Pushing buttons

Touch screen or physical buttons that go click? This is the new Pepsi challenge. Where are you? Odds are if you are here then you like the buttons. So do we. This week we start off with a story about how the Europeans are going to ding manufacturers for hiding features behind a touch screen. Telsa decided to go even further and remove turn signal stalks, the Biden administration talks about cyber security for your car, Waymo takes to LA and a thief tries to take a Waymo, it’s “recall week” at NHTSA, Fred explains flying cars and we cover some 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.

Michael: Good morning. Morning. Good morning. Morning.

Anthony: Alright, let’s get ready for another episode of their auto be a law. Or however the voice transcription will decide how that’s spelled. How do you guys feel about buttons?

Michael: I really like buttons. I got some on my pants.


Fred: come in really handy.

Anthony: Wow. That was both of you at the same time, so I guess you guys are like the Europeans and you like buttons. There’s a article in Ars Technica talking about the new Euro NCAP tests due in 2026, which will encourage manufacturers to use separate physical controls.

For basic functions in an intuitive manner, limiting eyes off road time and therefore promote safer driving. Yes, this is about your car’s removing buttons and putting it all on a touch screen, which is a nightmare. Or as Michael pointed out in, I believe last week’s episode, that someone couldn’t start their car because they had to page through menu item after menu item to find the defrost function in a Tesla.

So buttons. Good.

Michael: Yeah. Buttons. Buttons are great. I think the thing that I like most about buttons is that, where they are or with, with a little limited experience, you know exactly where they are and can use them without diverting your attention from the road. You know how to use your wiper fluid, where, Your defroster buttons are and you’re not scrolling through a menu to get to them.

And so as manufacturers have tried to, do a lot of cost savings by migrating buttons into touch screen and infotainment software. I think one area where. We really need to be careful is when you’re putting buttons that have a safety related feature to them, such as defrosters, wipers, lights.

There are a lot of various hazards. There are a lot of areas of the car where people are going to be using these. Features in situations where they may not have time to scroll through a menu on the touch screen in the vehicle. And there needs to be with the safety and performance and operational buttons, seat heaters.

Fine. Put them into the touchscreen. Don’t allow people to mess around with them while the vehicle’s in motion, though. There has to be, some, I don’t know NHTSA’s take has been to take about, 15 years now, maybe a little longer. To put out a research and to put out a list of guidelines for manufacturers to supposedly follow when they’re building these vehicles, but we continue to see a lot of consumer complaints and just general problems with.

Finding vehicle features in these menus. And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that you’re, when you’re having, when you’re driving a vehicle and you’re having to use your defroster, for example, you shouldn’t have to divert your attention from the road for an extended period of time to go through a menu to find that feature that’s dangerous.

And that’s what the Euro NCAP is essentially acknowledging is that, buttons work a little better. For safety purposes, and Euro NCAP is also, giving more points to cars that have buttons for those types of features. The problem here is that, buttons aren’t cheap, putting all this into a touch screen and using software to, to do this is a lot less expensive, and so manufacturers like



Anthony: don’t know I’m a, I think I’m on the line that there’s too many buttons in my car, mainly around the steering wheel. It took me three years to figure out what one button did. And it’s an icon of a car with three waves three little lines going off the front of it. And that button only works if I had automatic lane control and auto adaptive cruise control in place.

And it’s a button that shouldn’t exist. Because that button, you press it and it says, Hey, this is how close we’re going to get you to the car in front of you. There’s no

Michael: Is that the button that controls the radar’s distance and where it’s sensing? Yeah, so that you don’t, you’ll be on the highway a lot and you’ll see people who are using adaptive cruise control because they’ll pass you and then they’ll get back in the right lane and then a car in front of them will slow them down and they won’t even realize they’re slowing down because the system’s doing it and you’ll go back, you’ll pass them again and then you’ll notice they look up and oh my God, my adaptive cruise control slowed me down, this guy just passed past me, I’ve got to speed up again and so the distance That it starts slowing you behind another vehicle is probably, I’m guessing that’s what that button does.

Fred: Michael, you got to realize also that you’re in Washington and the imperative there is just to get ahead of somebody else. It’s not to get anywhere in particular. It’s a little different psychology there. Speaking of psychology, why is it that the Europeans are so much more aggressive about acknowledging the blinding obvious than is NHTSA.

They’re way ahead in this particular aspect, they’re way ahead in passenger safety tests for their Euro NCAP, they’re way ahead in terms of pedestrian safety. Is there something in the water in the U. S. that’s slowing people down?

Michael: Yeah, they’re also way ahead of us in actual results on the road.

The carnage on the road in the United States compared to Europe is really astounding to me. When you look at the numbers based on vehicle miles traveled, when you know, there’s similar populations, roughly similar land areas involved. All the rates are almost, I think we have almost three times the rate of crashes and deaths and injuries than certainly fatal crashes than Europe does.

So either we’re just much worse drivers or they have a lot more safety that’s put in place by law and regulation.

Fred: Should we eat more baguettes and drink more champagne? Would that help, do you think?

Michael: I don’t know if that’s good for my diet.

Anthony: Who cares? But I think I’m on board with that. So there’s a related continuing on the button theme Forbes.

We’ve got an article in link to this article, not an article linking to it, but a link to this article. Okay, shut up, Anthony. Just do the goddamn quote. From this article it’s talking about touchscreens and how consumers like them. Quoting, Customers find the experience more exciting, adds Brent Wickham which sounds like a Ricky Gervais character the head of CAD and user experience at Hydra Design Labs, and it’s a great way for companies to expound on their brand.

Wait, so I don’t want to be more excited in my car. Maybe I’m just getting older, but this is not One, I do not want my car to be more exciting. I want it to be more boring driving it. And no, I do not want advertising and to remind myself all the time that, Hey, you’re driving Brand X car. There’s a giant logo on the steering wheel that I have to see all the time.


Fred: Maybe, Anthony, maybe you shouldn’t have bought a Maserati.

Anthony: Hey, look, my doctor prescribed me to buy a Maserati after you suggested putting tomato sauce inside my Lamborghini, okay? That was a fair offer. It was my Ferrari. I put tomato sauce in all my Italian supercars.

