The Auto Safety take on CES
The Consumer Electronics Show delights us with the absurd, the dangerous and the potentially good. IIHS shows damage from crash tests at higher speeds and school buses might go the EV route. Plus Fred explains simulations.
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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 seminar for over 50 years. The center for auto safety has worked to make cars safer.
All right. Happy. We can’t even know, we already said happy new year last week, so happy podcast. new year. Yeah. Happy podcast. Happy podcast, people in podcast land. Good morning, everybody. That’s what makes it all. That’s how I know we’re started the show. Cause Fred will say good morning. Hey, this week, the consumer electronics show happened it’s ongoing now, or it happened just ended, but it’s this big, silly event out in Las Vegas, which is kind of a big, silly place and a bunch of Half interesting ideas and half just what is happening ideas happened here.
So I’m gonna start off with the ones that are kind of ridiculous. Mercedes. Decided to team up with musician named Will dot IM that will convert your commute into music. So you’re drive it along and based on how you accelerate and hit the brakes and make turns, it will write a song for you or something.
Michael: Yeah, that sounds like nonsense. You know, I know you’re given the guitars behind you, Anthony. I know you’re a musician somewhat, but you know, I’ve, I love music and I’ve, you know, I play a terrible guitar, but it just seems weird, doesn’t it? The randomness of your commute being translated into music somehow doesn’t translate for me, even with Will.
i. am. Backing everything. Oh, it’s,
Anthony: it’s will. I am, huh? I don’t know if that’s COVID brain on my part or just, it’s just a silly name, but yeah, I don’t understand. I mean, who’s sitting there going, I mean, cause the Mercedes is. Not an inexpensive car. He was thinking, Hey, my Mercedes. I wanted to convert my commute into a song.
I mean, everything would just be like a depressing song.
Michael: I can’t imagine that commutes translate very well, but who knows? Maybe that’s the point. I think that was part of the their intention was to make your commute a little more interesting, but ultimately there’s not going to be, you know, a turntable or a soundboard in front of the driver.
It doesn’t sound like it’s. You’re actively composing or doing anything to distract you while you’re doing it in the vehicle. But who knows, like a lot of things that, that come out of Las Vegas this week and every year at this event, you know, there’s a lot of. Aspirational things and things that make consumers look at the environment and survey the car world and Get big ideas in their head.
And some of them never pan out. So this may be one of them. Maybe, you know, who knows? Maybe we’ll listen to, you know, my, my great commute that only took me 20 minutes and I didn’t hit any potholes by, you know. A random person in a random city and they’ll start uploading those to Spotify. Who knows? Maybe Mercedes onto something here.
I don’t think so, though
Anthony: Yeah, i’m gonna vote with you. I don’t think so bmw jumps into the hey, let’s turn your infotainment screen into a video game system from an article we’re linking to from MSN. Of course, in car distractions are at an all time high and BMW will have to put guard rails in place to ensure that vehicle owners aren’t able to misuse these features while driving or that passenger gaming isn’t distracting the driver.
That just sounds like a giant fail already. The, they’re trying to say that, hey, you can play video games while you’re charging your electric car. Okay.
Michael: That’s a decent argument there. Yeah, it’s gonna, you know, depending on what kind of charger you’re plugged into, it could take an hour or more.
You know, I have no problem with allowing people to waste their time while they’re not driving. While you’re driving, you know, we already have vehicles that allow, you know, your kids in the back to play video games. The passenger seat is where it gets a little more complicated because, you know, that’s within the eyesight of the driver, probably is going to be a distraction of some form, even if the driver is not actively playing the game, but ultimately, I think we’re most worried here about the driver being involved in gaming while driving using some sort of driver assist system that, you know, BMW is developing similar to what, you know, Tesla, GM and Ford have.
There’s a question of, you know, how quickly you can return, even if the vehicle’s doing okay, driving you down the road on its own, there’s a real question of how quickly you can remove yourself from the video game and return to real life and take over control of the vehicle when there’s an emergency situation whether the vehicle can even, Give you enough warning or the proper warnings to bring you back into the real world is a real question here and something that, you know, I’m not excited about the prospect of drivers and video games at all.
Anthony: Michael is a stick in the mud but hey, Volkswagen is going to jump on the latest craze and incorporate chat GPT into their cars, which they claim is to make the conversations with your car more realistic. I mean, right now, like, I can hook my phone into my car and I can do Google Assistant and I’ll say things like, hey, play this song and it’ll do it.
It’s not that hard, or text back my wife something and it’ll do it. I don’t need A conversation, like, hey, how you doing, what do you think of this song, my car, you compose well, driving me to the Piggly Wiggly. Ha, I got Piggly Wiggly first this week, I win. But this just seems like a gimmick of saying, hey, there’s chat GPT, that’s got a lot of press, we want a little press.
Yeah. But from the article, we’re linked to an auto evolution. My favorite part of this is like any chat bot, chat GPT can also make stuff up and offer fake information. That’s what I want from my car.
Michael: Well, I mean, you’re already getting it from most of the industry. You know, why not get it directly from the car too?
But it’s, you know, they were seemingly saying that they were going to make your experience interacting with your car more interesting. Well, you know. That’s not really what we want drivers having access to, you know, you don’t want to make something more interesting. That’s not, you know, focusing on the road at the time.
So anything in that area is. It’s really hairy when it comes to safety it’s, if you don’t want the AI in the car to become so, you know, intoxicating that people are becoming distracted from the road by having a really interesting conversation with the computer.
Fred: Every, every manufacturer says that they have an unalterable commitment to safety, right?
It’s interesting to see the diversion of resources into. These little gimmicks that do nothing for safety, but of course, enhance the marketability of the car suggested perhaps their highest priority. It’s not to safety and the highest priority is to the profitability of the company. Would I be missing something here, Michael?
Michael: No. And that’s something we’ve seen again and again. We’ve seen manufacturers who see the success that Tesla’s had by doing that type of thing in the marketplace with Stupid yoke steering wheels and all sorts of gizmos and whiz bang stuff going on in the software in the vehicle to attract eyes, to attract, you know, tech bro lovers and fanboys and all the things they do.
