The Chinese forced labor problem
If you’ve bought a car in the last few years odds are that it’s made with slave labor. How’s that for a show opener? Gulp. Plus Elon Musk blames his customers and not his crummy cars, Michael digs into some bills presented to a guy named Gavin, Fred digs into the morality, programmed and not, of self driving cars and we discuss one recall.
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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: All right, everybody, deep breath, deep cleansing breath in through the nose, out through your toes. And you’re in time for another episode of Their Auto Be A Law! 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 Simenon.
For over 50 years, the Center for Auto Safety has worked to make cars safer.
Michael: Hello, world. Hi, everybody. You can excuse Anthony’s ecstatic behavior. He’s just excited to be out of prison. I
Anthony: wait. Hey, why? Hey, why? Because my first and last name ended in a vowel. Come on. Hey, listen now this week, speaking of criminality, let’s get into labor issues specifically around how parts of your car and really everything you buy is using a lot of, we’ll say coerced labor is coerced labor. Is that a nicer way to instead of saying slavery, too strong?
Michael: I don’t know, put yourself in the situation of one of the folks in the Xinjiang province, who’s part of an ethnic minority where you’re being. Monitored by Chinese authorities via camera, by your bank accounts, by basically every part of your life and also, being told where you’re going to work and what you’re going to be making and going to reeducation for your beliefs so they can turn you into a secular citizen and all sorts of horrible things happening.
If it’s not slavery, it sounds just as bad.
Anthony: It reminds me of this one time I worked for a startup that was purchased by Walmart, and it sounds like that. They had re education in there. It was very strange. This is more like a high tech chain gang. Or instead of instead of a hammer breaking rocks, they’ve got hammers breaking
Anthony: There you go. So basically what we’re going to talk about a little bit is the, and I apologize for my pronunciation issues here, the Uyghurs, they’re an ethnic minority in China specifically in the Xinjiang province, and this is, they’re being forced to do things like help make batteries for your EVs or even for your hybrids or for your plug in hybrids.
And there’s some great articles we’re going to link to. There’s an amazing graph from a organization in the UK that maps out where every auto manufacturer and supplier. Through a bunch of parent, through a bunch of subsidiaries to subsidiaries, and get their basic minerals from copper through everything else through, back through forced labor, unfortunately.
And at best, we can see that some people have acknowledged this. And worst, other people are just like, let’s throw another company in the way and make it harder for people to find out the truth. Bye. So I think this is not the greatest thing, but specifically around this, what does this have to do with autos and auto safety?
There was a great paper, I don’t know, great, it’s, it’s nerdy, let’s be honest here, these two probably love it. It’s talking about the labor strife at the Decatur Firestone plant, Bridgestone Firestone tires, back in the 90s, where, hey, The workers weren’t very happy. They weren’t paid very well.
And then it turns out that what happened, the tires that Bridgestone Firestone produced turned out to be guard garbage and dangerous. Short story be nice to your workers.
Michael: That one’s pertinent to the current situation in America where we’re seeing the UAW Go on partial strike right now.
I think they’re contemplating or thinking about entering a full strike and some of the product quality issues that impacted the safety of Firestone tires in the late 90s. That situation was. If you look at the paper, we’ll post it by Alan Krueger, the late great Alan Krueger who looked at the Firestone problem from the perspective of where did we see the most effective tires coming from?
They were coming from this Decatur plant and they were coming from that plant during the time at which the. There were, wage concessions and all these other demands being made. And what happened was a number of replacement workers came in and were working side by side with some of the permanent workers, making tires isn’t something you pick up in a day.
You have to, there, there’s definitely a difference. And the. Paper goes into this difference between, skilled hands, putting rubber or molding rubber and putting it onto a wheel or all the things it takes to build a tire, all the layers and layers. And it’s not an easy job by any means.
It takes some pretty well developed skills that are developed over years. And. What was coming out of the Decatur plant the tires that were coming out of there were about 15 times more likely to have resulted in a claim, a legal claim than the tires manufactured in other Firestone plants. So there’s.
A significant relationship between, labor strife, labor shortages, and the product that comes out of the end of the line and reaches the consumer, which is really why this is a big concern for safety in the case of China and the Uyghurs, maybe there’s a slightly less of a concern here.
I may defer to Fred on that, but since these they’re generally producing. Mining products and some of the base materials that are used in ultimately manufacturing some of the products that go into your vehicles.
Fred: I’m certainly no expert on how the forced labor in China is being deployed.
But it is true that in that section of the country. A lot of the basic materials and resources that are used in fabrication of high tech products are produced, things like lithium carbonate, which goes into the batteries steel, stainless steel, aluminum, basic materials. And those basic materials can be checked for quality before they go into products downstream, and hopefully always are.
So, there may be insulation between the Chinese chain gangs and the actual quality of the products that are being produced as a result of their forced labor. But that doesn’t in any way minimize the fact that there is, by widespread reports, a lot of forced labor that’s occurring, usually from unwilling people who are being taken from their families and forced to move somewhere else.
It really is very much like a chain game. Yeah. Unfortunately,
Anthony: this is one of these, this is a problem that’s pervasive to essentially everything in the world. And it’s an overwhelming issue because, consumers, we don’t want to support slavery. Especially us Americans think, Hey, we ended slavery.
We don’t realize we just exported it. But as a consumer, there’s not a lot that can be done. Done because if every manufacturer, if everyone is saying, Hey, let’s just, turn a blind eye to this. We’re just going to keep doing this. And I’m not going to say every mining companies involved in this cause it’s not, but then you have, you have the obvious ones of Glencore and Glencore is notorious for, being just fine and dandy with human rights abuses.
They’ve done this all throughout Africa. And I’m not even sure if they’re technically a mining company or just some weird financial Transaction company, so we can talk about the issues of getting these raw materials and whatnot, but as a consumer, is there anything that we can do? Or is it just putting pressures on Toyota and Ford and Tesla?