Michael: The point, I guess the main point of this article was that, nine, 97 percent of the vehicles sold in the United States have at least one touch screen.

Now that screen is the screen being in the car. There’s always going to be a screen in the car because you’ve got your. Reverse screen there to prevent backovers when you put the car in the verse, there’s going to be a screen that pops up and shows you what you’re doing, it’s not necessarily the screen.

That’s the problem. It’s how many functions are embedded in that screen and how large is that screen? How distracting is that screen? Yeah. I don’t know, some of the folks quoted in the article are in the industry and they’re selling this stuff like the guy who claims it’s exciting.

I think when we look at feedback from consumers, the touchscreen electronics are the most complained about item in cars these days. So there’s a pretty large gulf between the impressions of people who are making this technology versus the people who are buying it.

Anthony: Yeah, so back to my rant saying there’s too many buttons on steering wheels.

Now Tesla is working on a new, they’re getting rid of the traditional. Steering wheel stalk, you know those little levers on the side where I always press them wrong when I try to clear my front windshield and instead it cleans the reverse, the back windshield. Tesla’s getting rid of those and they’re going to be using force touch buttons on the steering wheel to activate turn signals.

I don’t know how you control wipers on a Tesla, now you got buttons on your steering wheel for turn signals and I guess the European NCAP are like, Yeah, you guys are not gonna get a perfect safety rating anymore. Why is this a bad thing? Cause I kinda like that idea I just, ah, I wanna push on the right side, and make a left turn, because I’m in Massachusetts!

Fred: If you’ve got little buttons, you could have codes built into them. Three rapid taps turns on your rear windshield washer, and two rapid taps turns on your front windshield washer. And, tap the left and the right to reset the Engine, and a lot of possibilities there, all of which would be very confusing to somebody who isn’t well versed in the owner’s manual.

As you pointed out before, not everybody reads the owner’s manual, and particularly when you’re renting a car or you’ve only got temporary use of the car, it could be a real problem, particularly if you have any safety critical features like, oh, let’s say turn signals that are embedded in the embedded in the car, and you have to figure out the code in order to use them.

Anthony: Okay I’m on board. You convinced me. I’m a guy who can’t even figure out how to display all the apps running on my iPad. Okay.

Michael: And moving away from, a lot of these technologies are moving away from the way All of us have been trained to drive now for decades. It’s beyond just confusion and learning how to do this, you’re, it’s going to take you more time to learn and to activate signals or other vehicle features that require you to.

Learn a new trick particularly if you’re having to learn double taps, triple taps and that kind of thing. So all of this really comes down to, we’d like it to be as easy as possible to operate a car and the. Safety features in a car, I don’t care how long it takes you to turn on your heated seat or any of the other creature features in the car, as long as you’re not doing it while the vehicle’s in motion.

But when it comes to vehicle features that have to be used while you’re, while the vehicle’s in motion, why aren’t we making it as easy as possible for people to use those without becoming distracted or, any other type of safety issue arising?

Fred: For a concrete example, my car allows you to change the mode through which the rear tailgate opens, whether you want it to be in memory mode or to be in fixed mode.

What does that mean? I don’t see any. Memory mode would say if you have to push it up or pull it down every time it’ll memorize the location versus the default mode, which would just go to a built in built in angle. So I don’t know why they’ve got that in there. It seems pretty useless and I can understand why you would not have a button on the dashboard dedicated to that, but it’s a, I think it’s a good example of where it is appropriate to have it embedded several layers down.

In the touchscreen and not on a button on the dashboard.

Anthony: I’m sorry, I’m so confused. So your tailgate, so basically you have a hatchback type thing and the rear thing, in my experience, it just opens and it closes. And yours will open and stop like halfway if you want?

Fred: Yeah, apparently.

Michael: Why would you want that?

I know why. If you have a big dog and a little dog, you only want to let the little dog out.

Fred: I happen to be I happen to be tall, and I notice that I bang my head on the tailgate a lot if I’m not paying attention. I tend to push it up high and hope that the memory will keep it in the highest possible location.

Anthony: Yeah, why wouldn’t it always just go to the highest possible location? Besides Michael and his big dog, little dog problem. Maybe

Michael: saving energy.

Fred: It was designed by it was designed by Japanese people, and maybe they would need to have a built in stepladder if they had it I don’t know. I don’t know the answer.


Anthony: I’ve never even heard of such a thing. This is I’m gonna have to stare at people opening their tail lifts now and see if it does that.

Michael: I’m sure, please, if you know why that happens, listeners, let us know because we are clueless. I don’t think it’s the dog. I also don’t think it’s Fred’s racist explanation.

Anthony: Yeah. It’s more of a height ist explanation, because he’s just bragging about how tall he is. Don’t pin

Michael: that on me, I’m a nice guy.

Fred: And he’s

Anthony: always just bragging about, hey, I’m six foot eight, what’s it like down there, tiny? So Okay, this is this is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard, but let’s keep going with crazy.

Cause I think what you guys just described with these touchscreen buttons and whatnot, and we want cars to be as simple as possible and safe, and you don’t have to worry about all this stuff, the two of you just made an argument for fully autonomous vehicles. That’s right, get rid of the driver, what could go wrong?

We’ll just, you’re just, we’ll all just be passengers, man, it’ll be great. And Waymo has just gotten permission from Los Angeles to expand their driverless taxi, robo taxi. Hit random things, quit while going, experiment on the public without their consent or permission or knowledge to the Los Angeles area.

The the consumer, the California Public Utilities Commission formerly known as GM Cruz’s legal department, ha, asterisks, I’m just kidding, have given the green light for Waymo to expand and they don’t have the exact date of when this is going to happen.

Mainly because local leaders down there are like, Yeah no. I we’re not so happy about some people in Sacramento saying this is what’s gonna happen here. When I do not believe driverless taxis are available in Sacramento. Are they?

Michael: No, I don’t know if there’s another company that might be working there, but I don’t think so.

Um, l. A. is going to be, L. A. is, it’s a different area. It’s a different challenge than San Francisco. I’m not super familiar with, both, I, I know that we are already seeing some stories come out of L. A. about, Problems and protests and other issues.

