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Ever tried to get a service appointment for your Tesla? Learn how Tesla has an entire department dedicated to making sure you don’t get one. Why’s that? Turns out their customer are getting upset about Tesla claiming a much larger battery range they on offer. Waymo kills off it’s trucking division, California wants privacy laws around your the data your car collects, NHTSA proposed better fuel economy and Fred explains power steering particularly around Tesla’s that don’t steer. Plus Recall Roundup.

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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: So my attempts to insert the sound effects and what not, utter failure cuz zoom is garbage. So instead, I’m Here’s the Intro

Center for Auto Safety Podcast, the executive director Michael Brooks, chief engineer Fred Perkins, and hosted by me Anthony Seminar. For over 50 years, the Center for Auto Safety has worked to make cars safer.

Okay, so you did some variation of Jeopardy and Michael did some variation of the Beach Boys. What was that?

Michael: I don’t even remember what that song was, but I think you should go for more of an Inspector Gadget theme.

Anthony: Okay I’ll work on that for not this week, but maybe in the future. And speaking of careers that we should kill off, Waymo has killed off its autonomous trucking program.

This was surprising because Waymo of all the autonomous vehicle companies was one that were More open, not saying as open as we want them to be, but they’re fairly open. And the big thing around autonomous driving, AVs, seem to be, Hey, this will really make sense and work for the trucking industry.

For long haul trucking, because truckers, they complained, it became a safety thing. And they’re like, Hey, we should only work 8 hours a day, instead of 20 hours a day and doing a lot of crank. But now, and so the promise with AVs was hey, we’ll have computers drive these cars so these guys can just sit in the cabin and do a lot of crank.

No, it’s, I don’t know if that’s true.

Michael: That’s terrible.

Fred: Maybe they googled highway safety.

Anthony: They could have. But anyway, yeah, so Waymo what happened here? Cause we thought this was gonna be, their breakthrough product. No,

Fred: I don’t know. There’s tremendous jeopardy associated with control of these highway trucks, regardless of how they’re being driven.

There’s just a hell of a lot of energy in them and tremendous potential for damage to people and to property. So we can only speculate as to why they pulled the plug on it, but I’m hoping that they pull the plug on it because it’s just not a good idea. Just a, for a while it was a bad idea whose time seemed to have come, but maybe now it’s a bad idea whose time has come and gone.

Anthony: It seemed like they were going to have safety drivers in these cars, at least. So I liked it vaguely.

Michael: They say that refocusing on their ride share business, I, I’m sure they’re facing some increased competition there of late from crews pushing out to new cities and other things.

And maybe they, maybe they see that as their first real crack at profitability. There are a lot of companies out there that are also testing Autonomous technology on heavy trucks like Aurora and others who are, I think there was 1 company that’s already about to deploy between Houston and Dallas with I believe it was no safety driver.

I can’t remember if it was about a month or 2 ago. We talked about it, but there’s a lot of competition there. Although, you would think that if your vehicle is capable of driving safely in an urban environment where. So There are so many different hazards and things to that you have to recognize that operating, primarily on interstate highways and heavy trucks, to get packages and parcels and freight from 1, main hub to another without going into the cities for the actual deliveries, you would think that would probably work before.

Before we see any other real forms of autonomy hitting the streets with all the complications that are involved on with pedestrians and urban environments. That was always what the industry was going for. It’s a little surprising to me that they pulled out, but it could be because. They, maybe they don’t want to take on the risks that Fred’s discussing.

Maybe they really need to put all their chips into competing with crews, or maybe they just don’t see any real profitability in, in, in the trucking autonomy in the future, at least for them with all the competition that’s out there. I don’t know. But, it’s definitely a surprise that they’re getting out of that because they’re part of their project was to build, a, an overall Waymo driver that could then be licensed to other companies who are building autonomous technology into their vehicles.

You would think they would want to do the same thing that would apply to, heavy trucks and every other vehicle on the road, but apparently not.