What do you do?
Michael: There’s both ways, really. The really hard thing, I think, for consumers to do where you could really make a difference is in your purchases. It’s just almost impossible to figure out where the raw materials that go into particularly the electronics you own, there’s just so many different parts and components.
And we’re talking about cars here where there’s going to be 40, 000 different parts or so in a vehicle. So doing the sourcing. Calculation on that to determine whether you could buy that vehicle or not is a mind boggling task and something that none of us want to do. None of us want to have to do when we’re buying a vehicle.
And I think that’s why it’s important to start at the top, put pressure on companies, not only to say the right thing. A lot of them are saying the right thing. They’re saying, oh, we won’t knowingly use, Products and materials that were developed in these regions, but that knowingly is critical because even they find it difficult to always trace the location of these items.
And you know what, I’m sure there are occasions where they really need something, and they know it’s coming from a source that is less than clean, but they have to do it to keep the, keep the line moving and to keep the supply chain intact. So they will, sometimes take steps that aren’t always.
Acceptable to the rest of us and hide it behind an LLC somewhere. So there’s really no telling. Looking at that study from the UK and the chart that traces the movement of these materials from mining through production to the vehicles that we own, you get a really good idea of just how complicated it is for an individual consumer to be.
Task with figuring that out. It’s something that the industry and the individual auto companies need to be making, firm promises that they’re not going to be using any type of exploitative labor in the production of their products.
Fred: That’s an interesting ethical problem, isn’t it? Knowing that the problem exists, what can you as an individual do about it, and have you done as much as you can?
I think that the most you can do on a day to day basis is vote for people who are going to enforce the policies that will try to bring this to an end. Voting is very important, and as a consumer clicking on Amazon, I don’t think there’s a hell of a lot you can do. You can’t get a certificate of conformance for ethical requirements.
Attached to your receipt from Amazon, so I think it’s a practical matter. You do what you can and that basically is supporting those people who are in a position to actually take action who will take the proper action. I’m not sure what else you can do.
Anthony: Yeah, vote and vote frequently, vote often, vote numerous times, register as dead people.
Wait, that’s not what we’re suggesting, is it? So Michael, you said something interesting about companies not just saying the right things. We have an article we’re linking to from the Washington Post it’s called EV Makers Use of Chinese Suppliers Raises Concern About Forced Labor. It starts off with Tesla boasts that its electric vehicles are a marvel not just of innovation but also ethics, pledging in its annual reports that it will not knowingly accept products or services from suppliers that include forced labor or human traffic in any form.
I’d really like to forward, not knowingly accepting this. The carmaker touts its teams of monitors that travel to mining operations around the world and has pledged to mount a camera at an African mine to prevent the use of underage or slave labor. But Tesla has been conspicuously silent when it comes to China, despite evidence that materials that go into its vehicles come from forced labor.
There’s so many things. The not knowingly accept is just some weaselly BS. And,
Michael: I like The age verification camera is what really gets me.
Anthony: Okay, so they said they have pledged to mount a camera at An African mine. So, okay, one camera at one mine? Come on. We’ll discuss Tesla and their love of cameras later in the show, but, this is just some straight up Weasley nonsense.
Michael: Yeah, I just, I don’t have any confidence in a current manufacturer’s assertion that it is not using these products. Maybe they’re not knowingly using them, but they’re not doing anything to police their suppliers. They’re not doing enough. Otherwise, I don’t think you would see the Xinjiang region’s.
Survive as an economic powerhouse too long. If we were actually cracking down on purchases for the United States involving things that were made through exploitative labor in that province and we were verifying it and corporations were actually verifying the source of their products.
They, the economy and that the production facilities wouldn’t exist there. If we were truly sourcing this and stopping it.
Fred: Getting credit where due the article points out that Mercedes does actually helps. A dedicated team auditing the suppliers in China as well as other places around the world.
But apparently that’s the only automobile manufacturer that is allocating significant resources to auditing their supply chain. The others are sending out a questionnaire to some of their suppliers saying, are you good? And the questionnaires are replying, yes, we’re good. And that’s apparently the level of insight that’s required.
To affirm their supply chain equities.
Anthony: We’ve seen the exact same thing play out with clothing manufacturers back in the 90s getting busted for similar things claiming, hey, made in the USA, but it was made in Saipan and send, literally sending out the questionnaires, are you guys good? Yep.
Everyone happy? Yep. Everyone’s got bathroom breaks? Yep. And none of it being true and getting busted. So, I, I don’t I don’t, I was going to say, I think, you Positive changes were made there, but I think the only change made was he can’t, stuff that’s made in Saipan can no longer be labeled as made in the USA.
But hey, keep pushing people, keep pushing.
Fred: Awareness is important, because the whales, right? It was a Save the Whale campaign and you can laugh at that, sure, but… It actually did cause the Japanese to conform to some of the International Wheeling Commission regulations on slaughtering the great whales.
Now, granted, they’re backsliding, but there’s a lot of happy humpbacks out there that would not have been. Pumping happily, if not for the campaign to save the whales. So, public pressure does matter.
Anthony: I have an aside here. So, you’re right, the entire world has gone after Japan for whaling and being like, this is horrible, don’t do it.
But the Japanese keep whaling. So, I’ve got to assume that whale meat tastes amazing. Cause you’re being shamed by the entire planet. Billions of the people on the earth are like, don’t do it. And they’re just like, man, this is so good. All right. It’s
Michael: No, I don’t know. That doesn’t sound that unusual.
It sounds it sounds similar to the, it’s a traditional way of behavior that. I guess people are trying to uphold that as a tradition or culture. I believe, that I believe the United States allows the slaughter of some, ocean going mammals by some of the tribes in Alaska and other sustenance type fishing as well.
So our hands aren’t clean either there. And it’s, you’ll take my whale meat from my cold, dead hands is how they see it in some spots in Japan. So, it’s not unusual human behavior in many regards.