And it works and, you know, we’ve seen Ford and GM to an extent and some of the other companies that are really trying to get a toehold in this area do some similar things. And so this doesn’t fall too far off the path of all that other nonsense.
Anthony: I just love it that they admit that ChatGP team will make things up.
Brought to you by Volkswagen. Like, we don’t forget Dieselgate, folks. Come on
Michael: here. Yeah, I wonder how the car will answer questions about Dieselgate.
Anthony: More silly idea. Another one from Bosch, which I thought as far as I can tell, Bosch is a an appliance manufacturer. Well, they want to do, they want to extend eye tracking to, to use eye tracking to sell you things or change things in your car and see, hey I can see you’re getting drowsy.
How about when you get home, you want some espresso or? Hey, you looked over at something in the distance. I’m going to tell you what it is, which is this is a great line from the article in tech crunch. They’re the perfect kind of partially baked consumer electronics show ideas and that they make some sort of intuitive sense of the surface level, but can start to break down under scrutiny.
That’s the first 10 years of my career. Yeah. Here’s some ideas and then, you know, you got an adult to poke at them, you’re like, eh, that’s a good idea.
Fred: All right. That’s not creepy at all, that the car is going to monitor your biological activity and link it to marketing and private businesses through real time links.
That’s not creepy at all, is it? I love that idea.
Michael: Yeah. It’s weird. And what this really is, it’s just. Bosch is a supplier. They’re, you know, a top supplier for a lot of the tech that goes into cars and have been for a long time. And they’re already building eye tracking tech to work with driver monitoring systems.
And, you know, we know that at some point driver monitoring tech is going to come into. All the vehicles on the road hopefully the sooner the better to prevent distraction and prevent the kind of things we talk about all the time. But in this case, you know, they’ve, of course, found the other angle, which is if you’re, you know, putting something into a vehicle that’s going to be required from a safety perspective, and it’s, you know, not going to be An inexpensive system to begin with, why not use it to advertise coffee or food or the things that are around the driver as they make their way home.
You know, the article uses the example of, you know, seeing, noticing that you’re tired and pointing you towards where you can get an espresso nearby. That’s, you know, only going to work in a very small segment of the country that has espresso available nearby when you’re tired on the road. As you know, having driven a lot this week, I would say that espresso is generally not available on the road to most Americans when they need it.
Plus, you know, if the car notices you’re drowsy, it doesn’t really need to be making suggestions that will keep you on the road. It probably should be advising you to find a hotel and sleep it off. Yeah, but you
Fred: know, combining it with facial recognition, you could be driving around and see somebody by the side of the road you thought was attractive, and it could automatically link you to a dating site.
So maybe this is a solution to the lack of children in places like China and Japan, maybe. Maybe it’s got a natural market there.
Michael: And it’s, I’m starting to feel the creepy side of this because, you know, you combine this with Volkswagen’s chat GPT feature and you have your car looking at you and asking, you know, asking you why you feel so sad this morning or just, you know, all sorts of conversations that I really don’t want to have with a car.
Anthony: Wow, I mean the remake of the movie Vacation I think will take on a different meaning as they, as it sees you staring off at Christie Brinkley. And whatnot. We’ll tell you who she is and wake your wife up and be like, Hey, his eyes are wandering again. Maybe we’ll do that great movie. I was
Fred: thinking of I was thinking of 2001, a space odyssey Dave, don’t do that.
Dave. You remember Hal? Oh yeah. Yeah. That was a beautiful
Anthony: movie. But yeah, I think this idea and the way TechCrunch summed this up is sums up a lot of the tech bro, everything is that on a thought, it makes some sort of intuitive sense, but can start to break down under scrutiny. GM crews, have you seen us?
All right. And lastly in this is kind of sums up all this stuff, Salesforce did a survey and the survey found that more than two thirds of drivers don’t know what a connected car is. And this is one of these things where they’re trying to sell connected cars. Of 2, 188 people surveyed, 37 percent had never heard the term before, nonetheless just under half the respondents said they drove a connected car once the term was defined for them.
I, I always think of connected cars like what we’ve talked about with like V2X where cars talk to each other. That’s not what a connected car is apparently. Further down in this survey is but consumers also want control over whether or not data is collected. 63 percent of drivers said data collection should be an opt in basis.
Oh, that’s sweet. And 32 percent said car companies should be able to collect any personal data at all. But how will they know who I want to date and if I want espresso?
Michael: Yeah, I mean, it seems like a lot of the respondents in this survey are just a little behind in understanding what’s actually in their cars right now, because many cars already are connected and virtually that just means that they have a connection to the internet, you know, they have the ability to the internet.
Yeah. Communicate and that does go into VTV. I mean, at some point connected vehicles, you know, it’s, we hope are going to be able to, you know, sense each other’s presence, talk to each other, not to us, but to each other and allow vehicles to know where other vehicles are so that they don’t enter the same space.
If they don’t enter the same space at intersections, you know, on the road, just. In lanes, then they’re not going to crash. Right? I mean, if you basically fence them off from each other using tech, that’s where we’re hoping this goes. But the corresponding problem with that is privacy. I mean, look, it’s your cars are going to have to observe you in some way for driver monitoring functionality or.
We want, we don’t really want that being shipped off and used for marketing or to violate people’s privacy. Some of the things that we saw going on behind the scenes at Tesla in the past few years, where some employees were, you know, reviewing videos from the car and poking fun at the owners in a number of ways is not a good way for this to go, but you know.
I think at some level, just like, you know, with your refrigerator and all of the things that, that various companies are putting AI into and that are monitoring you, whether it’s Alexa in your house and your appliances, your security system. Americans have already accepted a certain I think a pretty broad level of a loss of privacy and through those things and cars are kind of dragging behind because cars are lurching slowly towards a More software and computer based functionality across the board and so this privacy issue is not going away.
It’s only going to get bigger. And what’s going to determine what happens is how the manufacturers responsive, whether the manufacturers responsibly deal with all the information they’re acquiring from you. If you, I think right now, the car that’s doing it the most or Tesla’s, you know, they know what your vehicle is doing and have cameras and they collect Data to the microsecond on everything that’s going on with the car.
And Lord knows where all that data is going. Be sure to click all the opt out buttons you can find is my best advice in these situations.