So I don’t think if LA is going to be any easier than San Francisco has been on crews and Waymo, the lot remains to be seen here, when they deploy, where they deploy Also, as I believe as part of this, Waymo has gotten permission to operate on highways and at higher speeds in California, which is the really the really interesting part for us because, one of our.

Primary criticisms of these vehicles as their CEOs have come out and said, they’re going to save us all from ourselves is that, they’re not operating at speeds over 25 or 35 miles per hour. We are going to see far fewer crashes and far fewer fatal and injury crashes at those low speeds.

Their data, however many millions of miles they say they’re traveling doesn’t really mean quite as much. You can’t compare it to the rest of us. Cause we’re out on interstates driving 70 plus and and in very different conditions than these vehicles. So that’s going to be something I think is worth following.

And that is if these vehicles can ever get up to the speeds on Los Angeles interstate. Exactly.

Fred: It’s hard to see how. Adding thousands of automated cars to the traffic system in Los Angeles is going to help alleviate the traffic congestion problem. That just seems to be headed in exactly the wrong direction, but that’s just me.

These must be very smart people at the Public Utilities Commission there who have figured this out in ways that I simply don’t understand.

Anthony: You heard it here first, Fred thinks the people of the California Public Utilities Commission are very smart people. From this article on MSN that we’re talking about, L.

A. County Supervisor Janice Han called the CPUC’s approval a dangerous decision. These robo taxis are far too untested, and Angelenos shouldn’t be Big Tech’s guinea pigs. I love that. She’s absolutely right. Unfortunately, it seems in California her voice doesn’t matter because it’s, it happens at the state instead of the city level.

Michael: Yeah, that’s right. And, we’ve seen actions from the governor of California that suggests he is firmly on the side of the tech grows and he’s, not willing to do things like require safety drivers in these vehicles while they’re being tested on roads. That could really help alleviate a lot of the problems that we saw in San Francisco.

If you have a safety driver in the car, you’re not going to be running over fire hoses, hitting buses, going into concrete and striking and pulling off the road with a pedestrian to your vehicle. So there’s not a lot of leadership at the top there.

Anthony: I wonder how these automated vehicles will deal with wildfire season in California, I think they’re programmed for that.

Michael: I seriously doubt there is any anything in those vehicles that’s going to allow folks to flee wildfires or anything else. But who knows maybe Waymo’s got that one programmed in. They’re certainly testing in areas in California where that’s a possibility.

Fred: I think the experience so far is that they tend to converge on areas where there’s an emergency or high density use of cell phones, right?

Doesn’t that what happened in San Francisco where at one point where the, where you almost came in and completely blocked the highway outside of a concert?

Anthony: Yeah, it was the Waymo’s, I think, and the Cruze’s, where they lost cell coverage, and they’re like, Let’s just park here in the middle of the road.

But, hey okay, look, we beat up self driving cars a lot on this show, and by we, mainly me. But, come on, guys, there’s at least one good thing about self driving cars. Come on what, Fred what do you think’s one good thing that a self driving car has over a human driven vehicle.

Michael: Du Better se better security, better cyber

Anthony: security.

Oh, somebody not named Fred tried to answer. Oh, and Fred tried to answer but he forgot he put himself on mute.

Fred: Less gross weight associated with the passengers.

Michael: That’s correct.

Anthony: Wow, okay, I was not expecting that one. Now, Michael, your answer we’re going to get to in a second, but no, we’re going to go to a story out of NBC News where a man tried to steal a Waymo.

The passenger got out and he just committed a crime, and he jumped into the driver’s seat and tried to take off, but he couldn’t put the car in drive. He couldn’t figure out how to use the car. And the Waymo support got on and said, Hey, get out of the driver’s seat. Get out of the car. And the guy’s no, I’m taking this car.

And they’re like, we’re calling the police.

Fred: Oh, doesn’t that prove that two wrongs don’t make a right.

Anthony: But three lefts make a right. Yeah, it’s amazing to me. I love it that he, the guy attempted to put the vehicle in drive, but could not manipulate the controls. Now, I don’t know what that means, why he couldn’t manipulate the controls, but I’m surprised that Waymo couldn’t just like auto lock the doors and be like, you’re stuck.

Fred: There’s a

Anthony: touchscreen. I was talking about that. Oh, the touchscreen. Is that, I don’t know these are Jaguars. Do they actually have touchscreens?

Fred: They must,

Michael: I don’t know, it’s a little confusing. I think the last article we were looking at on Waymo getting permission to operate in LA said, we don’t really know.

And they didn’t really know what their plans were. It was going to be launched, but here we’ve got a Waymo vehicle operating in LA that just dropped off a passenger without a safety driver. So I’m not sure how to reconcile those two things, but in any case, we’re not sure if the vehicle, if the.

If the first, the thief they’re calling him in the article, if the thief got into the driver’s seat and was unable to control this, I think it’s a Jaguar eye pace, if it was unable to control the vehicle, because, he simply couldn’t understand how to switch it into drive because it’s got one of these crazy transmission systems where you don’t have, like we’re talking about with buttons, you don’t have your traditional mechanism.

To shift from park to drive, or whether there was a security system involved, or whether the Waymo software simply prevents someone from hopping in the car and driving. We’re a little unclear on that, but, they’re doing a better job than Hyundai and Kia.

Anthony: Listeners, if you’re going to steal a car, if there’s a large LiDAR array on the top of the car move on to the next vehicle.

Just don’t try to steal self driving cars because it’s, it’s not going to end well. Speaking of Hyundai Kia, this is I don’t know if you guys run into this problem, but I had some friends over and they were bragging about one of their cars, about how everyone loves it. And the dealership tried to buy it back during COVID.

It’s great. And I had to sit there and bite my tongue and be like, yeah, no your car is awesome. And I wanted to hand them a USB cable. I didn’t because I. Want to have a couple of friends in my life.

Michael: This is a spare

Anthony: key.

All right. So Michael, you mentioned national security issues here. So the Biden administration recently took on national security threats from cars. And I know you’ve discussed this and we have this listed on our EV page where people are like, Oh, the Chinese, they’re going to own the EV market and batteries because, fear.

But your take is more of the issue is more cyber security.

