The South will crash again… and again

Mississippian Michael Brooks faces the fact that more car crashes happen in the South. But the data is a bit suspect as Massachusetts seems not to live up to it’s reputation. Also Japanese automakers Toyota, Mazda, and Honda mishandling vehicle safety tests. This week Fred examines Tesla‚Äôs ambitious yet problematic GigaCasting manufacturing process and its implications on vehicle safety and repair costs. The hosts conclude with several nominations for ‘Gaslight of the Week’ and discuss the rising concerns over automated driving technology and vehicle manufacturing shortcuts that impact safety. +1 if you could tell that the last sentence was written by AI.

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Transcript

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 There Auto be A Law, the center for auto safety podcast with executive director, Michael Brooks, chief engineer, Fred Perkins, and hosted by me, Anthony Cimino for over 50 years, the center for auto safety has worked to make cars safer.

Fred: Howdy guys. Hey, good morning, gentlemen. World. Good morning world, too. Why not?

Anthony: Hi, listeners. Hey, listener, before we even get into anything, can you do me a favor and click that subscribe button? And click five stars, or, I don’t know, seven thumbs up emojis? I don’t know how this stuff works. But instead, let’s get right into the show.

Hey, Michael you’re a man from the south Mississippi, right? That’s it. Okay. In the past I’ve made some comments, you’d say observations about Southerners and I know as a Northerner I

Michael: It’s a longstanding, thing we’ve got going.

You New Yorkers and a Southerners.

Anthony: Yeah.

Michael: Okay, good.

Anthony: I

Michael: think that’s okay to say.

Anthony: Why can’t Southerners drive? Let me back up. There’s an article in Consumer Affairs. That talks about basically most car accidents happen in the South. And there was an interesting part in the opening paragraph. It said, according to the USGSA, the General Services Administration, a car crash happens every five seconds on the US roads.

Is that true?

Michael: That certainly sounds right.

Anthony: That’s insane!

Michael: Oh, it’s not, they’re not talking about injury or death crashes, it’s just a crash, so, that’s not outside the room of possibility.

Anthony: Wow. From the article which we linked to the number one city on the list is Memphis, Tennessee.

And, Jackson, Mississippi comes in at number seven. Michael why is the South so highly rated in driving?

Michael: When you look at this list, it is literally, these are the top 15, I think, They are all Southern cities on this list. And even when you look at the States on the list, with the exception of Montana and Wyoming, they’re all Southern States, not necessarily Southeast, Arizona is in there Texas, which isn’t.

Traditionally considered part of the Southeast. I think I’ve seen New Mexico pop in a lot of these, one thing that all those places have in common that makes you think it might have something to do with this is heat. Is there a relationship between high temperatures and increased accidents?

I think there’s some studies that tend to show that there is. When I think about, dangerous driving conditions contributing to crashes. I think immediately about northern states and snow and, icy roads and snow do increase the level of car crashes, but Memphis is an interesting one.

They are. They’re not, it’s not a landslide victory over Daytona Beach, Florida. I guess you can imagine that in Daytona Beach, there are a lot of speeding related crashes because everyone’s trying to mimic the race car drivers that come through town every year. But Memphis had with a population of 600, 000 or so, the Metro is a little bigger, but 600, 000 and the main city of Memphis, they had 207 fatal crashes in 2022 in the year in which this was studied, which was, I believe right about the same, just a little less than New York city, which had 228 spread over, What is it?

8 million people or so there. So New York doesn’t show up on the list. They have more crashes, but Memphis is a very. Unlike New York, Memphis is a very large city. It’s spread out over a lot of area. There are a lot of, open roads, open spaces. You’re not crammed in traffic all the time.

There people speed a lot. Apparently people looking at the data, people have, there’s a very high rate of drunk driving crashes in Memphis. And, I don’t have a good explanation and I would love for someone to. And maybe Fred has a better idea of why we tend to see these higher number of car crashes in southern states.

There’s a, there’s a rural urban issue here. There are a lot of crashes in rural areas where, drivers, there’s less enforcement. Drivers typically reach greater speeds than they can in urban environments where the traffic’s affecting the speeds they could reach. But there’s a, There’s something to this study, I think, that needs to be, we, needs to be figured out a little more than we have, we know these crashes are happening.

We just don’t know exactly why.

Fred: I first want to rise to the defense of Boston drivers who had a undeserved reputation for being catastrophic. So the clearly the data shows that Boston is actually. In Massachusetts in general, it’s a fairly benign place to drive. If you look for a cause of this, I think it’s got all to do with speed.

I think there’s a lot more highways in the South. The cities, as you pointed out, are more spread out. There’s a lot more opportunities for people to drive too fast in areas where they really shouldn’t be driving too fast. In Boston you’re pretty much sitting at a standstill. Or a lot of the time which, it’s frustrating if you’re behind the wheel, but it’s good from this perspective of removing energy from the likely crashes.

Even when it snows, you tend to go slower when it snows. So even though it’s a little bit slippery, the collisions tend to be at lower speeds and that’s always good for you. So that’s my guess. Not sure what NIST would have to say about that, but that would make sense and is consistent with what we know about the consequences of speeding.

Anthony: So I, based on what you just said, I looked at this data again, and I think it’s all suspect. I think it’s wrong because Massachusetts comes in at number 48. And, we had a sheriff on from Massachusetts who said, Yeah, we’re assholes. And I asked him the question, why do you turn right? When you have your left signal on?