Anthony: Good luck finding an opt out button anywhere. But if all these cars are connected and they’re all talking to each other, aren’t you afraid that they’ll just start be sharing?
Hey, this is my commute song. What’s your commute song? And they won’t be paying attention to the
Michael: road. So we’re worried about cars getting distracted now as well.
Anthony: Exactly. So I’m like, I don’t care about this driver, hey, check out this tune I did. Oh, I’ll make a left turn, I’m going to change it up. That’s ridiculous.
Alright, so not all the ideas out of CES are kind of, huh? What? Why did they let the marketing team in here? Who let the marketing team run engineering for the month? Instead there’s, you know, some interesting. Ideas, this company called Luminar, I’m going to say Luminar, they have something called automatic emergency steering that will help steer you out of a crash.
So the idea on paper sounds like a good idea. It’s a lidar system that will kind of scan around you and see if, oh my god, you’re coming towards some sort of object, you’re going to hit it. So we have automatic emergency braking, but also we should probably turn you a little bit to the right, and so you avoid it.
Paper sounds like a great idea. I think it’s still pretty much going to be in the theoretical stage at this point because there’s so many variables and options and whatnot. I’m looking at Fred’s furrowed brow and I’m curious what his impression of this idea is.
Fred: I think it has a lot of potential.
I think it’s also going to be a bonanza for the liability law community, you know, it’s, I think it’s pretty straightforward to say, well, if I see a hazard, I’m going to slow down because there’s a lot of. Science and tradition and history behind people who are driving slower cars are in less danger than people who are driving faster cars.
I don’t think we’ve got that same very clear cut rationale for cars that are swerving from one side to the other. Ideally, yeah, it would be great if a car steers away from an accident as well as decelerating. And this one, the devil, will certainly be in the details.
Michael: LIDAR was, lidar is a big thing at CES.
It’s probably the one tech that I’ve seen repeated by multiple companies who are entering this space. And it’s traditionally, when we’ve talked about lidar, it’s been in reference to, you know, autonomous vehicles, but the push is becoming the use of lidar and driver assistance in an emergency CRA responses and crash avoidance, I think.
Luminar had a test track set up at CES, and the video I saw showed them, you know, stopping quite easily when they noticed a, you know, a spare tire that had fallen on the road. So even very small objects LIDAR appears to be able to detect pretty well, at least Luminar’s version of it. The automatic emergency steering, you know, like Fred says, that raised a lot of questions for me.
Like, it’s really not too complicated of, you know, a thought process and slowing down to avoid an object in the road. But when you bring steering into effect, you bring. Choices, right? When you slow down, you’re just slowing down. When you bring steering into play, not only does the LIDAR have to detect what the object is, but every other safety system in the car really has to come together, make a decision about, you know, do you go left or do you go right?
And, you know, how hard do you turn left? How hard do you turn right? And so there’s a lot of variability there and the outcome Can be completely dependent on which choice the vehicle is making in this scenario. And that kind of gives me a little pause in this situation to say, you know, do I really want the car making that decision for me in an emergency event?
I’m kind of on the side of the fence that says no. Right now, for sure. But it’s an interesting concept, and we know that the steering part of crash avoidance has been one of the most challenging areas we’ve seen, you know, to a man and or woman. Almost every person I know who has. Lane keeping assist in their vehicle turns it off because it’s annoying or it doesn’t really work right or interferes with them changing lanes in the way they’re used to.
And so there’s really a lot of work that needs to be done on the automated steering and vehicles before I think most of us are going to be comfortable with the prospect, particularly in emergencies.
Anthony: But you like it slightly better than chat GPT in your car.
Michael: You know what, I’d almost rather have an annoying robot talking to me than a robot dictating which way I’m going to steer in an emergency.
Anthony: One vote for freedom. I see. You vote for humans over the machines. Along a similar line is a company called Imagery. They have something they unveiled called a Safe Driver Overwatch, an autonomous safety feature for young and elderly drivers. And I don’t like that differentiation. I think it should just be for everybody, but this is, Exactly.
A similar type of thing where they want to use LIDAR combined with a software to basically paint a a bubble, I’ll just say for lack of a better term, around the vehicle so that it does things like it can see if you’re getting too close to other vehicles, it will adhere to speed limits.
Hey, wow, that’s a brilliant idea. Smart responses to traffic signals and signs. You come to a stoplight, it will stop the car for you. It will anticipate if, pedestrians will move. And I think, again, this is another thing that this sounds like a great idea. Any objections?
Michael: I don’t have any objections to that.
It seems pretty well done. I, like you, I think that, you know, The young folks in the elderly, while, you know, they may have crash rates that are slightly higher than the rest of the population, you definitely need this technology on every vehicle. It’s not just it’s certainly not just the young and the elderly who need to adhere to speed limits and have a, you know, having any type of system in the car that helps you look out for pedestrians better is a good thing.
And then, you know, being able to. They call it a smart response to traffic signals and signs. You know, just making sure that people see those signs or enhancing the driver’s vision of signs or giving them alerts about signs is something that all of us could benefit from. I think so. While this is, marketed towards the young and the elderly, I think that, you know, there’s a lot of people in between who could use some help as well.
What would be really
Fred: great is if these aspirational. Technologies are promoted with a coupled test sequence or a coupled idea of where the envelope is that makes them good and how they’re going to verify that they’ll actually work right. In the future, everything will be better, right? So you just throw something out there and say that this is going to be wonderful.
But people, when they develop these things are thinking of their ordinary circumstances and ordinary driving. That’s not where the hazards lie. And. I don’t know. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with marketing. Sure, telling people that in the future, everything’s going to be wonderful. But from the engineering perspective, it would be really nice to know what the ideas are about these and how they impact safety ultimately and how the decision to exploit these drains resources away from more promising initiatives that could be saving lives right now.
We’re still. Thinking about the intervention in drunk drivers and the adaptive speed control and, you know, all those things that have been proven to save lives that are more or less ready to go in technology basis, but are lying on the floor because money is being diverted elsewhere, right?
Michael: And, you know, we’re Companies are still trying to make sure that, you know, systems that we seem to take for granted sometimes, I think, like automatic emergency braking work appropriately all the time.
