna flash back to, I think something that was brought up on the first, very first episode, if I have it correct, is I’m gonna talk about airbag inflater chemistry mechanisms and departure from industrial mil military design standards.

Because somebody asked about that and I have a cat

Fred: begging. There’s a lot to it. Thank you. Thank you, Anthony. Yeah. And one of the things it’s hard to do is to wrap your grasp around something that is inherently so technically complicated and turn it into a bite size chunk that.

people will be willing to listen to. There are very few places people go to listen to a lecture about chemistry and I’m glad this is one of them, but let’s talk about the airbag. Inflaters. They are little devices that generate a lot of gas very quickly and use that to inflate the airbags and act as a cushion when you’re in in a collision.

The airbags are filled with stuff called propellant. Technically, it’s not exactly an explosive. It burns at just the right speed for just long enough to generate gas smoke, if you will. And other combustion products that will fill up the airbag at just the right rate so that you will bounce off of it and, survive the crash.

One of the differences between these devices and similar devices that are used in military and commercial environments is that the ladder go through our qualification process. The objective of a qualification process is to make sure that the device, the electro explosive device, which is what an airbag inflater is, will be both safe and effective at the end of its service life, not at the beginning of its service life at the end.

So typical service life for these things could be 30 years. In order to do that, the bags go through a very complicated series of tests that include exposure to environments accelerated exposure to environments. For example, salt spray that inundates it for days at a time. Vibrations that are much higher than the vibrations you would expect to have hot and cold cycles that exceed what you would expect to have normally because you’re trying to accelerate.

You’re trying to accelerate whatever damage you’ve got or whatever damage would occur in the limited time available to do the qualification. Now, there are a lot of materials that can possibly be used in airbags. A list I’ve got here is, I’ll just run through it quickly just to give you an idea of the complexity of the industry.

Sodium aide, strum, nitrate, potassium chloride, potassium nitrate, guine nitrate, potassium per chloride, ammonium per chloride. Copper nitrate, copper oxide, guine. I’m not an expert.

Anthony: Guine aren’t half of these things. I’m not an expert. But half of these things sound like aren’t they, don’t they? Most of these things cause cancer.

Fred: Extra. Many of the most, I’m not sure, but many of them are hazardous chemicals. And you can find, I think you can find a lot of them on the back of the Nature Valley snack bar list of ingredients as well. Okay. How the, how fast they burn depends upon what their chemical nature is and how they’re packaged.

So talk about phase stabilized ammonium nitrate which is down at the bottom of the list. Those are actually formed. Its little PTs like, like aspirin tablets, and they’re packed really hard into those tablets because ammonium nitrate, when it burns on the surface of whatever the the particle is, right?

So if it burns on the surface, it has to burn down through the surface at a certain rate, and that gives you the nice blow that goes out into the airbag at just the right rate. So it inflates it, but doesn’t rupture and cause a catastrophic problem inside your car. Now the problem that, that they were running into with the Takata airbags and the phase stabilized aluminum nitrate inflaters, is that they were never qualified.

They never went through the qualification test to make sure that they would be safe and effective at the end of their life. And what happened is these little aspirin, like aspirin pills inside of them cracked over time. And what happens when they cracked is they increase the surface area, right? Because you’ve got the crack and now you’ve got twice the surface area you had before because there are cracks running through it.

So since it’s burning on the surface and since it’s burning on all surfaces, it burns a lot faster when it’s cracked or in a powder form than it does when it’s packed densely into a pill form. This is what caused the rupture of the airbags. It wasn’t a blockage per se, it was just that they were burning much faster than the gas could be taken.

and sent into the airbag. So they ruptured and that caused the explosion of the of the vehicle, the ruptured in the shrapnel that has been killing people. Again, it’s not explosive material per se, because explosive material burns, they’re incredibly, rapidly, much faster than these materials. So the hazard is caused by the buildup of pressure inside the casing.

It’s not the, it’s not inherent in the materials itself. I’m only going into this to say that there’s an awful lot involved in these processes and most of the processes that we discuss we, we toss ’em off in a few minutes, but there’s an awful lot of engineering and qualification that goes into these.

If anybody would like to see for themselves how complex they can get, I invite you to look at mill Standard 1751 dash a mill Standard 1 70 51 dash a. Which talks about the safety performance test qualification for electric explosive devices and energetic materials in general. Not that I expected you to do that, but again, there’s a lot to it.

And at some level you can admire the processes and the engineers and the chemists who go through this process to make sure that these can be done at another level. You might wonder why NHTSA doesn’t require similar qualification process for these millions of airbag inflaters that are currently in cars across the country when nobody knows what their end of life performance is going to be.

