Self Driving Semi’s and your car is peeping on you
The House had a hearing on Self Driving Semi’s and 3 out of 4 panelists thought it was a really swell idea and could you please write laws that make it best for our bottom lines? GM Cruise tries Nashville and claims that NHTSA has approved it’s ugly car without controls, Mozilla finds out that your car is getting every bit of your intimate details, a school bus safety bill final moves ahead, Fred takes on listener mail around EV’s and emissions and recalls.
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note: this is a machine generated transcript and may not be completely accurate. This is provided for convience and should not be used for attribution.
Anthony: You’re listening to Their Auto Be a Law. The Center for Auto Safety Podcast with Executive Director Michael Brooks, Chief Engineer Fred Perkins, and hosted by me, Anthony Cimino. For over 50 years, the Center for Auto Safety has worked to make cars safer.
Good morning, listeners!
Fred: Good morning, world.
Anthony: Hello, world. They don’t need to know that we’re actually recording in the afternoon. That’s fine. Hey, everybody! Today, Wednesday, September 13th, earlier this morning, there was a house hearing on autonomous semi trucks, or automated vehicle semi trucks. I don’t know exactly what AV really stands for.
But fascinating hearing, which had the founder and CEO of Aurora Innovation, which makes, wait for it, Autonomous Semi Trucks. Mr. Jeff Farrah, the Executive Director for Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association, which is basically lobbyists for autonomous vehicles and semi trucks. Mr. Chris Spear, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Trucking Association, whose testimony, I mean, we’ll have links to it.
Compare his testimony to the guy from Aurora. See how much they match up. Maybe that’s just my opinion. I don’t know And Ms. Kathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. Interesting hearing, I think. I mean, I’m curious for your guys input. I was reading the Aurora guys testimony and he says a lot of the right things.
Hey, we have safety standards. We have safety conditions. No, you can’t see what they are, but we have these things. It sounds like it’s the right direction.
Michael: And, I think the folks at Aurora would probably correct you immediately and say, we’re not building the trucks, we’re just building the driver, the Aurora driver, right?
So they’re basically using trucks that are already already compliant with federal motor vehicle safety standards, and then putting a driver on top of those trucks to take over the human control of the vehicle.
Anthony: But let’s not confuse you listeners drop by driver, they have something called the Aurora driver, which is not a human being.
It is a computer. So that’s it gets confusing their testimony, the Aurora driver. And I think awesome guy named Bill or woman named Jane.
Michael: Yeah, what we’re talking about here. And in the hearing, I think it’s important to Visualize the areas we’re talking about. These trucks, at least the way that Aurora is talking about it or envisioning autonomous vehicles that come in the form of giant 80, 000 pound semi trucks, they’re operating primarily on interstates between hubs.
They’re not. I don’t at this point believe they’re wanting to go into cities right now or is actively testing these things between Houston, Dallas, and also between Fort Worth and San Antonio. I think he said around 50 deliveries per day on each route. That’s with a safety driver, I believe, because they’re trying to keep a safety driver in the truck at this point.
And, yeah. They haven’t had any major, they certainly haven’t had the number of injuries and safety problems that have been reported, in San Francisco with the robo taxi side of things. It’s operating in cities. So there is a, a pretty broad distinction here. Although they have about the same level of proof of safety that the robo taxi industry does, which is very little.
I think they said they had driven somewhere around 45 million miles. Total with autonomous trucks, which ultimately doesn’t even rise to, if we’re seeing 1 human die every 100 and 30 million miles or 108 or whatever it is, it varies every year. They’re nowhere near even, providing a, just an initial data set that could compare to that.
So the assertions of safety notwithstanding and all that here, we’re talking about an 80, 000 pound truck, which is going at. 65, maybe 70, 75, depending on speed limits, miles per hour, and we’re not talking about a little robo taxi going 30 miles per hour in a city at, between midnight and 4 a. m., these very restricted things. We’re talking about, giant… Trucks operating on interstates around you folks in Texas right now and probably in other places in the country. I believe Florida has some as well. So that raises a lot of distinct issues in terms of whether the system is good enough to respond, whether it can perform at those higher speeds.
And also, there’s a, you’ve got to, when you’re driving an 80, 000 pound truck, you have to be able to stop and you have to recognize the need to evade. A lot sooner than you would, if you’re driving a smaller vehicle, where the brakes are going to bring you to a stop much quicker. So there are a lot of different concerns here that, that, that are interesting to parse out when you look at the rest of the hearing.
Fred: There’s a couple of points they brought up. One of them is that there was a question concerning the use of self driving vehicles or autonomous trucks for transport of hazardous materials. One of the representatives pointed out that the truck itself is transporting 25 to 30, 000 pounds of hazardous material in the battery that it’s using to provide the propulsive power.
So that’s it was an interesting point. It moots whether or not they should be. Carrying hazardous materials. Another thing they pointed out is that within the same profile for trucks that are being evaluated. There have been many fatalities associated with trucks that are not autonomous vehicles.
So they compared the situation with the autonomous vehicle simulation to the known circumstances of fatalities associated with the trucks on that same system. On the same roads and what they concluded is that the simulation show that the AV trucks would have avoided the situation in every individual circumstance.
Well, it’s an interesting result, but people have to understand that every simulation isn’t necessarily an abstraction of what a real vehicle would actually do. Many fewer degrees of freedom, a much simplified system compared to what the real world truck would do. Of course, it never looks at all the details of road circumstances, road surfaces.
Is there a squirrel involved? Something like that. But there’s another aspect of simulation, which is. An expression known in the industry, which is that every simulation is doomed to success. And what that means is that if you’re the person who is developing the simulation, you keep working on it until it shows that the simulation works.