I mean, we’re still seeing, you know, significant numbers of phantom braking events where it’s pretty clear that automatic emergency braking is still, you know, we’re still basically coming out of the first generation of automatic emergency braking into the second generation. You know, that’s just going to.
Put out its rulemaking, hopefully very soon to finish up the process of actually getting a federal rule in place that will, you know, somewhat help bring companies to that second generation, but there’s still a long way to go and other multiple other generations that need to happen before, you know, you have automatic emergency braking that’s protecting you know, a pedestrian and the road at dark when a 70 miles an hour down the highway.
And also, you know, Okay. Prevent some of the faults we’ve seen in all of the macromercy breaking, like, you know, false breaking, phantom breaking, however you want to call it, basically ensuring that when the vehicle is. Breaking quickly and making an emergency response that’s doing so in response to an actual threat in the road and not breaking for nothing and possibly causing accidents or crashes due to that breaking.
That’s, there’s still a lot of work to be done on AEB. And, you know, when we, when I see some of these companies, you know, promising the moon and other areas and an AI, it really kind of makes me want to pound the desk and say, Hey, could you just fix the basic things first, the things we know are going to work and make those safer now, and then we can get onto some of these other things like, like video games, et cetera.
Anthony: Wait, so video games is on your list. Well, video games
Michael: can happen, video games can happen, but it’s gonna, you know, at what point are you comfortable playing or driving near a driver playing a video game? Well, probably the point is when you know that the car can safely control itself without human supervision.
So I’m never going to get all these other things in place, maybe video games, but we’ve got a long way to go.
Fred: I don’t know of any actual statistics for people who’ve been injured or killed because of lack of a video game. Is that in there, in the queue
Anthony: somewhere? No, I think it’s more of an emotional death of a teenager.
I think is what happens is they took my phone away. I can’t play. Well,
Fred: that happens every 20 minutes anyway. Right.
Michael: And how many lives do you get if you’re playing the video game while you’re driving? That’s a good
Anthony: point. I just, you know. We’re going to show my age, say how many quarters is going to cost.
Michael: Oh boy. What’s a quarter?
Anthony: That’s pretty much the wrap up from CES in terms of safety. There are
Michael: some others. One more. One more that I thought was kind of cool was the, I think it was Goodyear who is.
Anthony: Oh, I was going to, yes, I was going to talk about that separately. Yeah, Goodyear. They’re, no, yeah, it’s the Goodyear tires.
No, this is good. Yeah. And I got to find it. We’ve talked about this, Fred’s definitely talked about this, how electric vehicles, they weigh more and increased weight will come down to increased wear and tear on tires. That puts out more particulate matter into the environment, which is not good for health and whatnot.
And so there’s an article we have from Autoblog, where as Goodyear shows off a new, greener, but longer lasting EV tires. They’re made with soybean oil and rice husks. Oh boy. The first iteration of the tire came with a 60, 000 mile warranty. The average EV typically, tire typically needs to be replaced after 30 to 40, 000 miles, according to Kelly Blue Book.
So this is you know, hey, this sounds like a good idea. The product is going to use soybean oil as well as sustainably sourced natural rubber, which is, I don’t think you can actually sustainably source rubber but maybe they figured out a way to do it. High quality rice husk, ash, silica and and it should reduce tire pollution.
And as Mr. Perkins would say, everything’s going to be better in the future.
Fred: Well, it’s good if they can pull it off. I mean, why not?
Michael: Yeah, I mean, it sounds like they’re fairly close to getting these out and into production into a wide number of tire sizes, so they’re well on their way, and that’s good news.
I mean, that’s one of the one of the outside of sheer safety issues that we think are happening involving EVs and some of the weight problems we’ve seen and This is one of the areas where, you know, it’s a little off the track for us, but some of the tire pollution that’s going to occur can affect ecosystems greatly.
And there have been a lot of, there’s a lot of rubber and forever chemicals that are washing off roads and America’s streams and lakes and oceans and you know, anything they can do to prevent that problem is great if it requires making tires out of some of the same chemicals that we see some of the wiring and cars made out of that attracts supposedly attracts rodents and other animals, then fine.
I don’t think, you know, one thing that would be good here. Wait,
Anthony: so we’re gonna have rats ate my tires?
Michael: Yeah, I don’t think that’s gonna happen. I think it’s a little more obvious when you have a rat eating your, a squirrel eating your tires versus a squirrel that’s in, inside of your engine compartment chewing on wires as we’ve seen a lot of cases.
So yeah, you know, I wish him the best on this. I hope it works.
Anthony: Well, it surprised me about this. It says the first iteration of the tire came with a 60, 000 mile warranty. How long did normal tires last? Like the table tire on my car that came with the car.
Michael: I would say it’s, you know, 30 to 50, 000 miles.
It depends on the tire. And even the tires you get in the store now are going to have vastly different constructions and they’re going to, some are made to last longer. And you know what, ultimately it comes down to who’s driving the vehicle. I mean, if you’re driving them on a NASCAR track, you’re going to be replacing them during the race, right?
If you’re, right. If you’re driving an airplane with tires, I think you replace the tires every 100 takeoff and landings or something like that. Some tires get very little time and some go to 50, 60, 000 miles with no problem, but a lot depends on the driver and the circumstances that the vehicle’s being used in.
You pay a premium for
Fred: 60, 000 mile tires. Right now, if you go out to buy them, but they’re certainly available. I got the 60, 000 mile Michelin tires for my car because I, it came with Yokohama tires that were. After about 30, 000 miles, I was I was unhappy with that performance of that, but it was interesting that Subaru had changed from a good brand to a crappy brand in the 10 years between cars for me.
Anthony: And you’ve always been a big Francophile. So hence the. Move to Michelin, right? Absolutely.
Fred: It came with a free bagel or sit
Michael: back out. Excuse me.
Fred: Yeah. That was in the wrong, I was in the wrong ethnic
Anthony: tires. Yeah. So yeah, out of a CES that’s all the. The goodness we’ve got out of it. You can see there’s other things in there.