Michael: Yeah, and that’s typically in the context of autonomous vehicle manufacturers pushing legislation under the guise that if they aren’t giving, given all of this corporate welfare from our government to roll out their vehicles and treat us like guinea pigs, that China is somehow going to magically take over the industry and build this unicorn of a vehicle that no one has.

seen yet. They’re also concerned with EVs, mainly because, they China’s just one of, one of the China’s companies has just surpassed Tesla is the largest EV manufacturer in the world. So they’re building a lot of EVs and the United States government has been pushing really hard, both in our infrastructure and in other ways through.

Subsidies and other things to get more of us into evs. And there are a lot of goals behind a lot of that. But in this case these cars, what this really addresses are just connected vehicles. Generally, it’s not just a these, not just TVs. It’s. Really any of our cars that are connecting that are that are collecting data They’re worried that you know A lot of these a lot of these electronics are not being made in america.

They’re being made in china They’re being made in hong kong and korea and in a lot of Other places in the world and some of these places where they’re being made or where their Supply might be coming from even, very small parts of a vehicle Are you know not friendly to the united states from a national security standpoint?

and We’re taking all this technology. We’re sticking it in our cars and then we’re driving around and We’re not aware, you don’t know all the data that’s being collected on you by your computer any one moment. It’s really difficult to figure out what your car is collecting on you at any one moment.

There are cameras that are constantly collecting data. There’s GPS in many of these vehicles. Your communications are going through some of these vehicle systems. There’s a lot of data there, and that data can be used by bad actors in other countries by, intelligence agencies and other countries, and in many ways that could compromise the national security of, individual Americans or, our country as a whole.

So the Biden administration has. It’s essentially ordered the Department of Commerce to start a rulemaking to look into this. And basically from a, from the initial standpoint, from an initial standpoint, they just want to figure out, what’s going on where are these threats, where are they coming from?

And, Something that’s interesting about this to me is that, they’re targeting specific countries, the usual suspects, China, Iran, North Korea, but, some guy in France could create something and it could be spying on us all the time. And if it’s in a car, but we have, there’s not going to be an executive order that’s targeting that.

So it’s a, it’s a very it’s directed at, adversaries. Of the United States, but it’s not necessarily directed at protecting personal data from reaching the marketplace, especially in countries that we might have good relations with. So it’s somewhat of a half assed approach, to, to it might protect national security, but it’s not a.

Top down solution. It’s not the kind of the ultimate cyber solution that we’d like to see in vehicles that gives customers control of this information. And, prevents manufacturers from collecting that data and selling it on or using it in ways that we’re not comfortable with as consumers. And it’s.

It’s a good thing, in that it’s going to probably result in some kind of crackdown on, the things we’ve seen like Huawei, where we’re worried that, China’s manufacturing electronics that are spying on us or, otherwise collecting our data and shipping it offshore.

So it’s a partial solution to some of these issues.

Fred: There are no protections that were listed. Associated with American companies taking that same data and exploiting it which would be a nice thing. And I also have to give credit where it’s due. The government has done a fantastic job of protecting us against the national security threats of low cost, high speed, efficient rail transportation that’s been proliferating in China for the last 20 years.

So if they’re equally effective, we should be in good shape.

Anthony: Oh boy. So Michael, you said it’s not only China or North Korea or whatnot that create these things. You said there could be a guy in France who creates something and monitoring us. Wait, do you think this guy in France is monitoring your baguette and champagne consumption?

Is that what you’re concerned about?

Michael: He’s going to be sorely disappointed in my case but if he’s monitoring my mayonnaise consumption, he might have something.

Anthony: That would be more for the Dutch and the Danish, I think. But yeah,

Michael: And it’s not just, it’s really that this order looks at.

It’s looking at the world from this perspective of a country defending itself against national security interests versus a consumer defending themselves against privacy invasion. And so it’s, it’s concerning. Essentially, I don’t want. Any foreign country tracking me, that’s scary, right?

But, I don’t want my next door neighbor tracking me. That’s scary too, and maybe even weirder. This is a partial solution to the connected vehicle problems with security and privacy.

Anthony: The weird thing is Michael’s next door neighbor is Google. It’s so strange. Look, as a good American, I don’t want no foreigners tracking me.

I want a good American company taking my data and selling it. For the highest money they can get.

Michael: And that was also an executive order last week. We’re not sure if it’s going to be covering. Cars yet, because reading the order it’s really applies to, bulk data collectors of sensitive information from any source cars, computer anywhere.

And it specifically or seem to specifically leave out cars. So I think that this. Current executive order around nationals. It’s not even an executive order. It’s just a an order to the department of commerce Is the auto portion of that effort? But the biden administration did issue an executive order on bulk data collection of sensitive personal data you’re basically they’re saying you’re not going to be allowed to sell this stuff on whether it’s to other countries or even within the country you there’s some information that simply can’t be collected and sold down the road.

So we’ll see how all this shakes out. There’s a lot of rule makings and research that are going to be taking place on this in the near future and we’ll keep monitoring it and letting everyone know what’s going on.

Anthony: Hey, listener, know who doesn’t sell your data? The Center for Auto Safety! If you type of person likes to read your entire manual, your car manual, or you just say, Hey, seatbelts, ha, I’ve been on board with that for decades.

Go to autosafety. org, click on the donate button, and we will not sell your data. Because, let’s see who’s gonna buy it? Never mind. Let’s go on to something nonsensical. Flying cars, okay? There’s this amazing video on CNBC that we’re linking to this new company called Aleph that they’re talking about their flying car coming out and it’s amazing, not necessarily from a technical point of view or from a product point of view, but it’s finally a video that gets me to understand the point of a public relations firm.

See they interview, or the CEO founder of this company, and maybe it’s just me. Okay, but I don’t trust. Men with long hair and beards. Okay? I look at one every day, and I’m like, meh, not you again. Hey, someone should have stopped this guy. Please watch this video. Someone should have stopped him and said, hey, maybe the cocaine dealer look from a 1980s B movie is not the best look.

To get someone to into our

Michael: products, particularly a flying car, right?