Anthony: Or it could just be very simple that it’s a Google product and Google randomly cancels products all the time. That’s my biggest concern with Waymo, it’s one day I’m gonna get inside of Waymo and halfway through the ride Google will cancel the service.

And I’ll be like that might be better than it just dropping me off at a random location saying, yeah, you’ve arrived.

Michael: One of the, one of the other things I believe that was mentioned was that the logistics of carrying freight and everything involved there is a little too much to deal with for Waymo and that’s one other reason that they just want to focus on the robo taxis for now.

Anthony: Wait, so you’re telling me a bunch of tech bros said, Hey, I see a thing. It must be easy to solve because I see a thing and I’ve seen a thing. It must be easy. And then they get into it. They’re like, holy shit. This is really complicated,

Michael: but let’s keep telling everybody. It’s easy while we sell it.

Anthony: Yeah, exactly. Cause remember boys and girls, computers are horrible drivers. Speaking of horribleness, so before I started this podcast with you guys, back when I was a naive young man, I thought self driving cars, I was like, this sounds amazing, I told my son when he was 10, I was like, you won’t even have to learn how to drive a car.

Unfortunately, he’s taken that a little too hard because he’s 18 a driver’s license. He lives in New York City. But part of that was, Tesla. Tesla had a big hype and one of the most impressive things I thought about Tesla, and still up until about a week ago, was that Tesla’s battery performance seemed to be so much better than everybody else I couldn’t understand it.

They’re claiming 400 mile ranges, and they’re claiming all of this stuff. And I should have known better. It was all lies. All lies! Unbelievable. And part of this is their… Owners have realized, wait a second, none of this is happening, so Tesla, not to, not to do the right thing and say, oops, instead they created, in mid 2022, Tesla started routing range complaints to a quote unquote diversion team that fielded up to 2, 000 cases a week and was expected to close about 750 cases a week.

Now, the diversion team, you’d call up and say, hey, my car is supposed to get 400 miles of range, it’s only getting 280, just like every other. EV company out there and Tesla’s diversion team would say you’re wrong. You’re driving incorrectly. You’re a dummy Why don’t you upgrade to full self driving because you’re a dummy so you’ve already paid for this Let’s get more money out of you dummy case closed

Michael: They were also, remotely looking at each customer’s vehicles at one point and then telling them, Oh, we’ve checked it out.

You don’t even need to come in for the appointment. Everything’s fine. Apparently, they stopped even doing that. They just started canceling appointments and that just shows that they knew that their claims were exaggerated about range. They knew it was bullshit and they were just trying to Limit their interaction with customers who figured it out.

It’s, one more exaggeration from the king of exaggerations when it comes to automobile capabilities.

Anthony: See, if I’m an EV manufacturer and I’m competing with them, or I’m a battery manufacturer competing with them, how are they not realizing, wait a second, these guys are doing some next level stuff that we don’t think is possible?

How come these guys weren’t calling BS five years ago?

Michael: The industry is so scared of Tesla, I can’t… Tell you how many times I’ve had conversations with people around the industry who are just like, why aren’t they talking about full self driving and what a crock it is. Why is why aren’t more industry actors doing that?

And, it’s mind boggling to me that, you start to see people like Ford’s Farley and Kyle at Cruz even start to mimic Musk and Tesla and some of the things that have gone on there as far as exaggerating claims about their vehicles and other things like that. It’s weird to me that they’re not willing to point just straight up pointed out and say, they’re lying to you.

Here’s what their vehicles actually can expect. And reading about this, it reminds me, if at Volkswagen a few years back when they were faking emissions testing, they basically designed software that would tell the tell your emissions check that everything was fine and dandy, even though it wasn’t, this is very similar to that, some of those Volkswagen executives went to jail.

In this case, though, Tesla’s just lying to its owners and not to the government. So there probably is no criminal or civil penalties that can be expected, but good Lord, why would why would you willingly buy a product whose features are exaggerated to the point now where you can’t believe anything that the company says?