Like we, there’s a Kia comes up with like their concept cars and Honda had some concept cars and concept cars are just something to drive the 12 year old boy in me nuts. So I think, Oh my God, this is what the future is going to be. And I remember what the concept cars looked like when I was 12 and they never appeared.
So don’t look at concept cars. It’s all nonsense. Cars look the same now as they did 20 years ago. They more or less look the same. You know, I mean, some got uglier. Actually, they just got uglier. Is that fair enough
Michael: to say? I would say cars, you know, if you look at them, you know, to me, cars look kind of like a human face.
Sometimes when you’re looking back at the headlights and the grill and cars have gotten meaner. They’ve gotten meaner, more aggressive looking to me. There’s something going on. Maybe they’ll tell us, maybe they’ll tell us what’s going on one day when we can talk to them. The
Fred: concept cars when I was a kid all had bigger tail fins, so I guess I’m dating myself severely there.
Anthony: Yeah, there’s this guy you know, who called tail fins what a room, called cars a room full of knives and sharp edges back in your youth. Destroyed the auto industry. But hey, thanks to his large ass, we have the Center for Auto Safety. That’s right,
Michael: here we are,
Fred: years later. In the future, everything did
Anthony: get better.
If you want to help continue this operation, go to autosafety. org, click on donate. Wait, it’s the new year, I just donated last year. Yeah, you know, our expenses don’t stop, okay? Keep helping us out. You’re the best. I know you want to. Let’s talk school buses. You guys want to talk school buses because we talk school buses quite a bit.
The Washington Post an article about school buses are growing green with a $1 billion investment. The Biden administration is set aside a billion dollars, no, wait, the, yeah, the infrastructure law set aside $5 billion for cleaner school buses. They’ve already allocated 2 billion of the 5 billion, and this is two.
Basically create electric school buses. Part of this also is they talk about you know, most school buses don’t travel that far. So this is actually probably a good use. The current ones, you know, their exhaust is a whole bunch of diesel fumes throw that out everywhere. But part of this is also, hey, they have to build up the infrastructure around this.
So the school districts will have to talk to their local utility suppliers, say, Hey, we’re gonna have all these buses. Can you give us the juice? And in, from my perspective, I think, Hey, this is good. Cause we’re going to force kind of more of graining of our infrastructure. I know Fred has a different take on this, but I’m like, Hey, it’s just another way to do this and yeah, maybe it’s not the best, but I don’t know how else to do this.
I’m sorry, I’m looking at my screen, I’m watching Fred lean in at me and be like, yeah, on the surface it looks like a good idea, but I bet I can poke a couple holes into it.
Fred: It’s not like me to do that, I know, but this may have some merit, but it relies on a couple of assumptions. One is that the battery powered buses are going to be environmentally more benign.
The alternative, and I don’t think that there’s a lot of support for that. The other is that they’ll be able to get forever cheap electricity. And, you know, in my opinion, that’s a scam on the transportation system because they’re avoiding paying the transportation taxes that pay for the highways and the maintenance and everything else that goes into the infrastructure that they use every day.
I think that those two key assumptions need to be addressed. I know I’m kind of swimming upstream on my approach to EVs, But there it is, that’s my perspective. One thing that’s
Anthony: missing from this, sorry Michael, is there’s no mention of any increased safety of these school buses. No. It looks like it’s the exact same school bus, just we put a battery in
It is, and that’s what’s, well that’s a lot of what kind of makes me wonder, even if 5 billion And subsidy from the government is going to be anywhere close to what’s needed here because I mean, we’ve been trying to get school buses to have seatbelts for 30, 40 years now, I believe, and it’s just a constant back and forth and ultimately what stands in our way are the local school districts being willing to, just part with a few nickels here and there to get seatbelts on these school buses that you’re buying the idea that they’re going to be open to spending 3 times more on each school bus, which is the cost here.
The buses are about 3 times the price of a traditional diesel school bus makes me think that this planet. Is already fail essentially, because we’ve seen just how hard it is to get really inexpensive and really basic safety into school buses for. Decades now. So I would expect that the transition to electric in school buses is going to be even slower than it might be, you know, even in this, even in states where electric vehicles are not being supported quite so much as they might be in other places.
So it’s a tough sell. I’d like to see, you know, I could support evs, but I also would like to see just seatbelts on them. Can we just, yeah. Pay a little more and get some seatbelts on buses.
Anthony: That’s not exciting, Michael. Come on, we can’t sell anything on seatbelts. Please.
Michael: I mean, how do you sell a school bus anyway?
It’s got to be kind of tough. Although I have seen some folks who are taking old school buses and converting them into campers. That seems like a fun thing to do. But, when it comes to when it comes to, you know, You know, the needs and the money is a real problem for a lot of school districts and it’s going to be it’s got to be tough for a school district to say, hey, we’re going to make this switch to an electric school bus, even, you know, even with the subsidies involved, there’s going to be a lot of money and outlay that takes place there that comes from taxpayers and school budgets are tight across the country.
So it is a really tough thing to, to imagine happening quickly. Do
Fred: you measure school bus economy in terms of miles per gallon or is it more gallons per mile?
Michael: It’s, in the article they say that The proponents of electric buses counted they’re much cheaper to operate, so they save school districts money in the long term.
They say it costs 0. 14 a mile for a bus to recharge with electricity, compared to 0. 49 per mile for a bus to refuel with diesel. That comes straight from Bluebird.
Fred: Yeah, interesting. But again, that relies on cheap electricity and distribution networks and, you know, that whole infrastructure that has yet to be funded.
And we’ll end up being funded by you and I, regardless of whether or not we’ve got an electric vehicle.
Michael: Right. And one of the things that is cool here is, I mean, it did say that, you know, the school buses are a school bus fleet. If you’re talking about larger locations where you’re going to have multiple school buses involved, you know, you can do a lot with that.
You know, they can sell power back to the grid. You can, you know, power a school. Use the school buses as a generator if there was, you know, a power outage or weather emergency at the school that required alternate power sources. There’s some other uses here that might make sense for schools to take advantage of that might help them cut some costs.
But it’s still going to be, you know, a long road to getting electrified school bus system across America.
Anthony: Well, just put seatbelts on there and you got Michael’s vote. Hey, how fast do you guys like to drive? Say the speed limit, like let’s have an honest conversation. Speed limits, 55 miles per hour.