And he said, yeah, we’re not good drivers. So I cannot imagine that so many people, that 47 other States are better than Massachusetts. I have no problem with that. And Anthony, where do you live again? New York. And where are we on the list? 49! Ha! We’re better than Massachusetts! Ha! So looking at the cities though.

Touche. Looking at the cities there’s a lot of Florida in there. And I think, a lot of people in Florida shouldn’t be driving cars. That’s my thought. You

Michael: know, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot, it’s just striking how many Southern cities are listed on the, there, there’s literally the furthest North you’re going to get on this list, I believe is St.

Louis. You’re talking about, there’s, I don’t know about how, if there’s, typically, I know Houston’s built on a very large area, there are a lot of highways, Memphis is very similar to that. Just a massive Amount of spread and sprawl around the city. And Memphis, really the metropolitan area extends down into the number one state on this list, which is Mississippi.

So that could be playing a role in it as well. Um, all of the, it looks like there’s a companion study that was, that the same group consumer affairs did last year, which Memphis was ranked as the top ranked city for the worst drivers in America. So the data is pointing at Memphis and saying, you guys need to do a better job.

One of the things that you notice about Memphis is. And the number two sitting on the list of the worst drivers, which is Baton Rouge, that there’s an incredibly high rate of fatalities due to positive blood alcohol content per 100 K population. If you look somewhere, some of the other folks on the list, like in Georgia or New Mexico, you’re looking at about, Five fatalities per 100 K population every year.

Memphis is at 8. 8 Baton Rouge in Louisiana is at 10. 4. And it just so happens that Mississippi is stuck right between those two cities. So I’m just going to go ahead and blame all of Mississippi’s problems on Baton Rouge and Memphis.

Anthony: Okay, said like a true Mississippian, blaming two cities not located in Mississippi.

Great. Okay, let’s move on. Normally when I think of Japanese automakers, I think, Hey, they make really good cars. They’re gonna run forever. My nephew just got his, bought his first car. It was a 2000 Toyota Camry. In gold, because I think that’s the only color they made that year. And it’s probably got close to 200, 000 miles on it.

He figured it’s gonna last probably at least another 100, 000, right? Because he’s not driving it in Mississippi. So anyway New York Times, Toyota Motor, Honda Motor, and other top Japanese automakers said on Monday that internal investigations found that they had mishandled vehicle testing on dozens of models over the past decade.

Toyota said it had failed to gather proper data when doing pedestrian and occupant safety tests for three models including its popular Yaris Cross Sport Utility Vehicle. Honda and Mazda Motor said they too had identified problems related to the testing of several models. By we, hey, we discovered problems is Just, hey you know those tests?

We didn’t do them. Or we lied. What?

How is this happening?

Michael: It looks like they are, in Japan, I’m not sure how different their certification system is from America’s, whether, I don’t believe they have to do type certification, but it looks like, they have to apply to the transport ministry in Japan To certify their vehicles.

And, there are various we saw this a number of years ago with the Takata scandal in Japan, where Takata was essentially falsifying data that was submitted to the Japanese regulators. And, they falsified data that was also submitted to the United States as well to prove that their airbags were deploying properly.

This scandal appears so far, at least I haven’t seen any note that these vehicles are being shipped to America. It looks like most of these are cars that are in Japan. Although, if they’re falsifying. Crash tests or other things on vehicles in Japan. Maybe this goes further. We don’t know yet.

But there’s an investigation ongoing. I believe yesterday the transport ministry, went to Toyota’s headquarters and is having a look around. So I’m not sure exactly what that entails, but there’s probably going to be more news on this. It might have a broader impact than we’re aware of at this point.

It may affect vehicles outside of Japan. Right now, it looks like Toyota and Mazda are really the two, Honda’s mentioned, Suzuki’s mentioned, Yamaha is mentioned. It looks like Honda was, had some incorrect reporting on the noise that their vehicles are making. There’s some kind of noise certification that they have to meet, I believe in Japan, not in America.

Anthony: Are they, is this like the U. S. where these companies self certify?

Michael: Yeah, that’s right. I’m not totally clear on that. Whether Japan exerts a little more authority over automakers than they do in America. In the United States, they just basically say, hey, we met this standard and sign a piece of paper and, occasionally the government will come back and say, yeah, let us see that data and make sure that you are actually doing these tests that are underlying this.

I’m not sure if Japan follows a similar system if they’re a little more strict about receiving. The data along with the vehicle certification applications, but you know, it’s interesting. I’m not sure exactly how, if there was a whistleblower or how this came to the attention of Japan, but, essentially it’s resulted in Toyota and Mazda having to stop shipments on some of their vehicles in Japan for now.

So we’ll see how it plays out.

Fred: The article said, if I remember correctly, that there’s no safety impact, which is interesting. And that makes me wonder if there was a process. Fault and how they reported the information rather than an actual defect in the design or the test that they were conducting. So there’s a lot that we don’t know about this.

We’ll we’ll keep you informed.

Michael: Yeah, it’s interesting, they’re saying there’s no safety impact when you see, there’s a Daihatsu issue here, where they say that there were, they rigged side collision safety tests for 88, 000 small cars sold as Toyotas and there was also in, in one article, it noted that Mazda, I believe, was Instead of during the test for the airbag deployment in front of collisions, instead of, having a car hit a car and seeing how the car that was struck to respond they had a timer that set off the airbags versus forcing the vehicle to detect the collision, deploy the airbags, which is certainly a safety related issue.