Fred: I’m sure that somebody has been stranded in the middle of the wilderness with a dead battery would be talking to a lawyer by now about the range claimed on the test list. I’m surprised that hasn’t happened or I don’t know of anything.

Michael: I think it has.

Anthony: For those of you who have the audio only version of this podcast, Fred’s background right now is in the middle of the wilderness, so perhaps Fred is a secret Tesla owner, and he’s lost in the wilderness.

Now Fred, now this is, you have recently have a patent on a bird feeder. I’m suggesting that you make a claim that your bird feeder will… We’ll expel seeds in such a way that birds will fly much farther than your competition.

Fred: Yeah, I get great mileage on that, on the birds. They like it very much.

Anthony: Okay, but seriously, so Michael, with this, the, they have to provide, or the EPA provides a range estimate. How is that done that it’s so far off? Because it was, I think it was in this Ars Technica. Article we’re linking to the car testers at Edsmond Edmonds reported that four of the six teslas tested fell short of the vehicle’s epa range epa estimates now.

Yeah, is that just a made up number?

Michael: The epa estimates are always a little off. I think and I think we’ll even discuss it under the fuel economy rules later where What you’re seeing? On the EPA site, usually vehicles lose about 20% of that in actuality. So the range that manufacturers provide the EPA are basically under ideal conditions.

And, we’ve talked before about how many things can affect how far you can go on a whether you have your heat on how cold it is outside, how hot is outside. Anything you’re using in the vehicle that uses electric power can impact how far your vehicle is going to be able to go.

So that’s really important to to the entire conversation is that the EPA and the EPA figures really, when you break it down. Can’t be trusted and you have to as a consumer in your head say, oh I’m not going to quite get as much as we would under those perfect conditions. And at the same time, you need an accurate gauge.

The range of your vehicle is so important to where you’re going to stop and recharge if you’re on a trip or any number of things. So you have to have an accurate gauge of your range. And that’s. What? The owners aren’t being provided here. They’re essentially not being given accurate information at the start of their trip.

Fred: So there is value in the E. P. A. Ratings, which is a way of comparing different vehicles. The presumption is that the different vehicles have similar response to fuel inputs and temperature and all those kind of things. The absolute value of the mileage is something you’re unlikely to ever repeat with your own vehicle.

But by comparing the ratings in different vehicles, you can tell which are better and which are worse. The test was never designed to consider things that are very heavily dependent upon the ambient temperature, right? So you don’t have a summer rating and a winter rating for your mileage on your conventional vehicle.

But that really needs to be included in the ratings for electric vehicles because they are so heavily dependent on the ambient temperature.

Anthony: It also is helpful if you’re providing an honest estimate, whereas it seems like Tesla’s, they’ve just put their finger on the scale with, in terms of their estimate to what it

Michael: was, they designed an algorithm that basically when you were, when you had more than 50% of your range left, it was.

Inflating your range and then once you got down to about 50%, it began to report more accurate numbers. So you might have actually figured out that you were going to run out of power before you did, but you didn’t feel nearly as confident as you did at the start of your trip.

Anthony: I feel that about my fuel gauge sometimes.

The first half of the tank, it seems like that lasts forever. You get to the second half of the tank, I’m like, what happened?

Michael: I think it’s the same on my VW Jetta right now, when you’re on a trip. I feel like I’ve gotten about two thirds of the way through a tank, but it’s still showing half.

Anthony: Hey, that’d be a good subject for a future TOW.

Not today’s TOW, but we’ll have Fred take apart a fuel tank, fuel gauge, and fuel monitor. Anyway speaking of let’s just go right into this the CAFE standards we’re talking about. NHTSA is targeting a new they’re proposing new CAFE rules, which is the CAFE

Michael: Corporate Average Fuel Economy.