What do you, how fast do you drive?
Michael: I drive about three, three or four miles an hour, generally over the speed limit on interstates everywhere else. I’m pretty slow in neighborhoods. I drive. Often under the speed limit because whatever reason when you have cars parked on both sides of the road I just imagine someone jumping out behind every one of them in a neighborhood It’s scary driving through streets where cars are parked all around you.
Anthony: All right fred So you’re on the you know, the massachusetts turnpike speed limits what 65 there? How fast are you going? I generally pace
Fred: traffic or actually, I like to set my cruise control for a couple miles an hour slower than traffic so that the problems tend to flow away from me. So that typically ends up being somewhere between 65 and 70 miles an hour.
Anthony: Okay, I’m kind of along your lines, I’ll pace traffic, you know, until they start trying to crawl into me and then I’ll be like, Oh, I’ll get out of your way. So IIHS are teamed up with AAA and they have this great video where they’re slamming 2010 Honda CRVs to see at 40 miles per hour, 50 miles per hour, and 56 miles per hour to show just how those increases in speed will affect essentially the safety systems inside those cars.
AIDS. It’s fascinating to see the damage here. But what it begs the question for me is, so when the NHTSA NCAP tests are done at 35 miles per hour, is that right? Okay. It depends
Michael: on the, it depends on which, which tests they’re doing. I mean, the side tests and the frontal tests and other ones, they have different speeds depending on the test, but most of them are low.
Yeah, they’re low, lower speed. They know they’re not going to be anything like what you see in a head on collision or someone hitting a bridge abutment at 60 miles an hour. Those tests are rarely, if ever done.
Anthony: Right. Cause so this is fascinating because even just seeing the 40 mile per hour and the reason IIHS chose the Honda, the 2010 CRV is because this matches pretty much the age, the average age of vehicles on the road.
And this vehicle did really well in their crash tests at 40 miles per hour. I would not want to be in this car, but like, it looks like. You’re gonna survive. You should be okay. At 50 miles per hour, like, at the very least, your legs are like, you’re getting severe damage. At 56 miles per hour, so it has the side airbag and the front airbag, and your head manages to go in between them somehow.
Like, I’m watching that video, and like, you bounce, and then you’re outside of it. And what blew me away, because I figured it’s this kind of this wall of these cushions around here. So a couple questions. What do we know what the average speed of a crash is on a highway? Of anybody, was 35 chosen at a as a random number?
Michael: You know, I think it was chosen in a lot of ways. I mean, if you talk about it’s particularly, you look at the MITSA tests. I mean, there’s always been a lot of pushback for manufacturers who want test speeds to be lower. I’m sure you can imagine why there, but it’s, and we’ve always. Contended in a lot of tests that speeds need to be much higher because, you know, and the crashes where we’re seeing the most carnage and the worst outcomes are generally going to be well over all the speeds that and it’s and IHS and others test at the really scary crashes.
However. You know, in the crashes that happen most often are probably at a lot of those lower speeds. And so it’s important for manufacturers to build vehicles that are going to respond appropriately, you know, and 35 mile per hour collisions as well. So we think all of those are good. I think what we’d like is more testing at higher speeds to augment some of the data on what happens like foot injuries and leg injuries, like you mentioned.
Leg injuries are happening to a lot of people in crashes that involve frontal collisions and other crashes, but particularly to women. Women have a much higher rate of lower body injuries than men, and we just don’t have enough data right now to be able to You know, force manufacturers through either NCAP or regulation to do a better job there and to protect the lower legs from injury and crashes.
I mean, it’s somewhat understandable because, you know, your legs are closer to the engine block and closer to the crumple zone. And, you know, you’ve got kind of a narrow area. That your legs are in, in your vehicle, and if that area is compromised, you’re going to be seeing, you know, entrapment or significant injuries in the higher speed crashes.
So that’s something that I think we should be looking at a little closer here.
Fred: physics of it are that the. Amount of energy in the vehicle goes up as a square of the speed. So at 65 miles an hour, there’s almost four times the energy that you’ve got at 35 miles an hour. That energy is going to be dissipated primarily by the compression of the front end of the car. So you would expect the front end of the car to have about four times the amount of compression.
In response to that added energy at 70 miles an hour, as you would at 35 miles an hour. There’s, I love this this video that we talked about here at the IAHS. In fact, I just sent it to my granddaughter who is right now on her learner’s permit, learning how to drive. This is an, this is important information.
But most cars are designed to the test, right? So if you got a test that says 35 miles an hour, they’ll design to that. As we talked about before, a lot of the NCAP ratings right now seem to be participation trophies rather than a comparison of what’s really good and what’s really bad. This is, this data that just came out here is another good piece of evidence for NHTSA to really revise the NCAP ratings and turn them into comparative data that consumers can use to see which are really good, which are really bad, and which are really better than the run of the mill data.
Vehicle, that information is simply not available now to anybody. Could be. IHS just showed us how to do it. Yeah,
Michael: and I just, I would suggest that there, you know, there are vastly different things that can happen to an occupant. Just as the video shows, just based on, you know, a 10 mile per hour differential.
So if you’re building all of your vehicles to pass NCAP at 35 miles per hour and you really haven’t really have, you’re really focused on the stars and you’re not really focused on actual protection of people at speeds above that, then you might see some really 10 miles per hour. So in the crash,
Anthony: I mean, yeah.
Fascinating stuff. Definitely check out this video. Now, Fred, you said you sent this video to your granddaughter. Did you send it via email or text? I sent
Fred: it by
Anthony: text. Ah, smart man. Okay, so then she’d actually see it. Because you can’t email anyone under the age of 30. They will not look. But hey, I didn’t know that.
Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I’ve learned that repeatedly with my own child. But hey, let’s let’s get into Fred, you tell us a little bit about, you’re going to, you’re going to simulate us. COVID brain. Let’s get into the Tao of Fred and find out why simulations are unreliable.
Michael: You’ve now entered
Fred: the Tao of Fred.
Well, simulations are great. If they’re restricted to the purpose for which they were designed. The problem is that they’re often not used that way. And that comes to, that’s really the origin of the expression. The problem with simulations is that they are doomed to succeed. Simulations are always abstractions of the real world.