Anthony: The next time you’re in a Piggly Wiggly, look for cans of fresh whale meat. Mmm, mmm. Alright, speaking of fresh whale meat, let’s go to California.
And Governor Newsom. So, Governor Newsom, California. What are we going to talk about? Autonomous vehicles and how much fun they are. So there’s a couple bills presented to the governor and I’m going to glance at one of them. Because, long time listeners of this show, or even short time listeners of this show, you know we think robo taxis are in their current configuration, their current form stupid.
Bad. So, California has just been like, we don’t care what people think. We’re going to do what we want. Anyway, robo taxis are our whale meat. So there’s one bill that’s put in front of him, in front of the governor, that says The bill will require a manufacturer of an autonomous vehicle to report to the department a collision on a public road that involved one of its autonomous vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of over 10, 000 pounds.
Which is strange, and the other thing is…
Michael: It’s basically the heavier trucks,
Anthony: is what they’re going after. Yeah, 10, 000 pounds, that’s like an 18 wheeler, right?
Michael: Yeah, If they’d gone for anything under 10, 000 pounds, crews and all those guys would have been in the legislature, and we wouldn’t have seen this bill passed, in my opinion.
Anthony: Oh, okay okay, that answers that first one. And the other one is Existing law authorizes the operation of an autonomous vehicle on public roads for testing purposes by a driver. Who possesses the proper class of license for the type of vehicle operated. So wait, is this bill saying that, yeah, you can have autonomous vehicles, but there needs to be a driver and does driver mean a flesh and blood driver or software driver?
Michael: It’s basically saying that if you’re going to operate a vehicle over 10, 000 pounds, that is supposedly autonomous on the roads in California, you have to have a safe, a human safety driver.
Anthony: Okay. That’s good. And the reason they’re not scaling this down to, vehicles that are actually autonomous vehicles on the roads in California is because of Kyle.
Michael: Yeah, there’s a sustained, the chances of California, which is very tech friendly passing, this bill was a stretch in many respects, Waymo. And their operations and requiring them to do a safety driver. I think that wouldn’t have made it very far the assembly and the Senate in California.
Anthony: Okay, and now the next bill on the go. So the governor hasn’t signed that bill, right?
Michael: No, the governor hasn’t signed it yet. And there’s a chance that he won. He may receive pressure from some of the AV truck manufacturers. We talked about them a lot last week. I would say here, I think the 3 largest autonomous vehicle truck manufacturers.
I know that Aurora’s 1 Kodiak is 1 have moved their bases of operations to Texas. As we discussed last week, they’re running between Houston and Dallas and San Antonio and Fort worth. I believe. So they’re not even in California anymore. So this may not impact them now. Maybe if they move back in California at some point.
So perhaps the, there wasn’t quite as much heat. Yeah. On the legislature when they to pass a bill that, really doesn’t impact the 3 drivers of the industry right now. All of whom are have moved to Texas.
Fred: I’m going to take issue with that just a little bit. The I 10 that runs from Texas over to California is 1 of the primary.
Venue is for the self driving vehicles. So, they do terminated Long Beach for the most part where the, where all the container ships come in. So there is a significant California segment, even though, as you say, the corporate headquarters moving largely to Texas and areas like that, but in order to continue to use that route, there will have to be consistent with the California law.
Michael: So generally, I think what we would hope is that this was, this would be extended to Waymo and cruise operations because that would eliminate, 1st of all, it would reduce the amount of money. San Francisco is having to spend on fire hoses every year, but it would also eliminate a lot of the other problems that we’ve seen around these vehicles, we’d make sure that these vehicles are stopping to yield to a fire truck coming down the street.
We make pretty damn sure they’re not pulling into wet cement. We make sure that they’re not dropping people off in weird spots. We make sure that they’re not having an existential crisis and stopping in the middle of a road and blocking emergency vehicles from getting places, blocking you and I from getting to our job.
The safety driver eliminates You know, almost all of the issues that we’ve seen with these vehicles to the extent that it makes us wonder why not? Why is it just, are they opposed to putting a safety driver in the vehicles just to show their investors? There’s no 1 with their hands ready to take over the wheel in the car because they’re clearly not considering the safety implications here.
Fred: No, I think it’s clearly, I think it’s clearly just the power capital the venture capital folks are trying to get their money back out of these investments. They’ve made substantial investments, billions of dollars. And if they’ve got a driver in there, that’s draining money out of the bottom line.
But it’s interesting that a lot of airplanes have equivalent supervisory controllers. They have collision warning systems, terrain avoidance systems. They’ve got systems to avoid crashes on the airports when there’s congestion. And so all we’re really asking, all all of these bills are really asking is that there’s a supervisory controller.
In these vehicles consistent with other industry safety standards that happens to be a human being and redundant levels of control and these vehicles where the hazards are significant and numerous just seems like a good idea.
Anthony: I think it’s just because they want to get rid of steering wheels and brake pedals and all that stuff and they want to someone has a fantasy of taking the ugly part of a honda odyssey and stapling it onto the other ugly part of a honda odyssey and Making it a car without ability to stop and brake and crash test and blah blah blah blah blah so the
Michael: other first of
Anthony: all the list price on the well honda odyssey, no i’m not going to get into that and we’ll cover why Yeah later on not because of Pure aesthetics, but because of safety but so the other bill on Gavin Gap, what is with these Californian people in these Gavin Kyle, like this is like the worst version of romper room ever out in California.
Michael: East coast, West coast beef going on here.
Anthony: It could be some East coast, West coast beef. Exactly. I know they got a little too much sunshine and fresh produce. Okay. And I got snow. So the other bill is talking about raising the court limits on lemon law cases. To 35, 000 from 25, 000. So Michael, explain before we even jump into this, what is a lemon law and is it good for you?