I, I don’t know if that’s a, if it’s a good to characterize This situation is not involving safety when you’re talking about airbags and side, side collision tests.

Anthony: The person in the article who said that safety isn’t an issue here is somebody from Fitch Ratings. I take everything they say with a grain of salt because I think Fitch Ratings all said, Hey, Lehman Brothers is fine.

Michael: I

think you should ignore anything coming out of the financial markets about any auto manufacturer, as we know. I think I mentioned a couple of them a couple of weeks ago when talking about Tesla, some of the people in the financial markets who support Tesla and are pushing them are. Absolutely, they’re aliens when it comes to their knowledge of auto safety and what they’re talking about, generally.

Anthony: So I’m going to say it’s fair to say that the person who pitched ratings was gaslighting us. And maybe Toyota and Mitsubishi was gaslighting their customers. So let’s talk this week’s gaslight nominees. I’m going to kick it off. Guys, who do you think I chose? Who? Who? Anyone? Come on.

Michael: Elon?

Fred: No.

Anthony: Fred, what’s your guess? Boy, I’m sorry. My mind drifted. Tell me again. Gaslight Illumination. Who do you think my, you’re gaslighting me now. Dammit. Who do you think I, I nominated? Oh, I’m, who do you think you nominated? I’m

Fred: not sure. I’m. You’re unpredictable that way.

Anthony: It’s a surprise. GM Cruise.

That’s right. No. Ah, GM Cruise is putting out a small fleet of drivers in Dallas. Just three cars that they have human operators. They’re not taking passengers. They are just driving around to collect mapping and road data. Down the road, crews will expand it to supervise driving measured against predetermined safety benchmarks.

That they will not elaborate on what those benchmarks are. GMCrews! Just saying bullshit every time.

Fred: That’s good. I’ve got a nominee. Friends at Nissan, my nominee for the gas light of the week. And cause they say through their spokesperson at the Alliance for automated innovation, they go through a lot of dissembling here.

And they say that privacy policies are publicly available blame the lawyers, but that’s to ensure manufacturer compliance with notice obligations. In the growing patchwork of state privacy laws, and then they go on to say, yes, your vehicle is generating and transmitting safety data. That’s by design. No, your car isn’t spying on you.

However, if you listen to our friends at Mozilla, do you all use the Mozilla Firefox browser? By the way it’s my favorite go to mine as well. But Mozilla, which is a nonprofit organization, reviewed the privacy policies of many.

And and the AI or the Alliance for Automotive Innovation includes Nissan, but according to Mozilla, the very worst offender of privacy is Nissan, the Japanese car manufacturer admits in their privacy policy to collecting a wide range of information, including sexual activity, health diagnosis, data and genetic data.

But doesn’t specify how they say they can share and sell consumers preferences, characteristics, psychological trends, predispositions, behavior, attitudes, intelligence, abilities, and aptitudes to data brokers, law enforcement and other third parties. So if you contrast what Nissan puts in their privacy policy with the, their spokesperson’s statement that says, no, your car isn’t spying on you.

I definitely nominate this for Gaslight of the Week.

Anthony: I like it. It’s a good one. Nissan is watching and apparently perving on you. Michael? What’s your vote?

Michael: My nominee this week is the CEO of Ford Motor Company, Jim Farley, who is sounding like Eline Jr. these days. He’s talking about Technology that Ford is going to offer that will allow drivers to take their eyes off the road and their hands off the wheel and what he says is Somewhat illuminating, he says we’re getting really close We can do it now pretty regularly with a prototype But doing it in a cost effective way is just the progress.

We’re going to need to make and he’s saying, you know That Ford is basically going to be at level three in two years allow you to go, hands three, eyes off the road, you can do a conference call, your car becomes an office, the same stuff that we’ve continued to hear, meanwhile, Ford’s Blue Cruise, which is their level two system is being investigated because it can’t detect vehicles.

And that are stopped in the middle of the road in front of it. We’ve seen two fatalities and two crashes. And that’s why Nets is investigating that. And, it’s just this, why are you, I don’t understand. And this is just, a personal pet peeve here. Why are people. I don’t understand why people think that being able to take conference calls in their car, turning their car in an office, or just being lazy and not wanting to pay attention to the road takes precedence over the safety of other drivers.

And I can’t foresee a situation in which I would be willing to allow. My vehicle to take over that kind of control and responsibility, knowing that if, the vehicle gets into a collision, I may be on the hook at it, Lee, hook for it legally. And I just question where all of this is going. Are we ultimately going to turn our cars into living rooms?

And I, I. It just sounds so incredibly outrageous to think that this is going to be something that’s going to be mass produced and put on the road safely by Ford in two years. So that’s why Mr. Farley gets my nomination this week. Just more, more aspirational nonsense from the auto industry around automation.

Anthony: I like that. Anyone who wants to be Elon Jr. It should be out of a job. Bye bye Kyle. Remember that guy? You know what

Fred: I think the fundamental problem is with level two and level three vehicles, it’s people that have just refused to evolve fast enough to keep up with the machinery. I, I think the machinery is great.

It’s just people who are defective. We refuse to take over immediately. We refuse to take over safely. I, shame on us. We should really be doing much better to support the machines.