You can’t fit an actual vehicle or, you know, any other finite object into a computer. All they can put into the computer are numbers. You’ve got to represent them somehow as some abstraction of what the real vehicle would do. And the right question is not whether the simulation is right or wrong. The right question is whether the simulation is appropriate for the intended purpose.
And then was it validated for that intended purpose? Let’s talk about this in relation to cars and AVs in particular. For an AV simulation you might only want to model the battery capacity. If you know, how long is the battery going to last? You can have a very simple model that says, on average, based on some test data, we know that the battery will work for X miles, or we’ll use X amount of.
Energy per mile, you can then say, well, I know what the better capacity is. I know what the consumption is on a mileage basis. So it’s very simple to go and make the calculations to say how far is better going to last. Now, that may be a perfectly acceptable. Analysis for how long the battery is going to last.
It may be more than most people are doing, but if you wanted to expand that, you could say, okay, we’ll go ahead and put in some more data. We’ll look at the elevation. We’ll look at the curves in the road. We’ll look at those things that are variable that we know is going to address. Or affect the amount of energy that’s being used, but you might reasonably exclude from the analysis the sensor failures, the time of day, the gross vehicle weight, assuming that you’ve got a weight class that you’re talking about, the weather, you know, and you could still make a pretty good estimate of how long the battery is going to last if you neglected these things.
But for a safety simulation, you’d need a much more sophisticated model. You need to consider the environment, the geography, the intersections, everything that’s going to happen. And, you know, maybe it’d be okay to ignore the propulsion wiring system, status of the tires and maintenance, malicious acts by pedestrians, cybersecurity, et cetera.
in order to do a first order analysis. Now, a responsible developer would test the model with its abstraction scope in mind against the real world behavior, put it out on a test track and find out how close you really are to the performance, and then come to a conclusion to say, within these constraints, it seems to work fine.
Now, simulations are generally used for three different purposes. One is to make a prediction. Another one is to run a simulation, like a flight simulator, you’ve all seen these, right, where the pilot gets in a booth and pretends to be flying an airplane. Very useful to train the pilots on emergency situations that can come up.
Great for that approach. Another use of it is to look at something that happens like a test that you’re doing and then work backwards to find out what are the parameters that were really important for that test? How close did we come to the initial prediction? So a lot of times when you’re doing a test, you’ll do.
What’s called a Monte Carlo analysis, which is to inject variable information into the data, and then go ahead and run the simulation, and that gives you a broad range of what might be happening to the vehicle or the system. And then you can do the statistics on it to find out what’s likely to happen and what are the variations.
This is a standard approach that’s used in simulations. You can then look after the fact, after the test, use that same information, say, okay, how close did we come to our initial projection of what was going to happen? It gives you some confidence in what the analysis is good for, how it can be used, where you can have high confidence in the answers that it’s giving you, and where you don’t.
But here’s the problem, okay? Let’s say that the model you’ve got for your vehicle includes 150 parameters and in a car, of course, you’ve got hundreds of computers themselves. You’ve got thousands of variables, you’ve got people walking by, there’s all kinds of things happening. But just to work the math on this, okay, if you only consider 10 of those factors out of the 100 potential factors in your simulation at each time step for the simulation, there are 6.
3 times 10 to the 19th potential combination of factors. Now, that’s a mind numbing number, but to put it in perspective, the fastest computer in the world can calculate about 1 times 10 to the 18th floating point calculations per second. If you take the world’s fastest computer and you looked at all these parameters, you would take about 5 seconds to calculate a result for each time step.
Right? Wow. That’s not a good multiple, because it’s going to be running a lot longer than the actual vehicle would be running. But if you say the on board computer is probably updating something like 10 hertz, which is A number that I think is realistic, then you’d actually require 50 seconds of computer time to replicate each one second of vehicle operation.
But Waymo says that they have, you know, in their, there’s an article, accelerated data driven simulator for large scale autonomous driving research, which has a 2024 copyright. They say that they’ve achieved over a thousand hertz for step function and 2000 hertz. Meaning 2, 000 samples per second, or simulations per second, if only considering the transition.
Most importantly, as WMAC supports batching, STEP only takes 2. 86 milliseconds using a batch size of 16. This is very fast. Okay, so they’re running thousands and thousands of simulations. It says here 5, 000 hertz per example, 5, 000 simulations per second.
Michael: Why are they happening? Is that happening?
And how are
Fred: they doing that? Well, I mean, they’ve got to have really streamlined models. They can’t be replicating the the actual extensive vehicle. What were you saying, Michael? I was saying,
Michael: where is that happening? Is that happening in vehicle or at Waymo HQ? No, that’s happening in a computer
Fred: at Waymo, just simulating the vehicle behavior.
So here’s the problem that arises. Okay, the engineers who designed this know that there are a lot of simplifications. The marketing people who are using results may not know that, or may not be aware of it. The output of the simulations will have lots of blinking lights, lots of colors, and I think that if, you know, if you design it to ignore the blinking lights that may be Tesla’s model.
I’m not sure, but the simulation may, in fact, do what it’s intended to do, which is to look at traffic simulations, traffic patterns, how well it’s behaving. You know, how often does the vehicle approach certain situations, et cetera, et cetera, but it cannot be extensive to cover all of the safety critical systems that are in the vehicle simply because there’s not enough time you’ve got in order to look at all the interactions and all the interactions between these parameters, how each of the individual Data generators is acting you need a computer a jillion times the size of the fastest computers that are currently active.
When you see a marketing statement, Or an aspirational statement that says, well, we have run a billion simulations, we’ve driven the car for X millions of miles, these billions of simulations support the millions of miles we’ve driven, everything is okie dokie, and here’s a really convincing chart that says this is safe to go.
Be skeptical, okay? You’ve got to realize that there are some dramatic simplifications that are in the model. If it’s been validated for any particular purpose, it’s important to know what that purpose is and what the limits of the validation are. The fact that you’ve simulated performance many times is not an acceptable basis for establishing the safety of the vehicle.
So that’s the short approach.