Nobody knows when they fall off the cliff and should be replaced. I think we’re in a new world than we were 20 years ago, and we really need to do a much better job qualifying the components before they go into vehicles, which are expected to last a long time. Have a lot of capabilities and a lot of potential for damage to the occupants of the vehicle if they’re used beyond their useful service life.

Nobody knows what that is now, and I we think that’s a defect in the regulations that should be addressed.

Anthony: So we, what you’re talking about the end of useful life after the baseline they’re saying is 30 years, obviously we see cars on the road that are much older than 30 years old.

And we know there’s a problem with Takota at, the 10 year mark or something like that. They start decaying. Is this a hidden time bomb with other manufacturers when they hit the 40 year mark, the 50 year mark, or no one

Fred: knows? Is it a hidden time bomb? I don’t know. Nobody. . It would, I think, be wise for somebody to do a survey and find out how these other airbag inflaters are doing.

I think it would also be wise for people to have established the useful service life of these components within the vehicles and alert owners at the time, or somehow alert the public when any one of these, it gets beyond its service life. Airplanes are retired at about 20 years, they’re perfectly fine.

They still fly. They fly ’em into someplace where they leave them in the in the boneyard, right? Or they fly ’em to South America and sell ’em off to people who are less careful about safety, but, , there’s a lot of body of analysis behind those airplanes that says, after 20 years, you have dropped below the acceptable level of safety or the qualification of the aircraft.

So you’ve gotta do something to it. Either rebuild it or inspect it or get rid of it. , there’s nothing comparable for cars. And on puzzle puzzled by that there should be some comparable standard that forces people to say, here’s the useful service life. Here’s when you need to really do something serious.

If you don’t really bad things can happen to you.

Anthony: Yeah. I wonder off on these early airbags, or ones from the nineties even. I wonder if even just the vinyl wraps around them, if they wear out before the airbag inflaters do. I’m thinking of a, the car I learned to drive on was this Honda Accord and the, just the covering of that was, it was vinyl and that stuff will just decay over time.


Fred: It does. We talked about that I think a couple of weeks ago where we talked about the ate leaching out of the fabric, leaching outta the vinyl. Over time, vinyl lose changes its characteristics, if you leave something out in the backyard after a year you come back to it, it’s not as usual as it was before.

So I, I think that’s a great point you bring up. And I think that’s something important. The whole system there, there’s needs to be addressed and the safety of that whole system needs to be addressed, particularly as the vehicles get older. But even when they’re new, the standards for qualifying them and for addressing the adequate safety are very loosely defined.

And there’s a lot of latitude for manufacturers to do pretty much, pretty much whatever they want in that arena.

Anthony: So two takeaways, regulation’s, probably a good idea and I had a good point. Okay. . There we go. Congratulations. , I know. Only took 29 episodes.

Fred: No, we like that. Don’t you know, it’s true that even a blind squirrel will find a nut every now and again, but not to say you’re a nut, but

Anthony: ah, but a blind squirrel.

All . That’s good. Should we move on to listener now? Is that the point in the Absolutely. We love our listeners. Okay. We’ve got good listener Mailin. Let’s take a look. Oh, my computer’s hiding my listener mail. First of all, here’s a short one from our super fan, Jane Perkins.

Thank you for helping me discover my inner nerd. I love this podcast. We love you. You do great work. And then the next one we have from Melody Berg who asks why the lack of details for all of these great topics. We only have an hour. Maybe we could get more into ball with certain things.

But anyway Kia Hyundai fires, I don’t see the engine specified other than the really bad ones, the four cylinders. What about the six cylinder engine engines? Do they catch on fire? Are Toca airbags still being put in new cars such as a 2023 Toyota 4runner in Highlander? You mentioned 34 com core 34 car companies that still have recalls on Tata airbags, which companies don’t have any teca airbags.

So that’s a lot of things we have there. So let’s just break it down to the first one, which was Kia Hyundai fires. Is it just the four cylinders or is it also the six cylinder engines that have been catching on fire?

Michael: There are a lot of different fire recalls on the key and Hyundais in the past decade.

The main recall. That we were involved in with our defect petition involved. The four cylinders that were the G B I engine is what they call it. That the six cylinders when we didn’t see the same number of complaints about fires, I think that was backed up by the Insurance Institute study that looked at pier vehicles and found that the Kia Hyundai vehicles in the six cylinder models had lower rates even in the peer vehicles that were included in the study.

So it didn’t appear at the time that those vehicles were having the same engine problems and potential fire problems that the four cylinder vehicles were. Now there are a number of fire recalls that have been released behind I Kia in the last couple years, three years or so. Since Nitsa started the investigation on, electrical system issues and other things that don’t have anything to do with engine.