Anthony: I agree, and listeners, if you feel shamed, go to autosafety. org and click donate. Is that how that works?

Michael: I don’t know how shame works as a donation mechanism, we’ll see Anthony.

Anthony: All right, so I’ll talk to my wife about the things we talk here and half the times her eyes glaze over and she won’t even use the lane assist on our car or anything like that. She gets angry at me when I even do it and I’m fully pissed. paying attention to the road. But there’s one issue I’ve talked about in the show where she’s like, Oh, I noticed these things on the road now.

And that is the divided panel or no, wait, sorry, I read the wrong part. The under guard on trucks on 18 wheelers, the undercard under ride guard is that I call that. So picture this, you see an 18 wheeler, you see the the large, the cargo area. And below that, on a lot of them, you’ll see basically either a full, solid shield looking thing, or you’ll see a cage.

And that is to prevent you from doing awesome things in your Corvette, like sliding underneath it, coming out the other side.

Is

that what it

Michael: is? That’s what it is. And right now there’s, they’re, I believe they’re required to have underride guards on the rear of trucks where we’ve seen a lot of collisions and a lot of underride type collisions in the past.

However there is no requirement that they have side underride guards, which would prevent, if 18 wheelers stopped across the highway or is it jackknifed even in such a way that the side of the vehicle is exposed to vehicles, the side of the truck is exposed to vehicles that are coming down the road, they can easily slide under the side of the trailer, even if the vehicle has reared under right guards and you’ll see them.

So you’ll see a couple of different types of these. You’ll see, welded steel bars. And there’s also I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it looks like a plastic or fiberglass sheet runs the length of the vehicle, and then those can also contribute to fuel economy for these trucks as well, because they make the vehicles, the trailer is slightly more aerodynamic.

So they’re helpful in some ways. What, there’s a lot of resistance here. From trucking groups, obviously they don’t want to have to add, the extra weight, the more you wait to you add to a trader, the less product they can load onto those vehicles and then the cost of adding all those things.

But, we see a significant number of crashes, injuries and, truly debilitating injuries in the city. type of situation because when you’re in one of these crashes, your car is essentially diving under the vehicle and it exposes, your head neck area to the rear of the trailer or the side of the trailer.

And, I’ve had a couple of friends who have been in crashes like that with terrible outcomes. And there are a lot of families who are very strongly supporting the work of the committee they’re talking about here, which is an advisory committee that was, I believe, required by the Infrastructure Act a couple of years ago.

They appointed, members of the trucking community, members of the safety advocate community, and a lot of other folks who, police officers and some groups like that. To vote on, whether NHTSA should move forward with a rulemaking to require these and the, and it passed by one vote.

It’s still somewhat in contention. Obviously the trucking groups went against the vote. I still haven’t found a good like a good tally of who voted for what, but I’m assuming, and I’m pretty sure I’m right that the truck groups voted against this because they’re voting against, The expenses they’re going to have to make these trailers safer.

But this is something that has been going on the debate around this for far too long. And a decision needs to be made soon by, NHTSA and, The FMCSA and the FHWA kind of come into that as well.

Anthony: I think you just made up a bunch of acronyms there. Federal

Michael: Highway Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, they all play somewhat of a role in trucking safety.

Sometimes, NHTSA has the authority to develop standards but at the same time, I think it’s the FMCSA is the one that’s, tasked with. looking at the actual trailers when they’re on the road and conducting inspections to ensure that they have the proper equipment. So there’s multiple agencies involved here.

Anthony: We have a link to this in Transport Topic News. Fred, I want to ask you a question. When you drive, do you think, hey, driving’s got to be fun? Is that the most important thing for you?

Fred: Usually staying alive is the most important thing for

Anthony: me. Boring. Michael, fun or staying alive?

Michael: I have to, I consciously ignore the fun factor when I’m driving because there’s something, in me and I think in a lot of people where it feels fun, getting into a car, acceleration is fun.

Driving fast is fun. Winding around a curvy road is fun. And that’s why people do it on racetracks. For entertainment. And that’s why people also do it far too often on public roads when they need to be on racetracks. But yeah, driving a vehicle is fun. And I think when you are driving on public roads, you need to actively suppress your fun button type stuff and make sure you’re being safe.

Anthony: See, my car has a paddle shifters, which is bizarre. Cause it’s an automatic transmission. Yeah, I’ve got that. It’s so stupid. This is an article we’re linking to from Jalopnik, talking about electric vehicles. It starts off, After worries about charging and range anxiety, the biggest issue many car fans have with electric vehicles is that they’re no fun to drive.

GM has a patent for a new type of clutch for your electric vehicle. To make driving an ev more fun, so it says this clut new type of clu, clutch actuation would improve the transmissions found in high performance electric vehicles. Now, dumb question. I didn’t think an electric vehicle really had a transmission.

Fred: There are some kinds of electric motors that run in a limited speed range. There are other kinds of electric motors that generate a lot of torque at low speed and it can run over a very wide range. So there could be a technical reason based on your selection of electric motor design, why you want it to have a transmission.

But I don’t think that’s the real rationale behind this. I think that, they’re trying to make things funner. And by the way, I have paddle shifters too, and they come in really handy when you’re descending a big hill. So yeah, they thought,

Anthony: and these actually might be good. Cause if people are more engaged, then they’re more engaged with the road and things around them.