Michael: So a lemon law is really good for you. It is, going to prevent you when you buy a vehicle that just either generally a vehicle that came out of the manufacturer on a bad day, it’s not every vehicle in the fleet that has this problem, but your specific vehicle has a problem that’s either unsafe or that after a few tries, they just can’t fix and they need to give you your money back.
They sold you a lemon. And. Lemon laws came into effect starting, I believe, in the late 80s, early 90s. We were instrumental in working to pass them in every state. So every state has them now, although some work to different degrees, good or bad. Some aren’t that helpful to consumers, while the one in California is one of the best out there.
And it’s being threatened here by It’s a very cynical thing they’re using there in California. They have this court of limited jurisdiction. And so if your case is 25, 000 or under you go into a quarter limited jurisdiction, which means that you have limited tools available to you to win your case.
You, for instance, you can only do 1 deposition. So. When you have a case against a manufacturer and a dealer in a lemon law case, you can’t even depose one of each, there, there are limits there that really make it hard to properly pursue a lemon law claim and. They’re making their this bill basically increases the amount of court limits that you, the mounting controversy that’s required in order to qualify for the general jurisdiction court where you’re discovering other things aren’t limited from 25, 000 to 35, 000.
Corresponds to, the price of most small vehicles that people without a lot of money are going to buy. And so, basically, what this provision is going to do is eliminate lemon law protections for a certain segment of the population, and it’s the segment of the population that can that needs the protection the most because they can at least.
They can least afford problems in this area. So it’s a, it’s being presented as a bill that would simply increase the limit to account for inflation over years. But the fact is, they had a chance to exempt the lemon law during the process and some of the legislators were less than truthful in their negotiations over this.
And ultimately, The bill contained the provision that, it’s going up to 35, 000 and we’re going to see impacts on, low income lemon law claimants. And there’s no question about that. We think Governor Newsom should veto that 1 because it’s going to have it sets a bad precedent because, every year now they could, try to slowly raise the limit until lemon law claims are completely excluded. If they’re going to pass a bill that’s intended to raise the limit of certain jurisdictional courts in the state, they should be doing so excluding very specific things like the lemon law, where they’re obviously going to be.
The price of a car is going to fall very close to the difference between a limited and general jurisdictional court. That’s probably a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo. Yes. Doesn’t make a lot of sense. But basically here, they’re allowing Lemon Law claims to get sucked up and thrown away. Under the guise that they’re pushing a general inflation based jurisdictional change.
It’s and the measure is supported by the Alliance for Auto Manufacturers, which tells you exactly where it’s coming from, right? So it’s a sneak attack on the California limit law. And we’re hoping even though the legislature couldn’t catch it or didn’t want to, that Governor Newsom will.
Anthony: Listener, if you love the sweet puckering of a Lemon Law, you can go to autosafety. org and click on Lemon Laws and you can learn all about Lemon Laws and see the Center for Auto Safety’s rankings of states with Lemon Laws and you can read all sorts of, you can read the bills of Lemon Laws and if you have other, if melatonin doesn’t work for you, this might be a an option for you as a Someone who’s an insomniac.
While you’re also there, just swipe over to the right, click on that red donate button, and hit it like 8 or 9 times. Don’t hit that button 8 or 9 times, just come to the forum once, fill out, give your credit card number, your first of born your next of kin, your mother’s maiden name your height, weight, passport, control number, things like that.
And that’d be great. Now onto something. DNA sample. Yeah, exactly. Only if you’re driving a Nissan. Because I think we learned last week that Nissan is somehow getting your, lick the left
Michael: genetic information. We’re still confused on that. Nissan. You want to reach out to us and tell us about all that genetic information you’re collecting?
Anthony: And if you do, please have on a latex glove. Nissan. Okay. Speaking of creepy, let’s go to one of our favorite tech bros, Alon Muskey. So, yeah. Elon Musk we, there’s Walter Isaacson did a, hagiography on him. And in the book we find out that that Teslas, they have cameras inside them, which is not unusual and something we actually support.
It’s to driver monitoring systems to see, hey, are you actually paying attention when your level two systems are on? And if not, warn you to, hey, you gotta sober up and then put your eyes on the road. Most manufacturers use basically infrared. So they just which is great, simpler, probably even cheaper.
Tesla’s no, we got a full camera on there. We are watching you. We are perverts. So, Elon, he’s from this article we’re linking to an electric but that wasn’t the only thing Tesla wanted to use cameras for. According to the biography, Musk pushed internally to use the camera to record clips of Tesla drivers, initially without their knowledge.
With the goal of using this footage to defend the company in the event of investigations into the behavior of its autopilot system. Basically, every time the autopilot system would fail, get into crashes and whatnot, Elon was like, No! It’s not my software! It is these damn humans and their f It is clearly their fault.
My systems are perfect. That is great. There’s no fighting in the war room. Sorry. No,
Michael: I just, I couldn’t do any better than that. That was you’ve been working on your voice. That’s good.
Anthony: Again, still no clue what he sounds like. I’m thinking like a a very tight mouse fart is his voice. Sorry,
Michael: That was really the part that drew me in the article is this absolute, absolutely convinced.
This is a few years ago, well before some of the recalls and a lot of the problems that we’ve seen with autopilot have been exposed, even though NHTSA hasn’t quite moved on them yet. This guy is convinced that it is the driver’s and not the car. Even though he knows he doesn’t have lidar on these vehicles, he has a camera and there’s not enough there to ensure safety.
There’s not even radar. It’s like a true believer type approach, but and it goes a little further than that. It’s so I need to film people. In these situations so that we can use this to push back when they’re alleging that there is a defect in my car which is megalomaniacal behavior in my book.
I don’t know. What about you, Anthony?
Anthony: I think he’s either auditioning for Pinky and or the Brain from Animaniacs. And I don’t think he’s going to quite make the cut. It’s just, he’s crossed the line. That we’ve seen Tesla using, sharing the footage from people’s cars and passing around the office seeing, Hey, this is what this person’s doing in their house.