Anthony: It’s it’s literally like the villain in a, a Cinemax, 2 a. m. film. It’s, I’m sure he’s a lovely person. But he talks, he has this one line in there, they ask him briefly, like the halfway mark about safety and he says, safety, which is not required from us, which I absolutely loved and it’s not necessarily from him, but he was making a point about, ah, there’s not really any regulations around this we’re classified as an ultra light airplane.

Eh, we don’t have to do anything. And he’s it’s fine right now if we ever sell or make one or two of these. If we ever sell millions, they’re probably going to change things and maybe our business model won’t work anymore. But some tech bros have given us a ton of money and I’ve got hair gel.

But I don’t know, I it’s fascinating just for that, it’s an interesting idea I think it’s, and I’m a big fan of the Jetsons, but I think this is just, it’s just dumb yeah, I, before I met you two I would have thought this was great, you guys have made me cynical.

Let’s get into the Tao of Fred today. And Fred, can you tell me why you’ve made me so cynical?

Michael: You’ve now entered

Fred: the Tao of Fred. That’s the success of pedantry. I like that. We’re talking about flying cars now and it’s interesting subject. I’ve I’m not a specialist in this, but a few facts jump out at me as I’ve looked at it.

A Cessna 150, which is a very popular, widespread, personal aircraft. You’ve all seen them. They’ve got the fuselage hanging down below the wing. They’re easy to fly. They cost a lot of money, but they weigh about 1, 100 pounds. A Toyota Corolla, which is among the lightest of the cars that are on the road today, weighs about 1, 300 pounds.

So they’re in the same range. What the flying cars do is essentially combine some of the worst aspects of airplanes and cars in a single package. So if you’ve ever flown commercially, you’ll notice that the aircraft are mostly shiny, right? There are no bumps and lumps in them. People inspect them before they take off.

People walk around and check that all the parts are where they’re supposed to be. One of the virtues of the Flying cars that everybody likes to tout is that they can go from a car to an airplane in, Oh, 30 seconds or so something like that and everything deploys nicely. That’s great But how do you haven’t we jumped over the whole idea of inspecting the flight critical surfaces before you take to the air?

I think that’s probably an important step, because not only for the people in the car, but for people under the car, when there are many more of the latter than the former, there’s a lot of, it’s a big step down from an aircraft in the air to the ground. The history of these, though, is that in 1937, the Aerobiel took its maiden flight, marking a significant milestone in aviation history.

It was the first flying car. Studebaker actually got behind it, and Studebaker ordered five units. Of the car 20 years later when the company finally folded those five cars with the entire production. Wow.

Anthony: I wanna start a company that we only do five things and last 20 years. Yeah.

Fred: It’s pretty good. I thought a guy may had a pretty good run from that.

Anthony: That’s, I like that. It sounds exhausting the level of BS you have to keep pumping out, I can do it

Fred: well and that keeps popping up.

The air Fabian, in 1950 became the first rotable aircraft. Approved by the Civilization Administration, and this particular car was able to operate as a car, or fly, or actually it was waterproof, so you could actually land it in water too, so it served all purposes.

It too was a commercial failure. Since nothing has worked, hey let’s get SpaceX behind it. They apparently are Supporting a start up called let’s see, what is it called can’t remember what it’s called. Oh, The model a, anyway, they are touting the fact that they have 2, 850 pre orders, the most ever for an aircraft,

Anthony: Which is the, this is the company we were just talking about a leaf, I think is the name of the company.

Yeah, I didn’t realize space X was funding these guys. Yeah, they must be getting some massive government subsidies.

Fred: I think it’s just maybe the same one. I think you’re right. No, this is a different one. This is a pal V international. And no, it isn’t. No, wait, it’s the same one. It is the same one. Okay, I’m confused.

Anyway, the point is, they’ve got 2, 850 pre orders. So I looked into what that means. That means they have a 150 refundable deposit for the aircraft. So this is not exactly a heavy commitment from the potential consumers. And the price that’s anticipated for these is 300, 000 per vehicle. Now, the advertising goes long to say that these vehicles can save you, oh, I don’t know, 15 minutes for a 30 minute trip before the batteries run down to zero, assuming you take off fully charged, and I guess a lot of people, need to save that kind of money for a 15 minute trip to grandma’s house, but probably not me.

I’m probably not going to be in the market for these. There’s a lot of companies out there, though, who are looking at modern. Technology, battery power, high density batteries lightweight materials, and hopefully the absence of pesky regulations to allow them to put these flying cars on the road.

There’s a PAL V, which they assert is the world’s first flying car, despite the other flying cars that have been out there. 300, 000 Liberty Sport PAL V. There’s a Klein Vision air car. There’s a Samson Sky Switchblade. Aleph flying car, the Dorone H1, Terra Fugues rotable airplane.

Anthony: Wait, did you look, one of these is called a Switchblade?

Switchblade, yeah. Have you seen, this, they need a marketing department.

Fred: They have Swiss Army fan Engineers working for them, apparently, because what happens is the wings fold into the fuselage and the tail folds into the fuselage, so it’s very much like the transformers. And when you’re driving down the road and you become impatient, you push a button, the tail pops out, the wings pop out, and you speed up, and apparently there’s, in response to your the wings, you’ve got a clear road ahead of you.

I’m not sure how that works, but then off it goes into the wild blue yonder

Anthony: or into the overpass right in front of it.

Fred: That didn’t see another possibility. Yeah. One of the things you notice about airplanes is they tend to be well maintained and inspected before they go into the air. So it’s not clear to me how it isn’t something that’s an automobile.

But much lighter than a standard automobile because you’re going to have both the airplane and the car functions in there, can withstand road dirt, abrasions, bumps, and bruises, and still be secure enough to just push a button and fly off into the world. More power to them if they can do it.

One of them is truly bizarre, the one that Anthony was talking about earlier, which is basically a mesh surface over a catamaran. Structure and it’s filled up with eight fans for an aft and it goes up into the air and then it turns sideways and flies through the air as though we’re a biplane.

Truly bizarre, covered with metal mesh, which means it won’t actually be able to fly like a biplane, but that’s another detail, and then it has a cockpit that spins on its axis 90 degrees once you’re in the air so that this thing can fly sideways through the air, all of which is supposed to be safer than a normal car, uh, interestingly like the Switchblade in particular, the advertising that comes with it says, it takes safety to a whole new level with front and rear crumple zones, good idea, side intrusion and overall protection, again, good idea, disc brakes.