Anthony: There you go. Trucks and SUVs, they’re big sellers in this land of the Big Mac and the Whopper. And they really drag down the corporate average fuel economy. And so the Biden administration and NHTSA is really pushing for a 4% per year increase. From 2027 to 2032 for aimed at trucks and SUVs.

These are light trucks, not 18 wheelers. And from this Jalopnik article, if automakers could indeed achieve the fuel economy gains outlined by the proposal, then the nationwide You’ve heard for

Michael: about three seconds there, so you may want to go back and restart. Oh, I for Oh, look at that. Okay, let’s try it.

And so this proposal, I believe, is where you stop.

Anthony: Oh, okay, let’s just, yeah, okay, if automakers could indeed achieve the fuel economy gains outlined by the proposal, then the nationwide average of the U. S. fleet would be 58 miles per gallon by 2032. But that’s highly unlikely to happen for a number of reasons, not the least of which the country regularly fails this, but car makers only have to pay civil penalties for this for not doing it.

And the civil penalties are like a rounding errors.

Michael: There was some recent ones that are put out in June of this year on to General Motors and Stellantis slash Chrysler slash whatever they call themselves this year. And. I believe was fined. I think it was 230 somewhere in there. Million dollars and GM had to pay 130 million or so because of their, I think it was 2016 and 17 models.

So they’re paying these fines years after the fact. But yes, some automakers, they also have the option to use credits. We know that Tesla sells a lot of credits and that’s that really helps them achieve profit profitability because it’s difficult to do that right now, just on the sales alone for anyone, as we saw with Ford this week also.

There’s a lot of manufac that the chance that the actual fuel economy average in America for vehicles made in 2032 is gonna be 58 miles per gallon is very low. Even if it’s the one we’re talking about on the e p A website, that’s the, the highest possible expected.

You still have to remove about 20% of that for ice vehicles. If you want to figure out what you’re. Actual day to day mileage is going to be so this is, I like this proposal because it’s pushing SUVs and trucks to be more fuel efficient. I don’t know if I like that. If it means that more SUVs and trucks are going to be throwing 3000 2000 pound batteries.

Onto their weight we don’t think that’s a good thing. I, I do the fact that more trucks are considering using hybrid motors and other things that can get them better fuel economy without adding significant weight. But there’s still, as we see, a lot going on in this area as electric vehicles continue to roll out and as we see battery improvements made.

Anthony: So how does this work? This is just a proposal. So NHTSA comes out with this proposal and who are they proposing it to? To Congress? To the automakers? They’re

Michael: proposing a rulemaking that basically sets the standards. For 2027 to 2032 and then that goes through a long comment process. These are the biggest dockets on that says website.

There are just reams. Of data and information submitted on every possible thing that cars do to essentially show that, automakers can meet these standards that these standards are necessary to protect the environment and a lot of other things. So there’s a long process ahead here. The automakers have already come out predictably and said, these, this is impossible, blah, blah, blah.

But. The fact is they’ve been sitting on their hands for years and fighting this tooth and nail. They even had the Trump administration reverse the fuel economy rules for a while until the next administration came in and did a reverse. So it’s. Going to be, a year or years long process, possibly even lawsuits back and forth.

We’ve seen all this before. Basically, every time the standards are increased, the industry fights back.

Anthony: Lame industry. California. Long time listeners of the show, or short time listeners of the show, I’m sure you’ve already subscribed and gone to autosafety. org and donated to all your friends, and maybe you’ve told your friends, after you’ve donated and subscribed about how great this is, and maybe you’ve told them about, hey, there was an issue a little while ago about Tesla employees sharing photos and video inside Teslas in your private Tesla, that’s not getting 400 miles of range, with With their friends and family.

Hey, look at this guy picking his nose. Look at this one. They’re not picking their nose. I don’t know what that is. California has realized, wait, cars are just big computers that have no privacy regulations. They’re full of cameras and microphones and all sorts of stuff that they’re collecting lots of data inside and outside the car.

And it’s the wild west, but with even less respect. And so now California legislators are saying, wait a second. We should have some sort of privacy policies in place, and we think it’s about time.