Look at that. Putting a positive spin on things.

Fred: It’s interesting. As I go through life, I used to be. A guy who was always lined up behind the slow car, and now in the slow car that everybody’s lined up behind. Interesting how life changes your perspective. Get out of the

Michael: left lane.

Anthony: Yeah, just choose the middle lane.

Just, make friends with nobody. Anyway, that’s an interesting thing. And this reminds me of a Lexus doing, I think it was Lexus having a fake shifting thing and fake shifting sound inside their electric vehicle.

Michael: And that was completely fake. If there is a reason for it, and if it’s keeping drivers somewhat engaged in the driving task, then fine.

But You know, putting fake shifting sounds and bells and whistles on the cars that are more of a distraction than anything else doesn’t, is not something I don’t think we’d be behind. But, if there’s a proven need for electric motors to shift gears and, then, okay, we’re willing to, we’re willing to listen to that.

Fred: Well, BMW, remember they pipe engine noise into their electric cars. So that it’s got the BMW sound when people drive it, which seems, utterly ridiculous too, but hey, it’s dollars and

Anthony: sales. BMWs also pipe in positive affirmations. You’re a good person. You’re better than everybody else there.

Don’t pay attention to other drivers on the road. Just do you.

Michael: You’ve now entered the DOW of Fred.

Anthony: Fred let’s talk TOW. Cause this week I’m really interested in this one. Cause we haven’t, it’s however far into this show so far and we haven’t talked about we’ve done it. Glanced at Elon, but let’s get into some Elon nonsense.

A thing called

Fred: GIGACASTING, it’s such a wonderful term. I love it. Did you ever have, Anthony, did you ever have a Hot wheels car. Oh, yeah, man. You’re all over that, right? Oh, yeah. How do you have any idea how they were manufactured? Hong Kong. You think they, do you think they took a giant block of aluminum and, cut it down and hogged out pieces until they ended up with a hot wheels car?

Pretty much. Pretty much. You’d be wrong. They

Michael: whittled it. They whittled it out of aluminum. Look, I actually went to

Fred: Hong Kong. Another candidate process. Actually, they used a process called die casting. And what die casting does is It’s like injection molding, where they make so many plastic parts, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, except instead of plastic, it uses hot metal, typically aluminum, sometimes zinc, sometimes magnesium, but those are the three metals that they use.

And it’s great to produce hot wheels because hot wheels. They’re light and fast and nobody gets killed if a Hot Wheel goes out of control. Now, if you take that idea and expand it by a factor of, oh, we’ll say 10, 000, you have GigaCasting.

Anthony: I gotta stop you real quick. He doesn’t like

Fred: GigaCasting either, he’s But GigaCasting

Anthony: Go on.

No, I was going to say, there is danger with Hot Wheels, because if you take two of them and you tape them to underneath your shoe on both feet and you try and skate with them it’s not a it doesn’t, look, not everybody made it at my house.

Fred: I’ve never tried that. My feet are too big, I think. But anyway, GigaCasting, it’s a really big casting, and it replaces lots of individual parts.

So from the manufacturer’s perspective, it can save you a lot of money instead of getting 10 or 20 parts to put the back end of the car together. You just have one giant part that’s made out of aluminum, and you can produce that in a matter of a few seconds. Once you’ve invested the considerable amount of money in the metal manufacturing, the, the smelting, the controls, the dye, the casting.

If you think of a pressurized aluminum casting, molten aluminum casting, that is under a couple thousand PSI when they inject the. Aluminum into the mold. That’s a pretty considerable manufacturing process. So the good side of that is that you can produce some medium resolution parts that you can bolt the rest of your car to that replaces a lot of the front end individual components and rear end individual components.

You would otherwise have to assemble either by robots or by hand. So manufacturing costs can go way down. So the downside of that is that. You are trading the multiplicity of parts for a really significant quality control process you need to put in place for controlling this giant casting that now weighs hundreds of pounds.

There’s a number of problems with die casting. They can get holes and blisters and cracks, deformation and sinks and all the kinds of things that can happen can be detected, can be mitigated to some extent. But you need to have a really good quality control process. And so that sort of runs in the face of high volume production.

But think of the, think of a Hot Wheels car that weighs 500 pounds, and that kind of gets you the idea of what the gigacasting is all about. So another downside of this is that if you ever do break that big part, Very difficult to repair standard parts that, standard design processes that come apart as parts.

You can get the smaller parts to fix the car and replace the dense and straighten the frame or whatever it is you want to do with these big giga castings. If you break them you bought it. It’s because you build the car around these, and you’ve really got to put a lot of money into repairing them. So this could be part, and I’m speculating here, but this could be part of the reason why.

Some of the horrendous repair costs that we’ve seen lately associated with things like the Rivian cars that are getting banged up and we have a report that it took 40, 000 to fix a fender bender on a Rivian car. It could be that they have similar manufacturing parts that are extensive and great and a one off, but very difficult to repair.

And again, that’s speculation. I don’t know enough about Rivian to know whether or not that was the case, but I would expect that to be the case in cars like the Tesla’s that are now using these very large die casting parts die cast parts, which they’re calling giga casting. So that’s the story about giga casting.

It’s, when you make metal parts for the casting, there’s a couple of different processes you can use. You can either use the investment casting, or you can use. Gravity fed sand cast parts, which also can have very good surface finish. The latter process is what they use to make jet engine turbine blades, which have to be both very carefully made, as well as have very specific and really demanding material characteristics.