Well, that’s fine, but it’s still an abstraction. It still isn’t the real world and none of the discussion focused on how they have grounded the simulations in real world data to show that actually represent what a real vehicle would do in similar circumstances. So listeners should take that information in the hearing about the.
simulation proving that the trucks are safe with at least one grain of salt.
Anthony: Yeah. One part of their Aurora testimony that I found fascinating was they were talking about one of the incidences because they talk about, Hey, an incident where there was an issue with, our vehicle on the road.
And so from their testimony, the Aurora driver, again, a piece of software and hardware detected the imminent collision and our onboard vehicle operator. A. K. A. a human, took control of the truck, safely decreased speed, and pulled over. In my mind okay, so what did your software do? Would, if the human wasn’t there, what would have happened?
And they make no mention, they’re just saying that, hey, our system detected this, but it still recorded, required the person behind the wheel to actually solve the problem.
Michael: And that’s, I mean, that sounds great. Yeah, you could present it. Maybe you could have prevented this one incident, but what they didn’t do there is take account all the other decisions that same driver made throughout his route that day and show that the vehicle would have responded safely to all of those.
So it’s only a partial proof in many respects.
Anthony: Yeah, it was very interesting, I thought, the choice there. A part of a lot of what the argument is, hey, this is going to take our jobs in terms of truck drivers, it’s going to take jobs, and Aurora and the industry, the AV industry is saying, no, this is going to create jobs, and they create these new very Orwellian titles for, future jobs and whatnot.
But the thing is, currently the, and everyone’s testified to this, is that the industry says they’re currently short 70, 000 drier, drivers and they need more than a million drivers in the next decade. I think prior to us recording, I think Fred pointed out that, hey, maybe if you offered more money to entice people to take this job, wouldn’t that probably be cheaper than spending how many billions upon billions they’ve spent on this?
Fred: Well, it would probably work, and, there’s a lot of discussion about people being unable to hire service workers. Well, 15 an hour to drive a truck for 80 hours a week over a long distance and be away from home. Gee, that’s not so great. If you look at the actual pay that’s being provided to truckers after you deduct their expenses, operations, and living expenses when they’re away from home, it’s really pathetic.
I mean, that’s the real reason why they’re not able to hang on to truck drivers. People can drive trucks. Trucks are getting easier to drive all the time. Pay and they’ll be there.
Anthony: Another interesting argument that I saw in this testimony that we’ve seen around the robo taxes and whatnot is, we have to, you have to provide legislation for us or basically weaken regulations so we can defeat China.
China is gonna take this over from us. But I believe it was advocates pointed out That is nonsense.
Michael: Oh, it is nonsense. We keep seeing the China threat. I mean, look, we know China’s perfectly happy to use their state apparatus to spy on American companies, take our secrets back to China, and then try to reproduce what we’re doing here.
And I think that’s where the threat, where we need to focus on that threat. That’s a cybersecurity issue. We’ve talked about this before in the AV myths from the last hearing it’s. This idea that we somehow have to beat China to a specific point and to do we need to relax regulations is complete bonk.
We don’t, we’re probably going to beat China either way, and they’re going to be following up with whatever they copied from us. Or, if China does somehow produce a great autonomous trucking industry, Why do we have to buy those trucks? Can’t we use the American made version? There’s just a lot of nonsense going around politically about this China threat.
And in reality, I just do not see the United States, the corporations that are behind. Autonomous trucking and robo taxis are massive and they’re very large, powerful companies that get what they want in a lot of places. And a lot of them are getting what they want. And from state legislatures, there’s no need to give them any federal corporate welfare under the guise that China’s actually going to beat them to a yet undefined point in the future.
I don’t really understand that argument or what the threat is other than it seems very convenient politically at the moment.
Fred: Well, China over the last 20 years has beaten the United States soundly in development of high speed, efficient rail transportation throughout all their major cities and connection with other countries nearby.
Why isn’t this threat of Chinese high speed, efficient train transportation that’s already been realized, motivating people in the United States to, address that peril?
Anthony: That’s an excellent question. What I want to know is, as a road user, if I’m driving down the road, I don’t care who made the truck or the software, the hardware.
I want to know that there’s actually gone through some sort of validation process. And that’s the thing, this is the China argument always strikes me as, the fear of China lets gloss over the fact that we would like exemptions from federal motor Safety vehicle standards. Yeah, I know I messed up that acronym.
Okay, but listen, it’s
Michael: okay. We’re full of mistakes I messed up the 1. 34 people dying from 100 million miles earlier.
Anthony: Okay. Well, you just corrected that so last thing I want to talk on this is so Aurora, I think as I mentioned at the start they use something called a safety case format, which this all of this sounds great.
It’s, hey, something where we want everybody in the AV industry and beyond that to use to validate everything from your automatic emergency braking, your lane change warning, everything so that these safety features can become better and it becomes safer and then regulators can say, hey, we understand what’s happening.
We understand the base minimums you need to meet. Aurora, like the rest of their industry is just like we have these things and they can see. Talking bullet points of this is what our systems do, and it all sounds really nice and makes a great power point. But when you’re like, hey, what’s underneath the answer is you don’t look behind the curtain.
Michael: Yeah, I mean We I think we like that Aurora is using a safety case format I think that they’ve said that will I don’t know that they have specified that it’s going to comply with any standards outlining You know, how to create and use and continually use safety cases. But they’re saying the right thing on that front.
The issue is like it is with a lot of these companies is when it comes to turning over data, turning over information that proves out whether or not you’re meeting safety. Meeting what we’re looking for as a public overall before these things go on the road is it’s difficult to do it’s difficult to prove because they simply don’t have the data yet and showing that is going to, remain a problem for them until they have, reached a point where they can.