And a whole vehicle parachute, so that’s good.

Michael: Optional. I love that part. Yeah.

Fred: Optional landing height audible callout and autopilot, not sure what that’s all about. And then to conclude by saying, the design of the vehicle allows pilots to land and take off more safely. There you go, more than what, that’s they’re not clear about what their basis for that.

Of course, that’s the same with the entire AV industry. So they’re in some good company. They can work off that ambiguity for a long time, the problem is that. Every one of these has got to have all of the FAA requirements satisfied, and they also have to have all the FMVSS requirements satisfied.

They often run counter to each other because FMVSS It usually adds material and mechanisms to vehicles, which all makes them heavier. FAA requirements are quite different. It’s all about taking off and landing and protecting people around you. I think that they mostly run in the opposite directions.

And a lot of these companies are relying on the perspective that they don’t have to make too many of those. And they can fly under the radar because they’re experimental aircraft and ultralights and they can take advantage of exclusions and blah, blah, blah. Of course, if they actually do go into production, that will change very rapidly because they’ll be perceived as the threat that they are.

They all feature complex automated control systems. What could possibly go wrong? To have a complete automated control system in an airplane that takes your personal body thousands of feet into the air with no particular strategy for what happens if there’s a failure in flight. But maybe the whole vehicle parachutes takes care of all possibilities, except that, you never know where that’s going to land, but hey, maybe they’ll have automatic steering for those too.

Anthony: It has adjustable landing height zones. Sure. Something.

Fred: Maybe full body airbags. I don’t know.

Anthony: What I find encouraging about all of this is that all of these companies have received lots of funding. And so I want to make a separate call and I apologize. Look, if you’re a billionaire and you think your bank account equals your intelligence, reach out to me.

Let’s get some started on, I got some ridiculous ideas. Let’s go for it. I’ve got long hair and a beard. And I can put on some weird accent. Okay? I, maybe my voice right now is a weird accent to you. Let’s do this. Let’s get together and do this.

Fred: I think people have to listen to the first video to really get the idea about the accent for this guy who’s selling us these flying cars.

I’m not an actor, as but this is, this seems to be a silly idea whose time has come mostly due to the excess amount of money in the hands of people with poor judgment. That’s a miracle, folks. We love it. We do. It’s the only place we live.

Anthony: Right now. Alright, let’s get into recalls, cause this is NHTSA’s Recall Week.

Ooh. Ah. NHTSA put out a cool little tool on its website, NHTSA. gov slash recalls, where now you can search for your recalls using your license plate number. Cause that’s easier to know than a VIN. Because I know somebody named Vin, but I don’t remember his numbers. And convenient for me, I actually have a picture of my license plate on my phone.

It doesn’t matter why I have that, but hey, now I know my license plate numbers.

Michael: You can’t remember seven digits in a row. Why?

Anthony: I, look, I remember a lot of digits. My License plate number is not interesting. But it’s great, so I entered in my information, and I have zero unrepaired recalls.

I’m very happy with that.

Michael: Nice. I just got one from Volkswagen, so I may have one unrepaired recall. Oh,

Anthony: ha. Fred, what’s your score?

Fred: I remember all 10 digits. I do it every time. Wait, you have

Anthony: 10. Oh, you remember your VIN?

Fred: No, I remember the 10 digits. 0, 1, 2, 3.

Anthony: Ah, God. I never fail. We’re missing here.

Fred: Even easier in binary logic, you only got to do the zero and the one.

Yeah. Works out very well for me. Okay.

Michael: And yeah, I just completely lost my thought. Okay. This is the week, this is the week where you hear a lot about recalls. It’s recall week and it usually coincides with the daylight savings time coming into effect. And it’s, that reminder that, when you set your clock.

To meet the new time, you also should be checking your vehicle for recalls. We would advise that folks check more than just once a year, but certainly, give it a go, go to the website and check out their new service where you can look it up by your plate. But one of the things that nevermind.


Anthony: Michael’s brain is broken.

Michael: My brain is broken today. I just lost it. I was thinking about another recall story that was on the agenda today.

Anthony: I’ve got one that is tangentially related. So this is another article from MSN about Ford. 54 percent of their technicians must complete training by April 1st or their recall claims will be rejected.

Ford Motor Company is requiring its dealerships to complete training of shop technicians by April 1st including a newly required course. On supplemental restraints that include airbags or risk not getting paid for certain repairs. According to Ford, only 46 percent of the repair techs have completed training to perform field service actions.

This is, that’s disturbing. Ford just did a Ford, leads and recalls.

Michael: Oh, they do, without question, in the last few years.

Anthony: Yeah, and so now, what, 54 percent of their techs at the dealership, and the reason you go to the dealership is, Hey, I’ve got a recall, or I really like their coffee.

These are why you go to the dealer to get things fixed. And more than half their techs are not qualified to do these things?

Michael: Yeah, that’s one part of the problem. The other part of the problem is that, some of these technicians are, willfully not doing proper recall inspections or repairs, and then indicating that those repairs have been completed which.

Is a serious problem, particularly when you’ve got Takata airbags that are in a vehicle and are 20 years old and really need to be removed and replaced as soon as possible. Ford have, having found out that they have all these problems recently is there was also a whistleblower filing, ford’s going back and essentially trying to retrain their service managers and dealers and how you’re, how you need to respond on recalls. Maybe remind them that there are a lot of federal laws involved here that have significant penalties if you keep screwing around. And some other things like that, but this is the follow up action taken on the story we discussed last week about Ford and airbag problems.

Oh boy.

Fred: This could have some unanticipated consequences. For example, if a dealer realizes they’re not going to get paid for doing these repairs, they might just refuse to do the repairs, tell them to go somewhere else. So I’m not clear how Ford’s going to manage that, but giving credit where due, Ford is, trying to upgrade their service capability, so good for them.

Anthony: Yeah, it makes me wonder, like, how are other manufacturers repair techs? I wonder what rate it or is for just an outlier here.