Cause there’s the external facing cameras and they’re watching all of that. So, Jackass is a, is. Is the rating I’m going to give this. I don’t know if it’s quite to the creep level of Nissan. But it’s definitely one of them is in the running to win a future award that I want to give out that one day I’ll have Michael approve the name for,
Michael: And I do, it’s one thing that’s interesting in the article, the privacy teams, they’re clear that Tesla who want to do the right thing here.
They’re saying we need to nominize this data where we don’t, we can’t associate. Cameras with a specific vehicle, because that’s a huge intrusion on our owner’s privacy. And how ultimately the concept that everyone come up, came up with to make, the executive branch of Tesla happy was to.
Build a pop up into the system that popped up and said, Hey, we’re going to film your film, you and take all your data in a crash, click on this button. And that’s what still remains today. Apparently in Tesla’s.
Anthony: I want to know if you don’t click that button, what happens? That message just stays on your screen or it’s get out of the car.
We’re opening the pod bay doors.
Michael: I don’t know. Maybe you can’t engage autopilot or some of the safety features if you don’t agree to that.
Fred: And my Nissan Rogue, it just stays on the screen. Really? Yeah. You got to do something to get it to leave.
Anthony: Cause my phone. On my phone, I get like at least once a week saying, Hey, click here to agree to our new legal agreements.
And I always just swipe away. I’ve never clicked to agree. So come at me, Samsung. Okay, let’s let’s jump Kia, Hyundai. So this is a confusing one for me, anyway. ABC7 Eyewitness News Chicago. Some Kia drivers say they missed a software update notice and that resulted in engine failures. So…
It was this an in an update notice that people got in the mail they got on their edutainment screens
Michael: from all of the key and Hyundai engine failures, part of which involved fires that we petition that’s on about five years ago.
Anthony: And this is their ICE vehicles, right?
Michael: Yeah, this is, it’s ICE vehicles, but I believe some hybrids have been brought in mainly because the investigation started with a, a small batch of the theta two engine vehicles that we’d identified and is the investigation remains open even after that recall, as NHTSA appears to be conducting a wide ranging investigation of Hyundai and Kia fire related.
Incidents that have, occurred across a number of their models. I believe Hyundai even opened up a North American, like a special safety office testing facility or rapid response type facility last week to focus on some of the defect issues and other problems that they’ve been having a lot of that.
That’s what they did with the, under the agreement, they reach with to avoid an even larger civil penalty in this case. So they’ve had to respond. We have seen a number of additional fire recalls from honey and Kia. That does suggest they’re paying attention. However. We haven’t seen the same focus by Hyundai and Kia on giving their owners good quality vehicle or in response to engine failures.
In this case, Kia and Hyundai released, software patches on a number of vehicles that basically added a knock sensor to the vehicles that would pull you over if the software detected a problem with your car. You were given a certain amount of time to have that software installed on your Hyundai.
Or… You don’t qualify for the extended warranty on the car and what is happening now is a lot of people are finding that the A lot of people who never received a notice in the first place and had no idea that this problem was happening, have their engines blow, go into their dealership and find out that this has been a huge problem for years.
They were never notified and, even there was even a class action that’s involved in this that basically, once that was settled, owners had 90 days. And to get the software installed in their vehicles to qualify for the extended warranty. So there’s a lot of people who bought and used cars who, or for whatever reason, didn’t receive this notice and are now having engine failures and not being covered under this extended warranty that’s been given to other owners who happened to get the notice and had their vehicle software updated.
So. That’s really the genesis of that story is the frustration all these owners feel who’ve, essentially been left out in the cold because they weren’t notified about the problem.
Anthony: How is this not a recall? Cause I know just on my car a while back it was like, Hey, there’s a big software update and I’m not paying for data services on my car.
And so there’s no way for me to download it until I was in the dealership. And I was like, Hey, you guys, they’re doing, some free maintenance. And I said, Hey, there’s this big software update. And they’re like, yeah, we can do that for you. It’s going to take two more hours to download this package.
So a lot of people without, internet service or decent one, how would this not be a recall to go to the dealership and get it, the software?
Michael: Although the. NHTSA and Kia and Hyundai basically went to the ca table and negotiated the recall that included 2010 to 2014, some 2015 vehicles in a recall that did a very similar thing.
It, it inspected the engines, changed the software, but in 2015, in later vehicles and. What the, what Hyundai and Kia decided to do was do a service campaign and extended warranty, which means you don’t have to notify owners in the same way that you notify them under a recall. Kia and Hyundai have said they notified owners by first class mail, similar to a recall.
No one has any way of verifying anything they say in that regard. We don’t know how hard they tried. There are no regulations that require them to do anything in that scenario. So we just don’t know. And we see a lot of owners now who are, coming in, having never received that, who might have benefited from the recall being extended to additional model years because they would have found out about the software patch.
Anthony: Crazy crazy. Hey, before we jump into the Tao of Fred, just so I don’t forget, because I mentioned it earlier, why I’m not getting a a a minivan. There’s an article from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety talking about rear seats and minivans. The restraint systems in All four vehicles that they tested leaves the second row occupant vulnerable to chest injuries, either because of excessive belt forces or poor belt positioning.
That’s concerning because those injuries can be life threatening. So I just jumped right in there. Basically, the article is titled, Minivans don’t make the grade when it comes to rear seat safety. And you figure these things are advertised as, Hey, take the kids to soccer practice, or hey, take the kids to, the clown show. Is there a clown show? I don’t know. I, I grew up in the days of station wagon where I was like, Just sit in the way back! It’s fine, you’re facing backwards, it’s okay, you’re rolling around, that’s good. So, hey, these kids have seats, they’re doing better than I did.