Single crystallization, or single crystal fan blades. are common and they are very difficult to produce. There’s only a couple of companies that do that, but that’s a sand cast process, which is more familiar to a lot of people. So die casting, you have to make this giant mold, you pour into it molten metal at high pressure, and then you extract the part from the metal mold, which comes apart.

And and voila, there’s your part, but you then have to go on into the quality control inspection if you want to have reliable production. We don’t know what the quality control process is at Tesla, so we don’t, there’s no way for us to know whether or not this is overall a higher quality and safer product than would be produced in and using conventional manufacturing process.

But that’s the geeky casting story. I have hot wheels.

Anthony: I got a,

Fred: that’s like

Michael: a little bit of a nightmare for insurers who, when in collisions are looking at replacing the entire frame or the entire chassis of the body of the vehicle that everything’s created around versus replacing, a front side rear panels as they do now.

Fred: Yeah. I agree, I’m, I would expect that the giga casting or the giant investment die cast part would be surrounded by, in some sense, sacrificial panels that hopefully would break and in a minor accident, you could replace that, but I don’t know, we’d have to look at the design more carefully to determine that, but it certainly has that potential of having exorbitant repair costs.

Thank you very much.

Anthony: So I gotta point out there’s an article I just found that we’ll link to from CNBC saying that last fall Tesla stopped doing gigacasting. Because turns out they couldn’t really get it to work. With that in mind Fred, when did Elon Musk invent gigacasting?

Fred: When did he invent gigacasting? Yes. Never.

Anthony: That’s just not true. How far ahead of everybody was Tesla being the first company to ever do something like this?

Fred: Oh I don’t know, Anthony. I’m guessing you know that answer, though.

Anthony: It turns out some other car manufacturers started doing this in the 90s.

But they stopped, too, because, oh, they’re stuck with these giant molds, and if you ever want to change things, that, that was just a big waste of money. But, Tesla is,

Michael: That sounds like boat manufacturing. A lot of boats are manufactured that way. Where they have giant molds that are You know it’s a lot of money to create new molds.

Maybe that’s the issue.

Fred: Engine blocks are often manufactured using die casting because you can get complex geometry and you can get reasonable dimensional tolerances. And there’s some post processing that goes on, but the giga casting. Tends to be much larger than the engine blocks themselves.

So it’s, it’s an expansion of scale. It’s not an expansion of the basic process, but it is commonly used for parts like engine blocks.

Anthony: So this sounds like to me, that’s, Elon, when he invented this, he’s Hey, we do it this way. We’re going to save a lot of money cause we just have one piece.

And then, after he invented it, he’s Oh, Hey, this is a really expensive to set up and It’s not working that great. Let’s not do this anymore. Which is like everything else he’s invented. He’s Hey, look at this great thing I came up with. It’s not working. Let’s look over here.

Fred: I think we’ve talked about that before. One of the problems with these new car companies that are coming out the Rivians, the Teslas, the Fiskars, the brand new companies is that they don’t have the operational experience To really want to design for repair, the established car company has been around a long time.

They know what they have to do in order to make the cars repairable. And the repairability may run counter to the idea of initial manufacturing cost. It sounds like that, but I think from the consumer perspective. You really need to be attentive to the cost of repair because somebody’s got to pay the bill.

Things are going to happen.

Anthony: Yeah, I think a lot of these car companies don’t realize, Hey, that’s how we make all of our money, service. Ha. But, so safety related question to gigacasting. Okay. Is there a benefit of having a one piece gigacasted underbody or frame or something like that compared to one that’s, a thousand pieces welded together?

Fred: It all depends on your quality, control processes, and what’s happening. For example, there’s a list of things here that can go wrong with die casting in general, and giga casting in particular, and I’m just going to go through them really quickly. Gas porosity, drags and soldering, blisters, cracks, deformation.

Flow marks, cold flow, turtle cracks, sinks, short filling, flashes, inclusions, interlayers, and basically having the wrong geometry from the get go. So there’s a lot to it. And, some of these defects you’re only going to find when you actually have built the dies and you’ve manufactured a couple of parts because surprises happen.

And then you’ve got to rebuild the dies. So these dyes would probably cost several million dollars a piece. So every time you screw up, you’ve got a big cost associated with fixing that screw up. And each of the parts is quite expensive you’ve got to handle them carefully when you go through the quality control.

Or you can say I don’t care about quality control and I’m just going to let them do what they’re going to do and, good luck to the consumer. We’re not sure which approach is being taken by Tesla. I’ve got my guess, but I’ll keep it to myself.

Anthony: I don’t know if you guys know this, in my spare time, I also do mind reading.

And I can read Fred’s mind right now. He’s thinking about shampooing his dog. It’s very strange. With that out of the way hey, how about some recall time? Scrap it

Fred: and time for the recall time. Sound good?

Anthony: Sure. Yep. Voice in my head. But I feel like I do. Let’s start with Mercedes Benz. 14, 912 vehicles, the 2024 Benz EQE 350 4MATIC.

Yeah, don’t even, just don’t start. There’s a lot of 2023, yeah. So if you’ve got a Mercedes Benz EQE, any variation go to centerforautosafety. org and Or just autosafety. org and look up your car. Cause the issue here is the contract, contractors of a high voltage battery might open, potentially resulting in loss of propulsion without prior warning.