Michael: I doubt usually when there’s one, there’s more, in the industry. But in, it’s scary to think about, but we’ve always thought that might be a problem because you’ve, you basically, the system is set up so that when a.

Dealer performs a recall, they are reimbursed from the manufacturer for their time. They received the parts from the manufacturer for free. So they are reimbursed, which provides an incentive for, nefarious service folks to check the, yeah, we’ve done the recall box or whatever they do in the software to indicate that it’s been performed.

When. It hasn’t been, some recalls, there are failure rates that are relatively low. You might see one failure out of every, thousand vehicles or even, one failure out of every 10, 000 vehicles. And, there’s a reasonable chance that a. Tech could check the recall done box when it’s not done and then you might not see that safety issue develop on that vehicle and they get off scot free.

So it’s a concern of ours that this could be going on at dealers across the country and that recalls aren’t being properly inspected, aren’t the vehicles aren’t being properly repaired and that’s, that’s really something I think NHTSA might want to take a look at it, whether it’s by surveying manufacturers or having manufacturers conduct some type of audit across all of their recalls to determine, what percentage of vehicles are being submitted for recall repair and then are coming out of the dealership without a repair.

Because that’s, pretty significant violation of the Safety Act and something that obviously we don’t want happening.

Fred: Michael, wasn’t there a related problem with the Firestone tire recall? I seem to recall that there were a lot of fraudulent returns and Firestone actually had to modify the process, require the people drilled a big hole in the sidewall before they would reimburse them for tires re That had been recalled.

Do you remember anything like that?

Michael: I think there were some folks who were because what was happening was people were bringing in their cars for these recalls and they were functionally taking off in what are many cases very new tires with low mileage. And so I think it just, there were hundreds of thousands of these things.

Piling up. And I think that, folks were looking at that going, wow, I could sell these tires to my buddy over here. No one will ever know the difference. So at some point they required them to crack down and functionally disable the tires at the time of the recall and provide proof to ensure that this secondary black market wasn’t developing on the Firestone tires.

Anthony: Let’s get into specific recalls now. Porsche, which in our notes, Michael claims that I have a fleet of Porsches. If he was paying attention to the show at all, he’d see that I only stick to Italian supercars. Yep. Porsche is potentially 8, 101 vehicles. This is the 2020 to 2024 Porsche 911.

Which, if I had the money, I this is Under certain conditions, the lightweight glass may become partially detached over the service life of the vehicle. This is for the front and rear windows. Oh boy. In an accident situation where the front airbags are deployed, it cannot be guaranteed that the proportion of correct bonding is sufficient to achieve the full protective effect of the airbags.

Wait, so I’m gonna crash, my airbag goes off, and now my windshield blows out too. I’m slightly confused.

Fred: I think that’s what they’re saying, and I think that they’re saying that the window might fall out in the direction of the passenger cobar. That’s how it would, that’s what it would have to do in order to impede the use of the airbag.

Apparently a lot of things can happen. Most of them bad, associated with these improperly glued windshields.

Michael: And so the safety risk that’s described by Porsche is, the rear glass and the front windshield or have a bonding problem some point in the manufacturing.

They aren’t stuck on stuck to the vehicle as well as they should be. And what the safety risk is described as, In an accident situation where front airbags are deployed doesn’t mention the rear back air the rear window here. Maybe the rear glass is can possibly pop off and cause other safety issues, threats to people in the road, ejection problems and crashes, but the front windshield, it says it cannot be guaranteed when the front airbags are deployed that the proportion of.

Correct bonding is sufficient to achieve the full protective effect of the airbags. And to me, that suggests that, the windshield being in place is necessary for the airbags to properly protect the occupant. Maybe the airbag design is such that the windshield being there. Holds it into the proper place so that it’s protecting the occupant.

It’s a little unclear. This recall is just a little unclear about exactly what the damage or the problem is. They say that, no consumers, which is an odd way to put it, but they say no consumers have witnessed. Or this, a lack of adhesion of the windshield to the body was never observed by a customer.

So apparently this has not happened to someone, but Porsche has figured it out and is now putting out a recall on a lot of vehicles. It’s 8, 000 vehicles involved. That’s a fairly high number for Porsche.

Anthony: Wait, so how does no one report this? And I’m like, wait a second, we figured this out. I was like, they got,

Michael: it says they got 15 warranty claims with with cloudy windows or other problems.

And it appears that they didn’t clean the windows off after they treated them in a primer area while there’s, while they were adhering the glass. So who knows there but over a spray. The adhesion, lack of adhesion is what’s apparently causing an issue with the airbag’s protective abilities.

Anthony: Ah, moving on we got Toyota.

381, 000 plus vehicles, the model year 2022 to 2023 Toyota Tacomas. This is an issue with a rear axle assembly, which includes axle shaft sub assembly secured to welded on axle housing on each side of the assembly. There’s a lot going on here and repeats the axle shaft sub assembly begins to separate from the axle housing which.

Whenever I have my axle housing connected to my sub shaft housing I I think I put these Legos together wrong. Yeah,

Michael: This one’s fairly simple. Just looking past all the explanations there. Basically your actual shaft separate is going to separate from the vehicle. You’re going to have an immediate impact on your vehicle stability and your, you may not be able to break, so a crash is.

Although a crash or some sort of very negative experience is almost inevitable here. Toyota seems to be suggesting that this is, they’re recalling 380, 000 vehicles, but, the, their submission seems to suggest that they’re not sure how many of those vehicles might actually have the problem.

This is a recall where they’re going to have you come in and inspect the vehicle first, make sure everything’s tight. But. They may not be replacing a lot of equipment but depending on what the inspections find and inspections are this kind of goes back to the forward question.

We’re talking about inspections, give some wiggle room to dealers as well here. There’s not. They’re inspecting and determining whether a part is damaged. You could say yes or no there. We see a lot of recalls where we’re concerned that these inspections may not be conducted properly and may not be focused on, may not always be focused on providing the customer with the greatest safety experience, but maybe focus more on, giving the dealer more hours in the day to make money elsewhere.