Michael: So this is part of the California Privacy Protection Agency, and that is an agency that was established about two years ago, and they didn’t have any authority to do anything until July 1st of 2023.

This is the very first thing they’ve chosen to do, right? They just got their enforcement powers. What’s the first thing we need to take up? Cars! Because they are basically an open box for anybody that wants to go in and figure out what you’ve been doing. And there’s a lot of problems with manufacturers sucking up this data and selling it off because we know data is very important in our world these days and the the industry’s response to this is basically saying, Oh we’re all good.

We commit to the principles that were put out by the alliance for automotive innovation, which basically put out a list of guidelines that nobody has to adopt that can be completely ignored and that are already overly favorable to auto manufacturers who want to sell consumer data over the consumers who want to protect their privacy.

Thank you. There’s a real need for government authorities to step in here, and not just on the state level, but also on the federal level to ensure that consumers have protections from things like what went on at Tesla. There also have been a couple other manufacturers, I believe Ford has been implicated in 1 incident or 2 in California.

So it. This is something that we think needs to be locked down and part of future NHTSA rulemaking on electronics, just to ensure that consumer privacy isn’t threatened by, decisions made in Silicon Valley.

Fred: Michael, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, that’s a consumer group that’s dedicated to safety of motor vehicles, right?

Or wait, is that us? I’m confused.

Michael: No. They are a basically a membership group of all the major manufacturers. So they’re essentially promote the manufacturer line. I’m sure we talked about them a lot in the last two weeks as we covered all of the AV myths that are being floated through Congress.

Fred: Oh, okay. So they’re a bizarro version of the Center for Auto Safety. Yeah,

Michael: I would say that, yeah, bizarro in terms of Superman and the Justice League, the opposite. Yes.

Fred: Yeah. Okay. Thank you. Now

Anthony: Fred, we covered them when we covered the hearings, it was like a week or two ago. You should also, you’re part of the show, you should also listen to it.

But more importantly than that, Michael, can you say the word July again?

Michael: July.

Anthony: Ha, ah, I love that Southern thing there.

Michael: E bikes. Do you need to talk about something offline, Anthony?

Anthony: No, wait a second, what? Okay

Fred: Slap that boy upside the head, that’s another Southern expression.

Anthony: Oh, bless my little heart.

E bike safety. This is good. A friend of mine, they recently moved to a farther away neighborhood from me. And he’s hey, how do I come visit you? And I’m like get a bike. And he’s oh, good point. City bikes. They have I’ll get the electric city bikes. And now in New York there’s a lot of fires happening in apartment buildings because people are getting I guess cheap e bikes and the batteries go on fire, but that’s not what we’re going to talk about today.

In fact, we’re going to talk about e bikes and safety and 16 year olds going out there And, unfortunately, getting injured. There is a New York Times article we’ll link to. And the problem is that these e bikes can go 20 miles per hour, and kids take them out onto roads that, where the traffic’s moving at 50 miles per hour.

The bikes are too fast for the sidewalk, but too slow for regular traffic. And, the surprising thing to me is, There’s no regulations around this, they’re treated as just like a normal bicycle with no engine, and I don’t understand how these are different from a moped, from when I was a kid I remember, oh the cool kid got a moped, which is essentially a bicycle with an engine in it, and an e bike to me sounds like a bicycle with an engine in it.

And a moped, you have to go to the DMV to get a license.

Fred: Alright, so there’s a little sophistication here. There’s different classes of e bikes. So a Class 1 e bike is like the one I’ve got, which requires you to pedal. So it’s a boost when you’re pedaling. Okay, so there’s no throttle associated with it.

It’s just a boost when you’re pedaling.

Anthony: That’s just like what they do at the Tour de France when they’re going uphill.

Fred: Yeah, except without the motor. Yeah, I find the electric motor is really helpful when I’m going up a hill, but, to each their own. And class three e bike is just like a motorcycle with an electric motor.