So I encourage someone, certainly check the recalls on their vehicle to see if any of those other recalls apply. But for the engine failure issue that, that resulted in fires, those were mostly and only limited to the four cylinder GDI I engines.

Anthony: Okay. Are Toccata airbags still being put in new cars?

Does Takata still

Michael: exist? No, they don’t exist. Yeah. They were turned into a group, I believe called Key Safety Systems. But no, there are no more toccata bags going into cars that pose the risk that was around from about 2002 through 2017 models. So anything built after 2000. 17, maybe some 2000 eighteens involved.

But you can be fairly certain that anything built a 2018 or later model year is not going to have theta problem.

Anthony: Okay. Then shows the question, what about this new start stop technology? It sounds like another disaster in the making. I’m not exactly sure what that’s referring

Michael: to. I don’t, we haven’t received a lot of safety related complaints on the start, stop.

I know a lot of people are annoyed by them. The only reason they’re in cars is because it’s a way for manufacturers to comply with the fuel economy standards. But

Anthony: What is she referring to? What is start, stop? I don’t,

Michael: I think it’s the start when you get to a stop.

and you stop and your engine cuts off. Oh,

Anthony: I hear that all the time. And I’m thinking, there you go, nuts. That’s what that is. Yeah.

Michael: So and so I could see scenarios where it, could be dangerous, not if it’s not working properly. For instance, if you’re on, say a 55 mile per hour highway that has stoplights and the stop start doesn’t work.

The start half of it doesn’t take place and you’re stuck in the middle of the road with possibly people coming up behind you at speed. Those kind of scenarios where it’s puts you in a situation similar to a stall. I’m sure there’s been a recall or two out there for something like that. That’s, that would be, I would expect that.

But overall I don’t think we’ve seen large negative safety impacts from the start step technology other than the annoyance that finding out your car has that and no spare tire so that the manufacturers can comply with fuel economy regs.

Anthony: Wait, is that the whole point of a start stop is for fuel economy.

Michael: Yeah. It reduces how, how much gasoline you’re burning.

Fred: But doesn’t it reduces pollution too, particularly under urban neighborhoods.

Michael: And the lack of the tire reduces the weight of your vehicle, which reduces how much gas you’re burning. Sure. That’s,

Anthony: but doesn’t the start stop, I thought that would increase pollution because when you first start in an ice engine, doesn’t it burn off more toxic chemicals versus having it idle for the length of a red light?

Fred: When you start it from cold? Yes, it will. Okay. But if the engine’s warm, it just, it pops right in and pretty much assumes whatever efficiency it had before you stopped. If you stopped for, 20 minutes or half hour, sure. The components in the engine are gonna start to shrink again. But I don’t think that’s an issue with the start, stop at, continuous use.

Anthony: Okay. That’s good to know. Cause I thought that a lot of people in my neighborhood were just nutso and kept turning their cars on and off at traffic lights.

Michael: You not, you don’t have that on your car. No,

Anthony: it doesn’t have that at all. No. It gets really good gas mileage. It’s

Michael: on average, I don’t know if every manufacturer put it in or not.

I know that I’ve got it on the Volkswagen.

Fred: I’ve got it in my Subaru as well, but it’s, it seems a little bit ridiculous, but after three weeks of driving, it gives me an announcement that I’ve saved 0.1 gallons of gas. It just,

Michael: and it turned the I don’t I, my annoyance is in the summer it turns off the air conditioning.

When the car shuts off its stop lights. I’m hot Nature. That’s no fun. .

Anthony: Okay, I got the last listener mail. I’m gonna try and do my best to get to it, but it was someone was had an operator’s course involving a prototype, Eva Ev semi right. It said the number one instruction that was given during this is the single most important thing needed to be talked about, which is, if involved in an accident, the driver must shut off the master power switch to prevent the first responders from being electrocuted and possibly killed.

This is an issue we’ve talked about in the past. So operating on a 484 80 circuit enables this possibility. Do autos have the same potential problem? Do first responders know anything about this potential problem? Is it safe for witnesses to an accident to help a victim without becoming a victim themselves?

These are all great

Michael: questions. Yeah. Those are good questions. And they’re this is an area where somehow, some way Nitsa laid out safety groundwork years ago on passenger vehicles. It they, FM d s, federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 3 0 5. Was put into play back in the nineties when Nitsa started working on it.

I believe it was finally promulgated around 2001. And what it’s intended basically to ensure that the batteries are safe to approach for emergency responders and even, almost as importantly, safe for the person that might still be trapped in the car or bystanders or anyone in the area.