Always some concerns with inspection recalls when we would recommend that when consumers take their vehicle in for an inspection recall that they get involved in the process and, get under the hood with the technician, if possible, and see what they’re fixing, see what they’re inspecting, and, At least give them the idea that you’re going to be looking over their shoulder during the process so that you can ensure that the inspection is performed and performed in a manner that if there are certain failures related to the recall, that you’re getting new parts and not just being shipped on your merry way after a cursory inspection that really wasn’t looking hard enough.

Fred: For anyone who doesn’t already know what an axle is, it’s the major steel part that extends from the middle of the car out to the tires, and it transmits the torque to the tires, which makes the car move, of course, but it also has the brake rotor attached to it and the hubcaps and the wheels attached to it.

So if the axle separates from the body, what that really means is that your brakes. And your tire and your wheel are going to separate from the car as well, and so your car is going to be going down the road all of a sudden with no tire, no wheel, bouncing off the shock absorbers until it stops. So this is a major item, and people should really pay attention to this.

Also note that Yes, you should get as involved as possible. Very few service stations will let you into the service bay, and they will all cite insurance requirements. So don’t be disappointed if don’t take it personally, if they suggest that you not do that. As you get to the deal of it, certainly ask and certainly ask for any parts, ask to see any parts that they’ve replaced just to make sure that they have in fact replaced them.

Anthony: All right. We’re going to move on to our last recall because we’re running out of time. And this is from Kia. And I don’t think this is a recall. I think this is a positive feature that I appreciate. Possibly 35, 000 vehicles involved, certain 2020 model Telluride vehicles that the high beam shield gear mechanism in each headlamp assembly can independently become damaged due to heat from the halogen bulb.

So this is those high beams that I’ve talked about in the past where I’m like, everyone’s just trying to blind me. And when this happens, the high beams are no longer operable. Which I think is a feature and should not be recalled. That’s it. We get these halogen high beams off the road and great.

So if you own one of these Kia Tellurides, nothing to see here. Just keep going.

Michael: So basically. It’s not really what Anthony’s saying there. Yes, it’s it’s, there’s what happens here appears that the, there’s a heat problem. I don’t think there’s a fire issue here. You’re just losing high beams. Or high beam, you’re losing your high beams like to the left and right kind of your, the lateral sides of your car, you’re losing some visibility when that heat shield or high beam shield gear mechanism is damaged.

So I don’t believe this is a situation where the high beams are necessarily blinding everyone around you. It’s more of the high beams aren’t working as well to provide you with Luminosity after they’re damaged by this high heat problem. Basically the fix is not to change anything about the bulb or the heat generated by the hydrogen bulb.

It’s to put in a new shield gear mechanism that’s resistant to heat damage. That’s a situation where you’re not going to have an inspection. They’re just going to replace the part when you bring it in for a recall.

Anthony: Again, I stress enough just don’t do it. And also, if you live in New York City, don’t turn on your high beams ever.

Okay? What are you trying to do here?

Michael: Yeah, that’s questionable. I rarely use high beams. And it’s typically when I’m on a very Unlit dark road and there are zero cars that are headed at me or that are close to me. Mainly, there’s a lot of roads where animals frequent in early morning and at night.

And that’s primarily when I use them to make sure I’m not running over a fox, a deer, a raccoon, a beaver, all the things that seem to haunt the woods around me here.

Anthony: Okay, I’m going to jump into listener feedback. Listening to the latest pod podcast episode, this last week’s episode, couldn’t agree more about the backup and automatic emergency braking stuff.

The Kona has that this listener has a Hyundai Kona, has that, and after teaching the kids to drive on a Prius, then having them drive a car with that aggressive digital nanny, I think it’s a big reason why they’ve never had any of the accidents their friends did. So hey, that’s plus one for a digital nanny.

Michael: Oh yeah, I like the idea of a digital nanny. What about you, Anthony?

Anthony: I, I was shocked when those rental cars were, the Hyundai was, or the Kia K5, whatever it was stopping so abruptly, but, I appreciate it. Because I was driving drunk. No, I was not. But let’s jump onto something fun in this episode.

There’s a fun video clip. We’ll put up, this is from the 1980s of people reacting to California’s DUI laws. And I’m just gonna quote from it. It’s getting communist when a fella put in a hard day’s work, put in 11 to 12 hours a day, and then get in your truck and at least drink one or two beers.

And those damn communists are preventing me from drinking one to two beers. Which just, how far was this guy’s commute?

Michael: Who knows, there’s a lot of, we keep seeing these just absurd pushbacks on some of the safety tech that’s coming into play. What’s on my mind right now? Cause we just filed a comment with NHTSA yesterday.

It’s on the, impairment question and on the alcohol detection devices that were mandated by Congress and that this is currently working towards a rule on. I don’t expect it to be installed in vehicles. Next year, I think we’re looking at a horizon of at least five years, depending on who the next president is, maybe 10 years, a lot of things are up in the air right now as to how fast some of these regulations are going to move after the current administration.

So it’s there are a lot of people who think it seemed to believe that they have a right to drive drunk or a right to, have a couple of beers while they’re driving without realizing that, none of us really when you dial down on the law, none of us really have the right to drive at all.

There’s nothing in the constitution guaranteeing you personally the right to drive at all. Even your state requires you to jump through certain hoops to get a license and to drive around and to think that, preventing people from driving at all. While they’re in the process or drinking or after they’ve been drinking and have the potential to endanger other folks is somehow un American is silly.

Your rights end where mine begin is one of the things you often hear quoted. And if you’re on the road drunk, threatening my life and my family’s life. I don’t understand why anyone would have a problem shutting you down and getting you off the road and possibly putting you in jail.

There’s no excuse for that, and I don’t care how hard your work day was.

Fred: And to be clear, the communists spent a lot of time drinking and driving, so I’m not sure the analogy is apt here.

Anthony: Alright, with that listeners, thank you so much check your car for recalls, always wear a seatbelt, don’t drink one to two beers while driving, at least while I’m on the road.

And don’t fly your car. Go fly your car, never turn on your high beams don’t get rental cars that’s what I got for you,

Fred: thanks. goodbye,

Michael: see you next week. Bye everybody.

Anthony: Oh, and donate to the Center for Auto Safety.

Michael: Yes. For more information, visit www. autosafety. org.


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