So, they should have a good safety, but they’re lagging behind compared to everyone else. IIHS did updated moderate overlap front test. Basically basically they’re not doing that great. So the ones that came out, okay. Honda Odyssey, like I mentioned earlier it got a grade of poor.
The other vehicles tested were a Toyota Sienna, a Kia Carnival, and a Chrysler Pacifica. They all got marginal grades. Kia, come on, you named your car Carnival? What’s happening here? What’s, oh boy. I want to be, I want to name cars.
Michael: I think this is just an inevitable consequence of IHS moving dummies into more rear seat positions.
We know that most of those rear seat positions don’t have pretensioners or load limiters on the seat belts to make sure that the seat belts are working properly. And we know that manufacturers aren’t required. To test or certify with anyone in the rear seats and that NHTSA is not testing rear seats in NCAP or in its motor vehicle safety standards.
So why would we expect the rear seats to be all that safe? There’s just not a lot of time or effort that’s been dedicated to those positions by either the government or manufacturers and, it’s, this is what we expect to see when we move. Different dummies of different sizes to different positions in vehicles.
We expect to see a safety degraded because those sizes of people weren’t taken into account when those vehicles were designed.
Anthony: Sorry I had to write that down. Different dummies of different sizes. Potential title for the show, this episode. Hey I am not Jad Alpabraum, and this is not Radiolab. But now we have the Tao of Fred, inspired by an episode from…
Michael: entered the
Anthony: Tao of Fred. Do they still do that? I haven’t listened to Radiolab in years, but it would have that…
Fred: There’s all kinds of little background noises. I can’t figure out what’s going on most of the time, but This particular episode was very interesting. It was titled driverless dilemma and it covered a lot of interesting bases, but one of the things that discussed was the consequences of Self driving vehicles or autonomous vehicles So it makes perfect sense To think of all of the truck drivers being put out of work, there’s only a few million of those.
So, I guess the industry think that’s acceptable. And I think that, any industry spokesperson who says that there is a different. Agenda behind putting autonomous control systems in truck drivers is really being disingenuous. Clearly what they’re trying to do is remove the cost of the truck drivers, but also do you ever been in a diner and ask for a cup of coffee?
And then somebody named Shirley comes up at the end and says, Hey, how do you want me to refill your coffee?
Anthony: So I think right there you’ve just exposed yourself you’ve never actually been in a diner because if you go into a diner you don’t actually ask for a cup of coffee you just sit down and there’s coffee in front of you.
Fred: I was specifying the refill, Anthony.
Anthony: Oh, no. You said you, you asked for a couple of car. Okay. Minus one plus one.
Fred: In any event, all of those Shirley’s are going to be out of work too, because the truckers are no longer going to have to stop in the truck stops to do business. All of the support people who have built their lives in industries around.
The itinerant truck drivers are also going to go to business because there’s no itinerant truck drivers. So there’s a lot of consequences of this. I don’t think people have to have really. Thought about that very much. The effect on teenage romances of self driving vehicles. I, that’s a, it’s a very important thing to think about, especially for the teenagers, teenage
Anthony: romance, I think it would backseat pregnancy will skyrocket.
Fred: All right. It’s hard to know with those cameras, Elon Musk.
Anthony: That’s how you pay. I think that’s how you’re going to pay for driverless cars now is, is Hey, you’re being filmed live. That’s probably going to happen.
Fred: But the question really comes down to how do we embed morality and social norms into AVs, if they’re going to be on the roads, in Germany.
The AV development started with a analysis of, with an analysis of the ethics of autonomous vehicles and the vehicles being designed there in Germany are required to be consistent with the ethical basis that’s been vetted and accepted by all the parties.
Anthony: Wait, by German society? Yeah. Wait, so the ethics are decided by German society.
Fred: Yeah, there’s a little bit of an irony there.
Michael: It implies there’s some sort of agreement in society on some of these things, too, which there may not be.
Anthony: And my concern with putting ethics and morality into cars, I don’t know, let’s have a whole bunch of white guys who are on the Spectrum program this stuff.
Fred: Yeah let me turn it this way. If there’s an irony in the German ethical basis, Then where’s the irony associated with your workers having no ethical basis? But, okay. But so here’s another question for you, Anthony. Oh, no.
Anthony: What’s a Luddite? Oh, a Luddite is delicious. It’s got like a marzipan in the middle.
Michael: Luddite is someone who is really scared of new things and new advances to the point that they’re, It’s basically someone that you would describe as living in the stone ages.
Fred: According to Wikipedia, which is not generally quoted as a primary source, but a lot of it was somebody who protested against the manufacturers.
Use machines and quote a fraudulent and deceitful manner close quote to replace the skilled labor workers. And drive down wages by producing inferior goods. Now, if this sounds a lot to you, like the plight of the taxi drivers in cities where AV what do they call this robo taxis, where robo taxis are going to take over.
Like our friends in San Francisco. I think you’d be right on the money. The Luddites took up arms and began to smash some of the factories that were producing these inferior goods. And of course, the government came in with police and destroyed the labor movement as well as a lot of the Luddites themselves in the process, killing a lot of them.
We’re probably won’t come to that here because we tend to be a little bit more. A little bit more restrained in our approach to capital, but it was interesting, and I think that the Luddites really, if you come down to it, they put their ethical basis in front of the capital, excuse me, to say that this is wrong, and we’re not going to stand for it for all of us, though, there’s a question, would you purchase a car that is designed to protect you by killing someone else?
Anthony: Depends if they owe me money.
Fred: It’s would you make that conscious choice? When you get a really big vehicle, you’re clearly doing that. You’re putting yourself and your own personal safety in front of the safety of the other people around you. And you do it without really making a conscious ethical decision.
You just buy the car because nobody’s forcing you to make that ethical decision. So extend that a little bit, because they talk about the trolley problem in this Radio Lab episode, which is, an apocryphal situation but it reduces to some other things. Would you purchase a car designed to protect you by killing multiple people?