Prove without any doubts and give people the data that these vehicles, are going to be a benefit instead of a, an investor trap. I think, personally, I would say, I think there’s a lot more. A lot better use case for autonomous trucking than there is for the robo taxis.
When we’ve seen all the massive number of problems that crews and to some extent Waymo have been causing the communities there in, you don’t hear much about. Aurora and some of the trucking problems and, that’s for 1 thing. They’re not operating in the middle of cities with lots of eyes and cameras around.
But for another thing, they just don’t see, they seem to have a pretty good record on safety. Perhaps they’re doing a really good job of following, a. Strong safety format. We don’t really have any reason at the moment to say that they’re not. But when you go in front of Congress, and you’re asking for regulations that are favorable to the industry as a whole, we don’t know that everybody is going to be operating with the same safety constraints as.
An Aurora or a Waymo and we don’t think that the likelihood is that they aren’t the likelihood is that the rush to achieve profits or to achieve the next round of investments is going to Outweigh any safety case or safety development that some of these companies are willing to do
Fred: Our listeners may not be aware of what a safety case analysis is.
So in summary A safety case analysis is a list of all the things that could possibly go wrong with your system, individualized, and then a requirement that the proponent of the system make a case or make an argument for why all of those things that could possibly go wrong are being adequately handled.
By the system. For example, a safety case analysis of your house might be that it’s possible for a meteorite to hit your house and destroy the roof. Okay, so that’s what you would posit in a safety case, but then the argument would be, well, I’ve looked at the statistics for worldwide numbers of houses that are being destroyed by meteorites, and the number is very low number is 1 in a jillion.
So I’m just going to accept that risk. For that aspect of the safety case analysis, another safety case would be to say, well, my house could catch fire and the response would be, well, yeah, it really could. And that’s pretty frequent. In order to address that particular threat, I’m going to put fire extinguishers in the house, and I’m going to put an irrigation system in the house that will with high reliability, drench any fire with water, In order to handle that hazard.
Two different safety cases, very different analysis. In one case, you just accept the risk. In the other case, you say, well, I’m going to take these very specific actions to address that risk. Now, why this is important is because it wasn’t Waymo, it was Aurora. Aurora said that they have a safety case analysis that they’re using.
Which is good. That’s a good approach. It’s accepted by industry. The problem is that there is no public information available and no way of evaluating what they’re using to evaluate all of those safety risks that they’ve identified. Neither is there any way of knowing whether or not they’ve. Included all of the risks that they’ve identified in their safety case analysis.
UL 4600, which we have participated in developing by under orders. Laboratory is a very extensive safety case analysis for all autonomous vehicles. I would recommend to Aurora. That they look very carefully at the UL 4600 standard and make sure that their safety case analysis is compatible with both the scope and the approach that’s being used in UL 4600 for evaluating the safety of self driving vehicles.
Anthony: I think from their testimony, they mentioned UL 4600, and I think they say they use a version of it. Don’t quote me on that. So they’re at least admitting, hey, we’re aware of this. I think some of their competitors, their compatriots are not willing to even say that much. So hey, Aurora plus one for having a safety case, minus one for not providing more details.
But then again, maybe we’re just very cynical people, but hey, like you, listener, we’re all subscribers to the best magazine on planet earth, right? The jurist, huh? Legal news and commentary. Everybody’s reading the jurist, right? When you’re not going to autosafety. org and clicking on that donate button, telling all your friends and family, Hey, what’d you do this week?
And well, I listened to this, to the auto be a law podcast. Did I even pronounce the name of the show correctly? Close enough, and your friends are like, Oh, they’re talking about this crap again. Oh, well, hey, at least you read the jurist now, so your friends are all on board. There’s a good article we’re linking to by William H. Wyden and friend of the show, Philip Kopin. It looks like it’s, should be Copeman, but he’s Guaranteed me, it’s Koopeman titled Federal Action is Needed to Maintain Trust in Automated Vehicle Technology. Many federal legislators believe the United States need a robust automated vehicle industry to promote our national interests in diverse areas, from reducing traffic deaths and cutting greenhouse gases to creating opportunities for the mobility challenged.
But the public must trust this technology before Kyle can make us distrust it even more. I think I mean… I think This article is pretty good because it does lay out a lot of the gut kind of reaction that I have to this industry is I think i’m being sold a bill of goods half the time. And so this is definitely a worthwhile.
Article to read and opinion piece you guys read it.
Michael: Yeah, and one of the most interesting parts to me is the I believe if the federal government really wanted to take care of a lot of issues here, they could do one of the suggestions here, which is pass, a federal duty of care, it would essentially mean that AV manufacturers have a responsibility to make sure that they have that, that we’ve established.
Federally that there is a distinct difference between, a human driver and a computer driver. We’ve defined that any of the systems that are operating autonomous vehicles are being operated by a computer driver. And right now there’s really no distinction in the law about that. And that’s something that really needs to take place.
And when you define that computer driver, you define it as a. System that owes a duty of care to other road users, pedestrians, people in other cars, and you know that the manufacturer is ultimately responsible for ensuring that vehicle is carrying out their duties in that manner. So that’s something I think is sorely needed the federal level, because we have so many different definitions around driver operator.
And in state law that make this area really complicated and, consumers have no assurance right now, if they’re hit in state X by an autonomous vehicle, that they’re going to have any means of recovery they have. And that’s a really important component to have for people to trust these vehicles.
If they’re mowing down people without any legal repercussions, then there’s obviously a problem and we’re never going to get over this. Problem of trust that I think all of us share to some extent regarding autonomous vehicles.
Fred: Yeah, I can only say what he said, but you know, it’s hard to put all that stuff on a slide rule.
So I don’t think about that all the time.