It’s got a throttle. You don’t need to do anything, just lean back and drive too fast. So the class three bikes are the ones where the kids get into most trouble. I’m not sure what a Class 2 is, but it’s somewhere in between, anyway, one of the, one of the mentions, one of the problems I mentioned is that a Class 1 e bike, a specific brand of Class 1 e bike, can be turned into a 70 mile an hour vehicle by clipping one wire.

Which is, again, one of the helpful hints being circulated on TikTok. And kids are picking up on that. Yeah. You need to be careful. You’re as exposed on a bike as you are I am, on a motorcycle, but you’ve got at least a less speed. Mine only gives a boost when I’m going at the 18 miles per hour, for example.

So it is somewhat slower.

Anthony: How did the, did they have the upgraded the brakes on these things? Cause 70 miles per hour. That’s going to need a quite a bit of braking power.

Fred: I’ve got upgraded brakes. I’ve got the disc brakes on my vehicle on my bike, but I’m not sure what. Those 70 mile an hour bikes do, my guess is they probably have an adequate breaks because why put adequate brakes on them.

I dunno. Let’s check our TikTok

Michael: channel designed for with the wire in place to be limited to 20 miles per hour, so

Fred: so they probably a 20 mile an hour breaks with 70 mile an hour capability. Yeah.

Michael: That was the thing that stood out to me a lot in the article too, was just the fact that.

You’re shipping a product where there is a known modification that increases the speed of the bicycle from 20 to possibly 70 miles an hour. And the reason there is that is because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission had been batting motorized.

And micromobility vehicles back and forth between them for years now, and neither 1 really wants to dive in and regulate them. Right? Here is a clear case of 1 that needs to be regulated. If you’re building bikes, ebikes for on road use. And a country that limits them speed limit wise, or at least in California and some other places to around 20 miles per hour, then you shouldn’t be putting these easily defeatable mechanisms in place that could just require a wire clip to make the thing go 70.

Because. The just like we’ve mentioned the brakes and other systems on the bike aren’t really going to be able to take that kind of speed. Not to mention the fact that these are mostly, unlicensed teens who are getting in trouble here because they’re not old enough to drive a car yet.

And they’re, a little less risk averse than some of us old folks.

Anthony: Yeah, when there’s a, this. Horrible service of these e scooters when it opened up in New York a couple years ago. It was a bunch of teens who don’t have a driver’s license getting on these, and they’re all driving the wrong way down one way streets and whatnot.

I made sure to hit a couple of them with my car but it’s, it was a horrible thing. And I just see this with motor sized bicycles all the time, of people just, going full 20 miles per hour. But I’ll try to wave them over and be like, Hey, if you guys clip that wire, you can go faster.

Cause I want to thin the herd. I

Michael: keep hearing at least about, the, a lot of the solutions that could be posed for the environment and for, in cities and parking and, about micro mobility, replacing cars. And I think that to get to that point, we actually need safety standards around the micro mobility devices as well.

If they’re burning houses down, and if they’re. Able to be modified to reach, unsafe speeds, then, there needs to be someone regulating the industry. Because right now, some of these things are being shipped over from foreign countries that, American aren’t getting any real benefit out of the manufacturer for them.

But we’re getting the. The dangers imported to America. So it’s something that I think that NHTSA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission really need to look at now both to prevent these safety problems, but also to enable, a future with more micro ability, micro mobility devices, being able to be the

Anthony: Segway. No? Okay.

Fred: Whatever happened with those? Anyway, they were supposed to revolutionize the world according to the tech pros.

Anthony: They did, bro. You just didn’t see it, man. It was cool. It changed everything. Everything, bro.

Fred: Dammit, I’m stuck out here in the wilderness, I never noticed that.

Anthony: Oh, I know. One of the favorite things we like to talk about here is called a big red button when it comes to autonomous vehicles.