If the autonomous vehicle has a control system in it that says I’m going to protect the passenger in my car at all costs, let’s say there’s an oncoming vehicle and the autonomous vehicle is programmed to drive onto a sidewalk. To avoid the oncoming vehicle, regardless of what’s on the sidewalk.
I think that’s just part of the marketing campaign for the Hummer EV.
Would you purchase a vehicle that’s guaranteed to kill other people? It could
be, but you know, but the question is who makes those decisions, right? And what is the basis for the vehicles to be produced and put on the road without having a discussion about those choices? Are we really leaving it up to some software engineer somewhere?
To figure out this is the best way to go and to give that software engineer no guidance as to how to set up the parameters of the program. That’s, in fact, what’s happening. Going back to what we talked about, boy, I’m really Debbie Downer today, aren’t I? This is interesting. But so you go back to the robotaxis.
Should a robotaxi be allowed to protect its passengers by endangering people outside of the car? That’s it. There’s a yes or no answer to that. But you first have to ask the question, and then you have to. Have somebody in a position to answer the question. It’s just a void right now. Should the AVs be allowed to include algorithms that protect occupants and developer companies at the expense of public safety?
Should we preserve capital at the expense of human life? That’s what the Luddites found was the case in England. That capital was more valuable than the human lives that were lost in defending capital against the Luddites. I, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some similar kind of movement here in this country, but there’s, hearkening back to what we were talking about before about the vehicles and materials being built in China, it leads us to a different ethical dilemma.
Would you purchase or use a vehicle that’s built by tortured or enslaved people?
Now, knowing that the vehicle and its materials come from China, believing that forced labor is being used to build those vehicles at some level of the materials is it okay to just go ahead and buy the vehicle? Or do you have a responsibility? You as an individual have a responsibility to investigate what’s going on.
There’s no way of knowing that right now. There’s no practical means for you as an individual to look at the certificate of conformance for all of the materials that go into the vehicle. So the responsibility has got to either be absent or it’s got to be vested in somebody. And that somebody for us has got to be the government because there is no other agent who’s got the visibility.
And oversight. To make that determination gets us back to the Washington Post article about forced labor in China. There’s, and you go into the supply chains that Michael talked about and we’ll provide these references to people if they want to look at the to listen to the episode. But, none of these issues have been addressed and enabling regulations.
So the developers engineers in lieu of ethical guidance are making these decisions. Now, I was trained as an engineer. I never had a course in ethics as an engineer. I never had a, I never had that as a consideration. The engineers looking at the driving situation are given stark choices between turning right and turning left.
They’re not. Invested in the ethics of the decisions that are being made in the ethics of putting this forward. I really think there needs to be some discussion of that. And if this is the only forum for that, I’d be surprised, but I haven’t heard any other public discussion of those ethics. So, I’ll leave you with this.
There is a basis. There is at least a document. That discusses the ethics of autonomous vehicles that may be imperfect. Probably isn’t perfect, but it’s a start. And I think that there should be probably some way for the engineers who are tasked to develop these vehicles to get an ethical reference for the work that they’re doing and the implications of the work that they’re doing before we turn it out and loose on the streets.
What do you think, Anthony?
Anthony: I think you’re right. I think. From a consumerist point of view, I think one of the big issues is that people, when they see a computer or something on a computer screen or something built like that, they think it’s infallible. They don’t realize that it was people behind it who built it, made choices.
They go to Google and they think this is the answer that Google gave me. It must be the only one true answer. And I think they’ll do that with self driving cars, and things of that nature, and they hey, the car wanted to make a left turn, the car must be correct. And people keep forgetting that, I was joking earlier, but it’s true, it’s primarily a bunch of white dudes who are on the spectrum making these choices, that, probably brilliant engineers, but you’re right, none of them took a class in ethics, none of them are looking beyond, just some…
Some rule book of, Oh, this is what the car should do and not thinking beyond that. Or they’re thinking about it in an abstract way, such as the trolley problem. And that’s just playing an intellectual game as opposed to this is an actual situation that will. What I think for people is they have to realize there’s ethical choices.
There’s choices consciously and unconsciously made behind every algorithm. Google’s way of searching is not the one true correct way. Your, the vision system inside your car is not the one true correct way. There is decisions made behind that, and as we see they don’t identify people who are either child size or have darker skin.
It’s because of conscious and unconscious decisions made in these systems. They’re made by people and people are imperfect. Garbage in, garbage out. End of rant.
Fred: Now, Michael talked about the ethical basis related to backseat injuries. Right now being being vacant and IIHS is stepping into the void by doing some tests and getting new information about the hazard associated with the backseats of minivans.
And we’re waiting for NHTSA to do the same with the many vehicles that they test. Michael where and how should this ethical. Dilemma being vested in the government or should it be in the government or how do we move forward with this to make sure that there is an ethical basis for these hazards that are being put on the
Michael: think that’s at some point it’s going to have to set some type of minimum regulation here, but when it comes to the many different ethical decisions that have to be made in operating a vehicle, without getting into, it’s going to be very difficult. It’s very difficult for the agency to do simple things like we’ll talk about in a minute, like moving, a seatbelt warning buzzer from the front seat to the back seat.
So when it comes to situations like this, I don’t think they’re equipped at the moment to make that type of decision making. I don’t know that any of us are in some of these situations, even in the Radiolab podcast. The most interesting part of it to me was that they were Putting an fMRI machine to observe people’s brain patterns when they were given a problem like the Charlie problem or like the mash problem, which is a mother having to Smother her child to protect other humans that they’re hiding with and even within our own minds, there’s a tension when you ask people this question, they see 2 different parts of our brains lighting up and basically firing away and contending with each other as we.
And are individually struggle with the answer to questions like this. And so, I think we need a lot of discussion and an open forum for everyone to be involved to make sure that the machines we’re building are taking, good human values into consideration before we program machines that we turn loose on the populace.