That doesn’t sound good at all.

Michael: Yeah, it’s basically, it’s, it looks like, There’s a software problem in the battery management system that these vehicles have to ensure that the battery performs properly, doesn’t overheat, doesn’t fail. And what the problem here is causing, I believe is a loss of power while driving.

And I think Mercedes points out, they first noticed this in Denmark. So it’s great that Mercedes has. These same models all over the world where they could get reports in they received in November 2023, their first report for reduced drive power in the United States. And now they’re recalling this to, it looks like they’re going to reprogram the battery management system owners should be hearing about this before the end of July.

Anthony: Next one is a little company we were just talking about called Tesla. Oh my god, 125, 227 vehicles? Oh boy. This is a whole bunch of Teslas that do not follow. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard Number 208, Subsection 7. 3A1. A1. Wow, this is a seatbelt reminder. That’s that

Michael: annoying, yeah, that’s that annoying chime that no one likes that makes people buckle their seatbelts.

And one that we’ve been trying to move to the back seats for years now, and we’re still waiting on that. That change to FMVSS 208 but essentially here, there’s this, there’s a wide range of Tesla’s covered here from the 2012 through the current model year, but it’s not all. It’s all the models produced, but for some reason, it’s not all of the vehicles.

It looks like they’re just, certain vehicles that have a particular seatbelt reminder software logic that is not working properly. And so this looks like it’s going to be an OTA update to fix it. Although it looks like they’re taking, a month or so to finally get the software update.

To their consumers. So it will be a little while before Tesla owners see this update. And in the meantime, just. Buckle your seatbelts, and you have nothing to worry about.

Anthony: It’s interesting they list it as an over the air update because in part of the description of the defect it says, On certain affected vehicles, an open trace in the driver seat occupancy switch may result in a loss.

That sounds more of a hardware failure.

Michael: Yeah, and I think that what they’re doing is they’re going around it. So they’re removing dependency on the driver seat occupancy switch. And they’re relying on the driver seat belt buckle and ignition status to activate the seat belt reminder signals, which is pretty cool.

Probably what you should be remodeling, relying on anyway. This is, one of these areas where Tesla has this whiz bang way of detecting driver seat occupancy, and it’s not working. Just like they have a whiz bang way of detecting what road the vehicles are traveling on when they could just be using a map to pin it down to, to ensure that autopilot and full self driving are activated in appropriate areas.

It’s More, more Tesla being Tesla.

Fred: But in the vein of Tesla being Tesla, we recently saw an article from a tech times that said that the required driver monitoring system that NHTSA identified as a defect in the Tesla has been neutered basically while Tesla puts some updates in place.

But then they put another update in place that neutered a lot of the capabilities that NHTSA had required. According to Tech Times, and what it says is insufficient lighting, a covered camera, a driver not facing forward, and a driver who wears sunglasses or a hat that covers their eyes will all prevent the new vision based attention monitoring function from activating.

Of course, the car doesn’t deactivate the car, so the car is free to drive down the road without the required driver monitoring system in place. Tesla being Tesla.

Anthony: So this really sounds like they’re anti bank robber. Cause I rob a bank, I get into the car and I’m wearing my sunglasses and a hat, it’s not gonna work for me?

This is ridiculous. Elon, fix this. Come on.

Michael: Okay. Yeah, I think that’s an odd one. That’s an odd one. Because everyone, a lot of drivers wear sunglasses while they’re driving. I certainly do when the sun’s out. And that, that kind of points to a problem with, Remedies, recall remedies.

And we’ve probably discussed in the past that the recall system needs to be overhauled to reflect a lot of things over the years, software updates being one of them. But another area is a fix is no longer just a fix. Back in the day, you have a brake hose that’s failing. You replace the brake hose with a better designed brake hose and the problem’s fixed.

In 2024, you’ve got a, a bad system that’s software based. You put in a software fix, but then you put in another software patch the next month that rolls back your previous software fix. Have you received a recall remedy then? So there’s some the, some of these remedies that Tesla has proposed.

To its autopilot issues with NHTSA. We said they, they come out and they say, Oh, we fixed that. And it just says we’re not sure if you have. And then Tesla a month later is coming out with some new software patch that screws up whatever the remedy was in the first place. And so the consumers are just sitting here going, what the hell just happened?

Am I safe? It’s a new world for recall remedies, Not all recall remedies these days are final and, it can essentially be taken away from you at any time. If there’s a defective or poorly designed software patch that you install in the future.

Fred: And Anthony, as a side note, I recommend that you solicit additional contributions to the center for auto safety rather than rob a bank.

Anthony: Oh, I’m not sharing the money. Come on, are you nuts? But yeah yeah, Fred’s right. I’m robbing banks to support the Center for Auto Safety. And you should rob banks, too, to support the Center for Auto Safety. Oh, Michael, you just said something very interesting. Saying that hey, the recall comes out and then another recall replaces it.

Did you actually get the recall? It feels very zen. It makes me wonder what’s the sound of one car crashing? That was a long walk for a lame joke. There we go. Ha. Continuing recalls Toyota, 102, 000 plus vehicles. The Toyota Tundras we’re talking about on a Lexus LX 600, which I guess is Lexus’s version of this.

Michael: It’s a giant fat SUV that Lexus sales, not a pickup truck.