Big red button, it’s like, Fred always hey, you’re stuck in one of these things or it’s driving crazy, there should be a big red button to press on it. We found a big red button. And it’s inside a BMW or is this another good article from Ars Technica? BMW uses autonomous cars for boring, repetitive tasks.

I love this idea. So what they did is they basically programmed these self driving cars not to see, hey, can you navigate city streets, can you parallel park, whatnot. Hey, let’s slam on the brakes, let’s go to a certain speed, crush the brakes. Let’s do things over and over again to see how the hardware fails.

See if software fails. And they did this on tests that humans after, five or six times, we just wouldn’t be able to keep matching the same exact inputs and the same exact process over and again, because we’d be bored out of our skull. So I think this is a pretty neat thing, but what is inside this car that we love is this big red buttons.

There’s at least two big red buttons. I don’t know if they do anything, but God, I love a big red button. July. Sorry.

Fred: I like the idea that they’re actually putting significant energy into designing tests that are repeatable and will produce accurate results. That’s nice. It’s novel. Don’t know if anybody else is really doing that on self driving systems

Michael: and they’re using it really to test, not self driving cars, but they’re using it to test out their average fleet vehicles again and again and again, because they found that test drivers, like Anthony said, can’t really replicate those same inputs over and over again.

Something we see. And drivers, people are people get tired and people get, driving is not easy. People get tired after a certain time and after making repetitive actions over and over again for hours. I like, yeah,

Fred: that’s also the problem with artificial intelligence because to train artificial intelligence, you need to do the same thing over and over again so that it gets used to a pattern when you’re driving the vehicle on the roads, you’ll never completely replicate.

The same situation with respect to all the inputs and outputs that the car is using. I don’t think that they’ll ever be an opportunity to drive your way into safety with or without a test driver when you’re talking about artificial intelligence and self driving vehicles, just as an aside.

Anthony: I, what I think the thing that we’re missing though is, guys, I said it like eight times, they managed to put a big red button. Yeah, exactly. So if they can put a big red button in these, why can’t they put big red buttons in all these EVs? Is it because AVs, is it because BMW doesn’t make an AV?

Michael: The big red button needs to be… It needs to be thought of as something other than a big red button, I think, because you’re going to have people who are incapable of seeing the button, incapable of pushing the button, riding in the car. There needs to be some type of voice command, or, there probably need to be multiple ways, actually.

To enable the human occupant of a Navy to stop the vehicle, and in this case, they’ve got a big red button because they’re allowing journalists into the vehicle for a spin around the test track and they have certain parameters. I think 1 of them was, if the vehicle deviates from its course by. 59 inches or more, it is automatically stopped.

And so it gives the people riding in the vehicle. If something does go wrong, a, an emergency button, which we think is critical to driverless vehicles in the future, we need a way to stop the vehicle. Ultimately, without the computer telling us, no, I’m just going to do whatever I want to do with you today.

Fred: We need to wait for emergency responders to stop the vehicle to whenever it transgresses a boundary that they put up for, around an accident or a fire scene or whatever the emergency situation might be.

Anthony: I think you’re right. I just have the physical big red button and a voice command.

If somebody says, big red button, the car automatically stops. That might be too wordy, but I like it. Cause I would just be like,

Fred: Actually, I think that they actually could use a ray gun, which, would have a focus to electromagnetic energy that zaps the car and sends a signal that the damn thing has to stop.

I, I think the cops would like to have a ray gun in their pocket too. I think that would be a fun thing for them.

Anthony: Welcome to Fred’s new podcast, Sci Fi and You. Every night, every kid from the 1950s dream, ray guns, rocket ships, talking dogs. Let’s so I’m gonna, I’m gonna jump in a little Tesla investigation that will feed right into the towel.

Tesla. Apparently steering doesn’t work on 2023 Model 3s and Ys. NHTSA has opened the Office of Defects Investigation, has opened a preliminary evaluation to determine if there’s a problem with the power steering module in these cars. NHTSA has gotten 12 complaints alleging steering failure.