Anthony: Fred Perkins, his thoughts are as long as your slide rule. That sounded strange.
Michael: They call for, a couple of other things in the article, which is, mandating more crash data reporting requirements, which is certainly needed. NHTSA has. To their credit, develop the standing general order and it’s directive to vehicles that are operating from level two and up to report any incidents that occur while they’re operating using whatever automation they’re using at the time and manufacturers are submitting that data.
However, they’re redacting. All of the pertinent information from those reports, and so it’s not transparent at all. So from a public standpoint from it’s a standpoint, the standing general order is great. It lets them look at all those crashes in real time. No, they’re happening from a public standpoint.
We’re getting a list of data points with no background or context to help us understand what’s really going on. So there needs to be better data out there as well.
Anthony: Better data. You people listening? Come on, it’s not that hard. It’s not a trade secret. And with, even without giving better data, GM Cruise is expanding and spreading their cars around.
Article in MSN about how their self driving taxis are coming to Nashville. It’s a fun article to link to. I’m just going to quote my favorite part of this article. And this is a quote from Jeff Farah. Executive Director of the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association.
Michael: You just saw him at the hearing today, Anthony.
Anthony: Yeah, well, he had a great quote in this article. It says, people generally think they’re better drivers than they actually are. Oh, I could say the same thing about your products. Because I’ve never seen a human driver drive into wet cement. Or just, hey, let’s just have five of my vehicles just quit and just stop in the middle of the street.
That’s what I’m saying. The article continues. Although the industry touts the safety record of self driving taxis, it has shared little data with outside researchers. Only serious accidents must be reported to the federal government. Again guys, just share your data, but they think it’s a trade secret of some sort.
Fred: Well, I’m going to take issue with you a little bit because having lived in the Washington, D. C. area for quite a while, I have often seen people just abandon their cars in the middle of intersections when it snows. Apparently a lot of people there have never seen snow before, so maybe that is a human characteristic.
Anthony: Okay, fair enough. Fair enough, when I first moved to DC, I remember there was like the smallest dusting of snow and I was told, Oh, if you don’t have snow boots, you can say that, and that’s a legitimate excuse not to go to work. And I’m like, there’s no, what? And then I walked down the street. Wearing sneakers, because there was barely any snow, and watching a car try to navigate this literally eighth of an inch of snow by, what did they do?
Slam on the gas and just watch those tires spin. It was amazing, with the exception of the District of Columbia drivers, who are, look, let’s give them some, leeway here, because that city is insane the way it’s designed. I lived on a street that was parallel to itself. I don’t understand how that was possible.
Down the block from me was another street that had no labels whatsoever, and so you’d park your car there because the police couldn’t ticket you. It was great. I watched them try to ticket once, and the cop, I’m just sitting on a park bench watching this happen, and they just gave up.
Fred: It was a CIA safe house.
They put them all on that street.
Anthony: It could have been. It was right on the capitol. So more cruise news, cause I love the cruise. Cruise origin, which listeners, hopefully you don’t know this thing is, this is if you cut in half a Honda Odyssey and took the ugly side and then pasted it to the other ugly side of a Honda Odyssey and said, Hey.
This is a vehicle. I mean, it’s the goofiest looking thing, and this is a thing that, it doesn’t have brakes, accelerator, steering wheel, as far as we can tell, it doesn’t really have anything for the occupants inside to say I want to get out. Kyle, our friend from cruise has announced that says, Hey, we’re going to be, NHTSA approving this within the week.
NHTSA response was, We are? Oh, we didn’t know but we’re linking to an article in The Verge and you can see what this thing looks like. It’s okay, forget the lack of steering wheel, forget the lack of brake pedal, forget the big red emergency butt button. This thing has clearly never been crash tested because half of the seats are facing backwards.
Has any vehicle ever been released with half of its vehicle Seats facing backwards. I mean, how does the impact work? I mean, how does a seat belt work in that case? Because seat belts are designed with forward momentum and they stop you that way. If you’re facing backwards, you hit something, your momentum is not quite the same way.
I, again, I’m not the engineer. I just play one on TV. Michael’s responding, but he’s muted.
Fred: They used to make Volvo’s that way. They had a backward seat and a way back. The kids used to love being in the way back. Maybe this is part of a way back machine. Maybe we should… Maybe it’s a time machine. I’m not sure.
Michael, what do you think?
Anthony: You’re gonna need to turn your microphone on
Michael: until, yeah. There’s not, obviously we, most cars that come out are tested using forward facing seats. There’s a lot of, I’ve seen examples, for instance, in there’s not a lot of good testing or data around the safety of Side facing seats, like you might see in limousines or in some buses.
Those are generally, approved for low speed application, that type of thing, because it’s a completely different process. You can’t just strap on the same seat belts and airbags when somebody’s facing sideways to mitigate and expected to mitigate a crash in the same way. There’ll, there’ve been a number of vehicles over the years and including a, snazzy station wagons that had some rear seating in the back.
They rear seating Is probably better than you’re probably going to have just pretty decent outcomes using the seat belts It would seem to me and airbags could you know it the difference, you know Between getting hit in the rear and getting in the front most vehicles. You’re protected from both happening, so There’s probably some transfer there.
It’s the side facing and some of the campfire seating and swiveling seating, and so these other more advanced seating types that these autonomous vehicle companies have proposed in the past that concern us more, I would say than simply a rear facing seat.
Fred: Michael, you’re such a grown up. I thought you were going to pick up on the way back machine.
Michael: I’ve used the Wayback Machine mainly to find old archive posts on our website that Anthony can delete.
Anthony: I just select all, delete everything. Okay. Cruise, they come out very ballsy and say, Hey, NHTSA is going to approve this next week. NHTSA says, Huh? Has there been any update on this? Because he said this about a week ago.