And what it’s intended to do is isolate high voltage risks in the event of the crash. And also it has some it’s also in intended to ensure that the battery integrity is strong so that the battery isn’t spilling electrolytes or other material unsafe materials out that could, harm people or whatever in the event of a crash.

, that’s a problem. And nit in that case, the standard has been into, in effect for 20 years. It’s almost like they knew all these EVs were coming , we wish they would be that have that more for, have that much foresight on a lot of the other areas that we work with them on.

What the reader was writing it about was a semi tractor truck. Those are over 10,000 pounds, obviously, and the NITSA standards don’t apply to them. And so they’re on those trucks is a manual cutoff switch to turn off the battery before or after an event, or before emergency services arrive.

That’s not an ideal solution to us because, obviously the operator of the semi could be injured in a crash and First responders, as we know, many of them, they’re well trained, but they have a lot of jobs they have to take care of and a lot of different kind of cars and trucks that they have to deal with.

And figuring out where a manual switch is on every make and model of truck or car out there is a difficult thing. And we don’t know that manufacturers and the government have really put it, invested enough time and money into systems that can train emergency responders on, where these things are and how to avoid dangers.

So that part of the question remains somewhat unresolved, although we don’t believe it is. It’s not, nits has already put out this regulation to help protect folks in passenger cars and they’re going to be updating that regulation soon. As well as they integrate some of the battery management system work that the UN is doing into federal regulations on EV batteries.

Fred: I also wanna point out that circling back to the last week, the underwriters laboratory, UL 4,600 standard that we discussed last week includes many safety case considerations associated with the integrity of the vehicle after a crash, including isolation of the electrical systems. A UL 4,600 has recently been extended to include heavy trucks that was originally just associated with light vehicles.

So we can hope that they manufacture those those light trucks are using that standard and adopting some of the safety case practices in that standard to address exactly this issue along with the whole host of other safety issues.

Anthony: I’m gonna tackle the last part of their question was, is it safe for witnesses to an accident to help a victim without becoming a victim?

I’ve taken a Wilderness first aid course, so I know the answer to this one. If you’re in an urban area or emergency services or. Relatively nearby. Don’t, do not try to help. Do not get involved like that because especially with an ev whatnot, ideally the emergency services will have training. They don’t need another victim on their hand.

Michael: Right. And that goes, I suppose that would go for most situations, but if someone desperately has to exit a vehicle due to fire or something else, that’s a tough decision to make. And it’s hard for the average consumer looking at a vehicle to determine whether or not it’s an electric vehicle or not.

You might not even be aware. It’s not like they have a big flag warning you that there’s a battery there. It’s certainly something to consider. Now the Nitsa standard is supposed to ensure that there are no risks to bystanders or to emergency personnel. I don’t, we don’t live in a perfect world.

I’m sure there are sometimes where that standard. Doesn’t quite get the job done, especially cuz it’s about 20 years over 20 years old. But they are going to upgrade it and hopefully some of the lessons we’ve learned from EVs in the last few years will be implemented into it.

Anthony: So let’s move to solid state batteries or some other non-combustible technology as soon as possible.

Fred: The combustion is one part of it, but the other part is just getting yourself into a circuit between the high voltage and the ground on the vehicle. So those are mostly encased in the vehicle and you can’t say that it cannot happen that you could electrocut, but what would have to happen to somebody outside of the vehicle is that the ground line from the electric vehicle would have to attach.

pretty, pretty well to the earth itself and former conductive path. And then also the person on the outside of the vehicle would have to touch an energize part of the vehicle. So it, it would be extraordinarily difficult for all that to happen. Not impossible, but it would be difficult to happen. So I guess on balance, I’d say if the car’s on fire and you can break a window and get somebody out, go ahead and do it.

But if it’s, if there’s not an imminent threat to human life and there’s somewhere definitely leave this to the professionals.

Anthony: Yes. Agreed. And I think on that note I think everybody’s learned a bunch of very valuable lessons today. only get involved. There’s a danger to human life.

I made a good point. Motorcycles are horrible things for teenagers living under my

Fred: roof. We also learned that your son has good judgment. So that was a good outcome for

Anthony: today. that Yeah, that’s true. But, cool. He’s got the leather jacket,

Michael: I’ll let it stop.

Give him a break. He’s 17, Anthony. I know. .

Fred: He gets points for honesty. I gotta say that too. .

Anthony: Without a doubt. Hey, with that, thank you listeners. I hope you’ve enjoyed the time as much as we have. Bye. Thank you.

Michael: Bye bye.


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