Anthony: Oh, okay. This is for vehicles with a specific V 35 a engine that contains crankshaft main bearings. And basically the main bearings break apart and mess with the engine. Is that right?

Michael: There’s it, apparently there’s.

They’re leaving debris in the engine at certain, at some other engine plants some debris remains in the engine after manufacturer. And somehow that collects debris, or there’s something that happens in there over time that. This looks a lot to me like some of the Hyundai and Kia engine recalls where you have this engine debris and a failure of the bearings and the pistons ultimately that ultimately results in an engine failure.

There are some warning signs here. Your engine will knock, you’ll have a rough run or you won’t be able to start the engine, but the real safety issue here is the loss of motor power stalling in the middle of a highway or wherever you’re at, and that increases the risk of a crash. It doesn’t look like they’ve got a full plan for this.

They’re not sending out honor notification until the end of July on this recall, but they also note that the remedy is under investigation. So this is going to be an interim warning. So if you own a Toyota Tundra or one of the big Lexus SUVs involved here, it may be a few months before you’re able to have a recall performed.

You really need to Pay close attention to how your engine is performing. And heck even go to Toyota and request a loaner in the meantime and see if they’re willing to give you one.

Fred: Modern engines are built with much tighter tolerances than engines used to be. This gives you more efficiency.

It gives you more power, more specific power from the engine. You just extract more from it than you could with the loose tolerances. The problem is. When you go to tight tolerances, smaller bits of gravel and, which is essentially what this is, smaller bits of debris can cause significant problems. Yeah, there’s always a downside to every innovation.

And so the trick for really good design is to design it so that it works well with loose tolerances. This is not the direction that automotive companies are going in, but I just wanted to throw that out there. So next time you. Here’s somebody tell the tight tolerances in their particular vehicle. Recognize that there’s problems associated with that too.

Anthony: Who do you hang out with? That says, Hey, my car’s got some really tight tolerances.

Fred: I don’t hang out with anybody. I’m a misanthrope. I thought we established that.

Anthony: Oh, he definitely did. For those of you, unfortunately not having the video version of this podcast and listening to audio only.

You’ve missed Michael Brooks doing this amazing thing with his hands. And he was like, he had them about, I don’t know, eight inches apart and his palms facing each other and moving around. It was like he was karate chopping the air or imitating a former president of the United States.

I don’t know. No, I was

Michael: trying to mimic the sound of one car crashing. I still haven’t.

Anthony: It still sounds like a car crash. All right. Last recall. We made it. Okay. This is from Ford. Lincoln Avita. This is a, oh my God, this is 109,283 vehicles. This is 2020 to 2024 vehicles. And for those of you playing the home game.

What do you think this recall is related to? Ba do doo doom boo do doo doom boo do doo doom boo do doom That is right! It is the Rear View Camera! Ah, apparently if you have your cell phone near the Rear View Camera, the Rear View Camera screen will not work very well. We covered something like this last week with a different company, right?

Are

Michael: we going to do the same recall twice? It is

Anthony: not the same recall, but it was somebody else. Cause I think this is in

Michael: this one. This is the one where Ford, Ford owns Lincoln, obviously. But the best part of this one is. You can avoid this completely. By the way, if you’re listening to this, just don’t use your cell phone while you’re in reverse.

I’m not sure why anyone would be using their cell phone while in reverse, because you’re in a driveway or a parking lot when you’re doing that. And you could just park and talk to the person and then get off your phone and continue your way, continue on your way. So this one is odd because Ford, says.

Ford will provide guidance to customers to refrain from cellular phone usage while reversing until the remedy repair is completed. After which point, it’s presumably okay to keep using your phone while you’re reversing. I don’t understand that at all.

Fred: This is, there’s a little bit of bullshit here.

This didn’t quite make it up to the threshold of Gaslight Award, but this is a different mechanism than we discussed last week. This is electromagnetic interference caused by the transmission of radio energy from the phone, interrupting the circuitry that’s behind The, So what’s interesting about that to me is that your cell phone is more or less constantly transmitting or sporadically transmitting anyway, because that’s how it pings the tower knows where you are, right?

And you’ve all heard about people being tracked because of their towers, knowing where you are and being pinged. The way it does that is to transmit. A little short message to the tower that says, here I am, and all the towers recognize that. So the fact that you’re not using your cell phone doesn’t mean that it’s not radiating energy.

So I don’t see how this is actually A good fix for any kind of long term, but hopefully they’ll, they’ll put some shielding around it or fix it somehow that will really insulate it from the cell phone.

Anthony: All right. And with that is the end of another episode. Of their auto bia law. And what have we learned this week?

We’ve learned that even the Japanese auto companies will cheat at crash tests and sort of safety considerations. We learned that Elon Musk invented things. Heh. And we learned that Fred Perkins feet, as a child, were too big to strap Hot Wheels to it and try to roller skate.

Fred: That is true, and a detail, when I was in junior high, Cheryl Renzi used to say things like, Act your age, not your shoe size.

It was the same for me, so I was immune to that. 14 at 14. That’s also the

Anthony: name of his upcoming autobiography.

Fred: Cheryl, send the note. I don’t know what ever happened to you, Cheryl, but I hope you’re doing well.

Anthony: Okay. And till next week. Thank you. Bye bye. Bye bye.

Fred: For more information, visit www.

autosafety. org.

 

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