I haven’t seen anything out of NHTSA yet. But did NHTSA be like, yo, tech bro, just keep it on the DL for a little bit.
Michael: Yeah, I’m not sure what was going on there. I wish that, maybe this is once again, Kyle’s gotten something, a video, some data, a notice from NHTSA and just isn’t willing to share it with us.
I’m not comfortable with any vehicle saying, Hey, we need to be exempted from federal motor vehicle safety standards. I got it right this time, didn’t I? You did. Yeah. Okay, I missed safety stan no, I don’t remember what I did.
Anthony: More scary car stuff. Mozilla? Do you guys use Mozilla? The web browser? I do.
I do too. Firefox. There you go. Really good software engineers. They have this they did a research report into the software inside your cars. And basically in this article from Gizmodo it’s saying that some of the cars tested collected data you wouldn’t expect your car to know about you, including details about sexual activity, race, and immigration status.
Your car, if you’ve had a car that’s been built in the last couple years, it’s got cameras inside, it’s got microphones inside, anytime you’re like, using that kind of, hey, play the next song thing, there’s a microphone inside. And you figure, hey, this isn’t going out into the world somewhere, this is, I just wanted to play the next Britney Spears song or something like that.
Nissan reserves the right to share and sell preferences, characteristics, psychological trends, predispositions, behavior, attitudes, intelligence, abilities, and aptitudes to data brokers, law enforcement, and other third parties that is willing to pay them for such creepy data.
Anthony: Well, they do have that new feature lick to make a left turn. So maybe that’s.
Fred: Well, I’m going to, I’ve, I’m renting a Nissan Vogue, Rogue, excuse me, while my car is being repaired.
And it has a notice that comes up when you start the car that says data is being recorded. And I, so naturally I dove into the menu and after a blizzard of clicks, I found a spot where you could turn that off. And you, so you can voluntarily turn off the data collection, but it’s no way of knowing exactly what’s covered by that.
And I keep hoping that it will have an opportunity to record some of my sexual activity, but it hasn’t happened yet. I keep hoping.
Michael: And I could, I can see that and you can’t, a lot of vehicles will have, sentry modes or some vehicles might take photos during operation. There’s driver monitoring, which is continually staring at the operators, but is not supposed to be collected or distributed by manufacturers at all.
They want to, they might want a federal right to. Repair, but they what they don’t really want is a federal data policy that puts consumers ultimately in control over whether the manufacturer can use that data for some other purpose besides specifically focusing on the car and that owners experience, they want to be able to take that data and use it for further development.
And whatever people do with all this data sell it, whatever. That’s what they want it for. And so it’s, it behooves the industry to leave these policies as vague as possible so that they can continue collecting any type of data they want, including apparently genetic data,
Anthony: The article ends with Questions around consent are essentially a joke as well.
Subaru, for example, says that by being a passenger in the car, you are considered a user who has given the company consent to harvest information about you. Mozilla said a number of car brands say it’s the driver’s responsibility to let passengers know about their car’s privacy policies. As if the privacy policies are comprehensible to drivers in the first place.
Toyota, for example, has a constellation of 12 different policy, privacy policies for your reading pleasure. Are they gonna update the driver’s test with a bar exam as well? That’s, this is insane.
Michael: I don’t know that there is a great… I mean, consumers routinely are not demanding these types of protections.
It seems like there’s a few of us who want them in place. And then a few people who, after the fact, find out that, Tesla employees were looking at them in their undies who get angry about it. But most of the people running around simply don’t care. They’d rather have the tech and. And then worry about all their privacy being exposed.
We’ll see, I’ve got an Alexa in my house and a Google something that plays music and God knows what those are collecting and sending back to the mothership. So I don’t expect my car to be any different until there are some, better federal regulations and. Place to protect individual consumer privacy.
And right now we simply don’t have that.
Anthony: I think most people have no idea this is happening inside their car because you think, Hey, this is my car. Mike, I have control over it.
Michael: It’s happening inside people’s refrigerators, so the car just doesn’t seem like much of a stretch anymore.
Anthony: That’s not what’s happening inside my refrigerator.
It’s a long term science experiment slash passive aggressive war. Who’s gonna find out what’s in that jar? Can we jump on to the Tao of Fred? Yeah, let’s do that. This week, we’ve got some listener mail that’s gonna kick off the Tao of Fred. This is from a long time listener, fan of the show.
I’ll call him Michael, cause that’s what his parents named him. It says, I know your podcast is about auto safety, but Fred is throwing out ridiculous numbers about total energy efficiency of EVs at 10 to 20 percent savings over entire fuel cycle. Check with those bozos at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
They have a tool where you plug in your zip code and your EV model, and it gives a mile per gallon to CO2. emissions rating. Here’s mine and it says for their little EV, it’s 278 miles per gallon CO2 emissions. The national average for trucks and SUVs is 22. Sure, continuing from the listener, sure, I drive a subcompact EV in a state with relatively clean juice, but if you play with their tool, it’s obvious how much more efficient EVs are.
The cheapest power now is renewable. We just found a deposit of lithium clay in Nevada that’s 16 times the largest known mine. It is easily extractable at a relatively low cost and impact, rant over. They followed up with, auto safety should include the impact transportation has on health. Fred, you’ve been challenged.
Fred: Well, thank you for listening. First of all, I appreciate the feedback. It’s actually very complex problem. And sometimes the comparisons are apps and sometimes they’re not. For example, people will often look at a comparison between the electric energy that’s stored in their battery.
And the gasoline in their tank and say, well, the gasoline does certain things and the electric battery does certain things. So that’s a valid comparison. I think that’s probably more limited than it should be because somehow the electricity has got to get into the battery. And there’s a lot that happens between the coal that’s in the ground and the electricity that is in your battery.