Fred: And for our listeners, I’m sure this is obvious to you by now, but when you put a human being into an AV as a supervisory driver or a backup driver. What you’re also doing is you’re putting an ethical machine in charge of what is purely an information processing machine. And that ethical machine is, of course, the human being who’s in there.
And, the human beings all share certain values and characteristics. Yes, there are psychopaths, but, for those who are not psychopaths, we all share a lot of social instincts and ethical biases. It’s important that these also be invested in the operation of the vehicles in society. You can’t have things in society.
You can, but it’s catastrophic to have dangerous machines in society without some ethical basis for their use and misuse. Very important. So I’ll end my rant with that. We really need humans in the loop.
Anthony: I agree. A good example, as fans of F1 will know recently, there was a, two weeks ago, there was a crash during practice where a driver lost control, hit a barrier.
The next driver coming around, their choice, they had, they didn’t have the option to say, hey, I’m going to avoid this person. Their option was, oh crap, I’m going to smash directly into that vehicle. And their cars are really built really well. Or instead, I’m going to turn and smash my car into the barrier.
And that’s what Daniel Riccardo did, and he broke his hand, and he’s been out since. But, he managed to make that ethical choice within, a split second. I don’t know that an automated system has that kind of capability saying, Hey I will crash myself instead. We don’t know that, and I don’t think anyone does.
Fred: I’m sorry. It’s just going to say what we have seen in San Francisco is that the autonomous vehicles will block ambulances and emergency vehicles. So, clearly there’s work left to be done and equally clearly a human being in the driver’s seat of those vehicles would not have blocked the ambulances and would not have impaired the fire response.
Anthony: And since Michael mentioned it, we’re going to talk about it here. This is we can’t really link to it because, we could, but you need to pay for a subscription to auto news. So let’s celebrate that NPRM. Hold on a second. So basically this is the the warning system in backseats of cars.
You get this all the time saying, Hey, little Billy, little Janie, you didn’t buckle your seatbelt, and I know this because there’s a sensor on the backseat saying there’s a body here, or a really heavy bag of groceries, which is what my car does at times, and I’m like, I gotta move that really heavy bag of groceries or I gotta put a seatbelt on it.
And so, Michael, can you walk us through this real quick?
Michael: So that’s that rear seat belt reminder. I believe we mentioned a couple of weeks ago when it was the notice of proposed rulemaking. The rule has not yet been put into place. We’re expecting it to go into place next year when hopefully going to affect by 2027.
so. We were interviewed in an article in automotive news, where we did something fairly normal, which we said, this standard is long overdue. We, the standard was 1st petition for in 2007. It’s pretty obvious that you need to get a seatbelt warning system in the backseat of vehicles.
It’s not an overwhelmingly large task. I don’t think it’s, rocket science by Fred, do you think it’s rocket science do that? Oh, I don’t think so. No. I mean does it take 20 years? For manufacturers to be able to comply with moving a seat belt warning from the front seat to the back We don’t think so.
We think you know a lot of There were some barriers thrown up by the auto industry, pretending it was harder than it was. And, there were some administrations that passed on it. Since the petition was filed, we’ve been through the Bush, Obama, Trump, and now the Biden administration, there’ve been.
12 or a lot of it’s administrators or acting administrators that have had a crack at getting this thing over the line. And it’s only just happened. So we pointed that out in the automotive news article that we were quoted in and they, we were accused of not being fair. To the current administration straighters.
We’re not talking about the current administrator. We think that, the current acting administration straighter in Carlson has done a pretty good job compared to a lot of people that came before her. She may have a good case to be 1 of the better acting administrators in the last 40 years.
But the fact is it took effectively is going to take 20 years from the time that. Public citizen first petition to have these reminders moved to the back seat in 2007 Congress mandated in 2012, it was supposed to go into effect in 2015 and here we are eight years later, just getting it into a proposed rule, that’s why, I criticized NHTSA in the article because they deserve criticism. And if it’s taking you 20 years from the time an issue is raised to the time it’s actually going into vehicles and you don’t have the technical capability at your agency to do a better job than that in those 20 years to reduce it to 10, to reduce it to five, how can we trust the same agency to deal with?
That’s just rear seatbelt reminders. How can we trust them to deal with cyber security? How can we trust them to deal with autonomous vehicles? All of the different crash avoidance and multiple vehicle types and levels that are coming out. If they can’t get, a rear seatbelt warning into the back seat in less than 20 years, that’s, essentially where our criticism was coming from in the automotive news article.
And we stand by that. There’s, we, I don’t think we can expect a NHTSA that takes 20 years to get a rear seat belt warning into vehicles to react promptly and efficiently. And with, consumers in mind and safety in mind when they’re exploring some of these even more complicated technical issues that are coming down the pipe.
Anthony: So, current NHTSA administrators do keep doing better. Okay, we’re rooting for ya. The past ones, eh, they’re not there anymore, so let’s just focus on what you can do today. And with that, we have time for one recall. We don’t even have time for one recall, but I’m gonna do it. I’m using my internally developed algorithm to focus on one recall this week, and what possible subject can I choose out of all of our recalls?
You guessed it, listeners. Rear view camera image may not display. Ha! Nissan, over 153, 000 vehicles they’re recalling certain 2019 2021 Altima and 2020 2021 Sentra vehicles. Damage to the camera harness can cause distortion or loss of rear view camera image display. Why can’t anybody get their rear view cameras working correctly?
This is… Ridiculous. And with that’s our show.
Michael: I think that’s another thing that’s the needs to do. Maybe they need to revisit the regulation. If we’re having so many recalls that, I don’t understand why we’re continuing to see this problem over and over again, but yeah.
Anthony: Hey, and Fred, just for you, Piggly Wiggly.
Fred: Thanks for listening. Thanks everyone. Bye. For more
Michael: information, visit www. autosafety. org.