Michael: They’re saying billions of running billions of simulations, for instance, wouldn’t I mean, with what you’ve just said, I mean, it seems like you could run billions of simulations on one particular event and still not have the answer. So it really says nothing as to their overall safety approach.
Is that correct? Well, you’ll never
Fred: have the answer and the best you can ever hope for is to say that I’ve got a certain probability of being within, you know, a certain range associated with this particular event, right? So if you were shooting an arrow, you’d say, well, I never know for sure that we’re going to hit the target, but I’m pretty sure that 90 percent of the time I’m going to come within an inch of the target.
Just making up numbers here. Okay, that’s the best you can hope to do with the simulation.
Michael: And is that good enough for William Tell? Or, you know, is one inch good enough?
Fred: You know, is one inch good enough, right? Well, that’s the question of what is safe? What does safe mean for a vehicle? What is the objective parameter that you’re trying to use?
But to simply say that the vehicle is going to be safe because we’ve run a billion simulations be skeptical, folks. You know, that’s what it means when people say it’s doomed to succeed because you will have achieved the objective of whatever the simulation is. But you can be easily misled by some really convincing looking results that is good for some other purpose than that for which it was originally designed.
So performance based analysis as a statement of safety, it’s probably not the way to go. You really need to do a safety case analysis, which covers a very broad scope. And as we’ve mentioned many times, there are those systems that are now available for third parties. The UL 4600 comes to mind in particular.
That’s the right approach, folks. Not to hammer away at simulations and try to convince people that it’s good enough.
Anthony: So is this kind of what happened to GM Cruise? They just started believing their own marketing? I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you. Is this what you think happened to GM Cruise? Is they started believing in their own marketing?
Fred: Oh, absolutely, yeah. And just
Michael: skip safety. I would suggest that what happened to GM Cruise is they lied to the government. Okay,
Anthony: yeah, definitely. That was their final nail. We even saw with Waymo’s with I mean, and Waymo has been more open than others in terms of data, but I believe it was a Waymo vehicle where it was a CNBC video where a woman just going down the street in San Francisco and the car in front wanted to back up and parallel park.
Into a spot and the car failed like and it’s a very simple situation that a normal human driver could do it’s not some Random edge case scenario, so I mean I see that and like it couldn’t think oh I just slide slightly out of the lane and around this vehicle so they can park and I see something that It’s simple that like that’s an everyday city driving.
Fred: is. And what you would do with a simulation in that case is you’d look at it and say what are the parameters that affected this and then go in and run simulations with the variations in those narrow parameters to say try to identify that which caused the car to fail. You know, and whatever way it failed maybe they’re doing that.
Who knows? There’s no requirement that they do that. And there’s two approaches for a company to take. One is to actually do the hard work of figuring out what happened. The other is to say, nothing to see here, folks look away. Got it.
Anthony: Yeah. Okay. That’s that’s fascinating. Long story short, people don’t believe the hype.
Flavor Flava’s right all along. Don’t believe the hype.
Let’s wrap up with a Recall Roundup, and we only have one today and it is not related to rear view cameras or to Ferraris. It is a Ford Focus 139, 000 plus vehicles. The 2016 to 2018 Ford Focus their gas. Vehicles, they were built from March 24th, 2015 to May 4th, 2018, and they’re equipped with 1 liter engines paired with a 6 FL5 automatic transmission.
They have a loss of oil, engine pressure can result in engine damage or seizure. Oh, that’s not good, sounds like the oil pump drive belt tensioner arm retention caulking joint is not robust to the vibration experience. I mean, it’s gotta be fun to write these things, huh?
Michael: Well, I mean, this is kind of an interesting one for a couple reasons.
First of all, it’s, you know, The recall is it’s loss of an oil pump drive belt temperature arm which, yeah, basically the, there’s a loss of motive power here, so you’re stalling the middle of the road, but also it’s somehow connected to your power braking assist. System. So not only do you lose, not only do you stall, but you also lose your power braking assist.
So there’s an increased crash risk there. So there’s an odd connection between engine components and braking components. There as well. But the real interesting thing here is that this is something that probably. Could have been picked up had they done some better testing because it’s a vibrations that are experienced over time by the component or what happened here.
That’s something that we’ve talked about a bit, probably in the context of Takata airbags where we’ve seen some of the airbag. The manufacturer suppliers as well as some of the automakers test these airbags using vibration testing to figure out, you know, over time how is the actual driving on roads?
I vibrated a lot on the roads in Alabama this week. They seem to have a hard time making them steady. So I know what that’s like. And depending on where you are and how much your car vibrates and how you drive it, you know, some components may fail over time quicker than others. And this is. Okay. A textbook case of that where, you know, you might be able to suggest that maybe some better testing over how these components are, how the outcomes are happening over time would be informative for the company so that they don’t make a mistake like this.
Anthony: I wonder if in these AVs, do they simulate the wear and tear of the components? Like, with these cars vibrating, I mean, they’re still just a car. I don’t,
Michael: I don’t know. It’s something that, it seemed like when we were looking at the airbag situations, that, that long term, testing of long term environmental effects is something that’s not being done on the regular by automakers or by suppliers.
But it’s something that’s needed, I think, when it comes to, particularly now when you have so many more electronic components in vehicles that are, you know, Subject to environmental stresses and humidity and all the other things that happen once this vehicle leaves the world of simulation and the factory and gets out on the real road.
It’s important to test, do environmental testing. And I think that’s an area in which automakers could improve significantly.
Anthony: Yeah, it just makes me think of these self driving cars and they try them out in San Francisco and Phoenix with very smooth paved roads and what happens when these things get jostled and some component starts throwing errors that they don’t know or it gets disconnected in some way that they didn’t simulate for because they expect, hey, this component’s always going to be here and connected and spitting out the right information.
Fred: Oh, maybe in a future town, we can talk about Goodman diagrams.
Anthony: That sounds great. That’s a character from the TV show Lost, right, Goodman? You’ll never know. I will never know. Hey, and with that, ladies and gentlemen and listeners all around the world, I know while you’re waiting for your BMW to charge, instead of playing a video game, you listen to us.
We appreciate that. Hey, rate us five stars, subscribe, like, tell all your friends.
Michael: Thanks everybody. Bye everybody. For more information visit www. autosafety. org