So every time you convert energy from one form to another, there’s an efficiency loss. And if you look at the efficiency associated with thermal power plants, it, runs around 30, might be a little bit more than that, 30 percent efficiency. So you’ve got to knock that back into the equation. When you convert that.
Into high voltage for transition, there was an energy loss when you take the high voltage, step it down to utility voltage for your house and other energy loss. When you convert that to chemical energy as you charge your battery. You got more losses when you convert that back into mechanical energy in your.
When you convert that chemical energy back into electrical energy in your EV, more losses. When you convert that electrical energy into kinetic energy, By spinning a electric motor, you’ve got more losses. Depending on where you draw the comparative boundaries, you need to be a little careful with these energy comparisons to make sure you’re looking at apples versus apples.
There are two studies I’ve looked at that address this. One was produced by those bozos at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Apologies to those bozos. I wish I were only such a bozo, but there you go. Maybe I am. I don’t know. It’s up to you guys to give me that analysis, but their analysis is based on an end to end study called How Clean Is Your Electric Vehicle?
Which you can also find on the website, but we’ll put this up on our website as well, just so you can see the data source. And… In that analysis, they look at basically a meta analysis of kind of overall electric generating efficiency and overall electric car efficiency and do the comparison and they come up to.
A comparison that says more or less 50 percent benefit associated with the electric vehicles, given a lot of the assumptions that they put in there. In a lifetime comparison, there’s another study called driving cleaner by the University of British Columbia done on behalf of the city of Vancouver, which is looking at versus standard vehicles.
And this is interesting because it’s very particularized. It looks at 2 models of cars, a Ford Escort versus a Mitsubishi, something little cars. But anyway, the little cars, EV versus ICEV or internal combustion engine vehicle, and they too come to the conclusion that there is about a 50 percent benefit associated with the electric vehicle versus the internal combustion engine vehicle.
But you’ve got to consider that in Vancouver, 98 percent of the electricity is provided by hydroelectric power, and the hydroelectric power is… Very clean, particularly if you neglect the amount of energy that’s put into the concrete barriers that provide the dams. Putting that aside, you’re looking at roughly 50 percent benefit for essentially emission free fuel.
If you then compare that back, so that’s 50 percent benefit, which is good. It’s significant. It’s meaningful. Is that going to save the world? I’m not sure. There’s a hell of a lot of cars out there, but it’s still a meaningful. Savings, but then if you then go back and say, well, that’s fine. If you’ve got only clean electric.
Power to put into the vehicle, if you instead look at a thermal power plant. That has the thermodynamic efficiency associated with. The fuel consumption, which again is of the order of 30%, 33%, some number like that knocks down the comparison between the. Efficiency the overall lifetime efficiency for the versus the electric vehicle, because in both cases, now you’ve got thermal power at the center of the power system.
That’s propelling both vehicles. Where they had 50 percent efficiency gain before for essentially purely clean electric power, you’re now talking about something less. Which I, and I’d have to grease up my slide rule before I could do this in detail, but, it’s probably something of the order of a 20 percent benefit, maybe 25 percent benefit.
Again, meaningful could be significant, but if you compare that to a system in which you’ve got, high speed, efficient, real transportation again, this Chinese peril that’s coming over the horizon. And I’m sure we’ll be catching up with them soon. You’re much better off with the public transportation and the mass transportation afforded by those.
So that’s the heart of my concern that the EV benefits may be being oversold because of possible misinterpretation and comparisons that are not consistent. And I think it’s very important for people. On my side of the political fence getting back to the hearing earlier, one of the gentlemen who was asking questions from the dais said that most of us on this side of the fence are let me see, what are his words, I think, woke, radical, socialist, something like that.
Maybe that colors my judgment. I’m not sure, but I know I think that if we oversell this, then the folks on the other side of the political spectrum may make hay with whatever, faulty conclusions we come to. So there’s also an awful lot of public investments going into the infrastructure associated with the electric vehicles and the potential saturation of the system by the electric vehicles, we need to get it right. I don’t think we’re there yet. I think there’s more work to be done. And Anyway, that’s the end of my rant, and so I thank the people who contacted us, a couple of responses for that, and I’m sure in the future, everything will be better, but for now, I think we need to be careful about how we’re putting this all together.
Anthony: And so the people on your side of the fence, so there’s with the bolt cutters just cutting holes in it for people to go in for free, right? I just want to
Fred: well, that too, but that was a while ago. Many things I did as a child, I would no longer do the same way.
Anthony: Okay, fair enough. But the Top level summary of that is, if your power supply is relatively clean, you could be getting 50 percent emission C savings, energy efficiency savings.
But it’s very clean. Yeah. Hydro. I know this particular listener has solar panels on their house and I don’t think public transport, I know is not an option with air cause they’re in the middle of nowhere. But so their power, I think for their vehicle is pretty damn clean.
Fred: And I commend them for, using as clean a power as possible.
And that’s a great thing. And if everybody does that, then we’ve got 50%. Let’s say that everybody does that. We’ve got 50 percent savings of the energy. That’s wonderful. But the world’s likely to be around for a long time, and the population is still increasing it would be nice if that were the only thing we needed to do, but I guess every little, every, everything helps.
Anthony: There you go, everything helps. And everybody poops. That has nothing to do with the next story we have there. Was there more of the Tao, or is that all of today’s Tao? I don’t remember.
Fred: I think that’s it, except for one rant, which is that, part of the discussion about AVs has got to include safety inspection of the vehicles because the AVs are investing a lot of safety critical features in the computer.
And particularly for something like an over the road truck where state troopers will often stop the truck and do a safety inspection on the spot to make sure that, everything’s working. Okay. How do they do that with a truck when they can’t see the safety critical features that are embedded in the computer?
That’s, it’s a very important part of operations of these things that nobody seems to be addressing and I think that it really should be part of it. And it’s a very difficult thing to do. So that will end my rant, but thank you.
Michael: If you look at, if you looked at a. Right now you pull into an inspection station, they weigh your vehicle, and then depending on what they see, they may or may not get under and look at, your brake lines or any number of physical components of the vehicle that might not be within, the state regs, but what the hell do you do and how do you test?
The autonomous driver of the vehicle and the software that’s controlling all of those physical parts. How do you guarantee from a state perspective that you can inspect it? How do you do that at all? At this point? There’s a lot of questions. There are a lot more questions.
There are answers.
Anthony: And with it being so software driven yeah. I imagine it’s just very easy for another Volkswagen style missions cheating. Hey, if you’re, I mean, GPS, we know where your vehicle is. If you’re at an inspection station, turn off all the bad shit. I, I could just be cynical.
Michael: That’s what happened.
Fred: Sure. But let’s assume even, the best intentions. Because I’m sure that what you just addressed will never happen. Ha! Since it’s never happened in the past. But, so you got your AV, it’s leaving wherever it is housed, and it works perfectly well then. As it’s going down the road, a bird runs into one of its sensors.
Okay, so what happens then? The sensor’s damaged. Does the AV constantly check all of its internal systems, say, well, this has degraded my safety, I can no longer safely drive the vehicle, so I’m going to pull over to the side of the road. And if it does that, does it do it immediately or does it do it gradually?
Or does it, drop to five miles per hour and drive to wherever it can be to get the bird taken out of the telescope? These are real world questions. We’ve all hit birds. We’ve all done things like that, and they all affect the safety of the vehicle. Particularly if you don’t have a brain to figure out how to reconfigure your sensory inputs, so that you can drive the vehicle safely.
I’m still a big advocate of brains. I’m sorry. I’m not leaving that.
Anthony: Very old school Fred there. That’s an interesting question though because if I’m a long haul truck company and I’m like, yeah, I’m on board, I’m going totally autonomous, getting rid of these damn people asking for health care and pensions, all computers, my AV’s truck’s going down the road, it hits a bird, a deer, a small child and it decides to pull off in the middle of the road, but now it’s pulled off in the middle of the road in middle of nowhere.
And now me, as the owner of this company, it’s three in the morning, Oh goddammit, I gotta go out there to find this truck in the middle of nowhere? How is this saving me any money? Whereas instead, if I had a guy behind there, behind the wheel, they could just wake up or just keep going. They wouldn’t even have to necessarily pull over, because their sensors, their eyes, ears…
Weren’t knocked out from this bird strike. They’re just like, I can keep going. I’m good. I’m curious. Hey, if you own a shipping company, let us know what your thoughts are. Where’s the cost benefit analysis of that. And that’d be fascinating. Contact us at contact at autosafety. org. And if you want us to really answer your question quickly, click the donate button.
Those two things are not correlated at all. Time. Oh before we jump into recall roundup school bus safety act. We’re big supporters of this, right? Yes. Yes. U. S. Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Iowa announced the introduction of legislation to help keep our kids safe as they travel to and from school.
This is the School Safety Bus Act, Bus Safety Act, to implement safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board to make school buses safer. Oh my, this, the writing of this stuff is just, it’s just, Strunk & White people. Come on.
Michael: Well, also, I was, this is a piece of legislation that’s previously been introduced and was also sponsored this time by Senator Tammy Duckworth.
And it does something that we’ve been petitioning NHTSA to do for, I believe, 40 years now. I mean, way before I started working at the center, 23 years ago we were pushing for seatbelts on school buses. It’s a really tough issue because There are very few school bus crashes involving fatalities and significant injuries every year, and the feds have been hesitant to get on board because they have trouble meeting, a cost benefit analysis that would allow them to force states to do this.
But, there’s some surprising opposition to the seatbelts from school administrators in states who Functionally, just don’t want to spend the money to put seatbelts on school buses. And a federal law requiring that goes a long way, plus it requires three point seatbelts. That’s something that we’ve been advocating for decades, but also there’s some other good things in the School Bus Safety Act.
Automatic emergency braking system, which NHTSA is supposedly developing right now that applies to school buses, but this law would guarantee an event data recorder, you’ve got one in your car, school buses may not have them because they’re not required. If there’s a crash, there may not be data to evaluate what went on electronic stability control, just something that went into all of our cars, almost, I want to say.
10 to 20 years ago off the top of my head, which is really important to prevent rollovers, which are the type of collisions actually that threatened school children the most because when they don’t have seatbelts and there’s a rollover, the supposed compartmentalization that the bus provides isn’t going to be there to protect them.
Rollover crashes are. Particular importance to us in the seatbelt environment. Also, here, something I really like is a fire suppression system to address engine fires and also a firewall to prevent these trucks. These buses are carrying around a significant amount of fuel more than your average car in many cases.
And so when there is a fire that takes place involving fuel, there can be. Some devastating consequences. So those are all really good provisions of this bill that we support, and we hope it can progress through the Senate.
Anthony: All right. I had a little flashback to being a kid and getting on the school bus.
Our school bus driver was a guy who wore a cowboy hat. Very strange. Cause it was the middle of rural upstate New York. But I remember him pulling over on the side of the road once, but don’t make me turn this bus around. I will bring you kids back to school.
Michael: I had a, I had a great school bus driver named Freddie.
I tend to remember school bus drivers. They play a larger role in your life than most of us think about until you go back and be like, that guy was really cool. He used to always drive over that one hump in the road really fast so that the guys in the back seat flew up in the air.
And he did run through that puddle and splash that kid when he was leaving school. I didn’t, I don’t know whether that’s funny or not, but at the time it was really funny.
Fred: Now, speaking of events that I’m not proud of.
Anthony: Oh no, were you a school bus driver too?
Fred: No, I was a school bus passenger and we went.
On the way home, we went around the corner that was built the wrong way. So that, the bus leaned over and in the wrong direction. So naturally, I motivated all the kids on the school bus to be on the inside. As we enter the curve, and then run to the outside as we were going around the curve, which almost caused the bus to tip over, which as an 8th grader, I thought was ridiculously funny.
The bus driver didn’t share my appraisal of that. So he came back and yelled at us, and unfortunately, his dentures came flying out of his mouth, which added to our hilarity. Things I’m not proud of again, but I the principal of the junior high school didn’t share my opinion of those events either, as it turned out.
Anyway, moving on.
Anthony: And that’s what started his interest in physics, everybody. Look, centripetal force in the real world! This is amazing! This stuff works, yep, stuff works. Alright, let’s do some recalls. Recall roundup time. Okay, General Motors Brand name is Webasto. Huh? This is potentially 9,
Michael: 423 vehicles is a part of a charging cable. And it comes with your vehicle charging cord, but it’s manufactured by Webasto. I’m assuming.
Anthony: Webasto for all your needs in portable charging, charging torching, yeah. Okay. Certain Chevy Bolt EUV models are affected by this recall.
Michael: Basically, you’re charging your vehicle and somehow it exposes you to high voltage current. So you get what they call a very brief electrical shock. Does that mean it’s very brief and deadly or very brief and mild? I’m not sure. But that’s what happens.
Fred: So let’s be clear about this. This is like a ground fault interrupt. Basically, it’s software that doesn’t work very well.
Because of, as far as I can tell, a very low revisit time, 250 milliseconds or 25 milliseconds, excuse me is the amount of time you can get a shot from it. But that will only happen if there’s a ground loop between the charging system and the ground. And if you were if you were standing there with bare feet on the ground, plucking your car in at the same time, it had a ground.
A faulty connection to the earth itself. That’s when you’re going to see that. So it’s… It may not be as… As horrible and as likely as it seems from this. But just wanted to be clear about what that’s all about.
Anthony: I always wear shoes when you’re playing with electric people. Rubber soled shoes. It’s a good way.
Moving on. Hey, it’s our favorite type of recall. Come on, listeners, can you guess?
You win a prize! I don’t know what that prize is. This is from Kia. 144, 000 plus vehicles, almost 145, 000. Kia is recalling certain 2022 hybrids, Sorento plug in hybrids. The mounting clips for the rear view camera may break, which can cause the rear view camera image not to appear properly on display.
Hey, that’s not as bad as normal, where it’s just hey, this camera doesn’t work anymore, this software breaks. This is just a little piece of plastic that breaks. That seems like an easy fix.
Michael: Yeah, I mean it’s, I actually like it when we see one of these and it’s not some massive software screw up or a tie in to an infotainment system.
It looks more like a traditional recall where there was a, a poorly designed part or that type of thing. They’re still not compliant with FMVSS111. Once again, this is something that, I love my rear view camera and I want to make sure it works well at all times. So everyone with one of these Kia’s should, there are 144, 000 of them out there and they’re pretty new Sorento hybrid and the plugin hybrid from the last two years.
So we’d encourage everyone in a month or so when they finally have the recall, ready to go to, to go ahead and get that performed.
Anthony: And if not, then just… Next time
Fred: you leave the Piggly
Anthony: Wiggly, just buy some chewing gum, and chew it up and use that to stick your rear view camera in place.
Fred: Oh, that’s a bad idea.
Anthony: Eh, listen, you tried to flip over a school bus. Moving on, Porsche! 4777 vehicles potentially affected. Insufficient sealant on high voltage battery. Ooh. Porsche is recalling certain, a whole list of Ticans. They all seem to be Ticans, every variation. The high voltage battery may have an insufficient amount of sealant which can allow liquid to accumulate in the battery.
Dealers will test the battery for leakage and replace the battery as necessary free of charge.
Michael: This is also a Volkswagen one too, I believe since Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi are all manufactured by the same folks, you’ll see similar recalls come out because they use the same components and software sometimes.
So this one basically. They’re just resealing the battery, it appears, with some new formulation to prevent water from accumulating in the battery, which, as I think we’ve discussed in other episodes, particularly with hurricanes and saltwater intrusion, water in a battery is not a good thing.
Anthony: No water in your battery.
Last one we’re going to do is a Volkswagen ignition switch may fail. 47, 000 plus vehicles. Volkswagen recalling certain 2019 to 2020 Jettas equipped with conventional ignition switch. The ignition switch may fail, especially in high temperature environments.
Michael: So if you buy the base model Jetta, like I did in June of 2019, you might’ve gotten one of these cars, like I did.
Basically, I mean, it looks very similar to what happened in the GM ignition switch stuff. So instead of the key turning though it’s a poly fuse failing and it essentially makes the engine stall and makes the V the. The electrical system of the vehicle fail, which, you might lose power steering to avoid a crash, power braking, your airbags might not deploy as expected.
There are a lot of problems and they get bigger by the day. As we put more electronics in our cars that happen when you have an electrical failure in the car. So this is an important recall and I hope I received my notice soon.
Anthony: Listeners. That’s just another cry for help for Michael to get you to donate because he has a car that requires a physical key.
I mean, he’s living in a cardboard box. And with that’s our show. Thank you so much for listening. More importantly, thank you for subscribing. Have you not subscribed? Pull the car over now and subscribe! Okay and till next week. Bye. Thank you.
Fred: Bye bye. Bye everybody. For more information, visit www.