Where on I, I have to laugh because people are saying, upon starting the vehicle, the steering wheel frequently locks, becomes exceedingly stiff, requiring physical requiring significant physical effort to turn, rebooting the system. That means exiting, then reentering the car. can sometimes fix the issue temporarily.

So think about this, your car doesn’t work. And so hold on, I’m gonna leave the car and then I’ll go back in. It reminds me of this kids in the hall skit where they’re trying to start a car and it doesn’t start. And okay, turn the key now. No now. Okay, let’s leave the car. Jump back in now.

And they like do everything in the car. They wash the car. They paint the car. And then eventually after trying everything, let’s turn the seatbelts on. Let’s turn the lights on. They eventually open the hood, and there’s a cat in the engine. Oh, Mr. Whiskers. They move the cat out, and the car starts. So maybe that could be what’s going on with these Tesla owners.

They have a cat in their in their frunk. And people are reporting this with vehicles that are relatively new. 575 miles. They’re, some of them are saying they’re driving down the road and then all of a sudden the steering wheel gets stiff and they can’t turn it. And now these are not physical, old school, new, Steering wheel physical connection to an axle things.

It’s all steering by wire where you’re turning something that’s Signaling a computer chip say hey, they turn to starboard. Hey, they turn to port. I imagine that’s how computers talk

Michael: We don’t have a whole lot of information on the investigation other than that it was opened. Because mainly, but a lot of the Tesla investigations proceed in 1 way.

That sends them information request and then that sends more information requests and everything that Tesla submits to the government is. It’s hidden behind a wall of confidentiality, so it may be a while before we know anything about this, but it sounds like there is some sort of electronic issue with Tesla power steering in these vehicles.

It even a lot of the times when these fares occur, it says that they’re the owners receiving a notification that there’s been a power steering issue hopefully they’ll figure it out quick before someone loses steering in a critical situation.

Anthony: Tesla service sensor centers have been responding with, we would like to cancel your visit.

So with this, let’s go into the Tau of Fred today. ’cause today we’re going back to basics. Fred’s gonna teach us what the hell’s power steering.

Fred: You’ve now. I’ll give a respectful pause here so that you can paste in the the intro. I guess that’s probably long enough. .

Anthony: I already did, man.

Fred: All right. So here we go. We’re going to talk about the power steering now. Michael question for you. Have you ever heard of the rack and pinion steering? Yes. What does that mean?

Michael: I think that means when you have a as a driver, you have a direct physical connection between you and your wheel so that you’re effectively the only source of control of the steering.

Fred: The subordinate clause there you got right, I think the rest of it was a creative mess, but we like that. Bracken pinion steering. So what does that mean? Basically, it means that your steering wheel is connected to a geared system or some kind of system that then drives the steering mechanism in the front through a Pinion.

So there’s a pinion, meaning there’s some kind of gear or gear like device at the end of the steering column shaft that extends into the engine compartment. So when you turn the wheel, that pinion at the end of the, at the end of the column is picked up by something that then moves the wheels. In the case of Tesla and other electric drive cars, what happens is that pinion is actually inserted into a electronic device.

that senses the motion, the angular motion of the steering wheel, and then sends the signal somewhere else that drives a motor that causes the causes the wheels to turn. Now, in the old days of hydraulic systems, you had some kind of follower system, so the rack, the pinion would turn actually a valve.

And the valve would then move the wheels back and forth, but there was a mechanical connection between that valve and the wheels so that if the power steering failed, you could actually crank the wheel over. It was difficult to do it, but you could crank the wheel and you could retain the ability to steer the car in an emergency when the power steering failed.

I’ve actually experienced this when I was driving a bus back in the old days, so that was fun. I hit a police woman’s car, as it turns out, but, she was philosophical because her car was over the stop line, and that’s why we contacted, so she was, I only took a nick off of her rubber bumper, always will. But anyway I digress, as I often do. So in the case of… I did get the license, so that was good. Where were we? Rack and pinion. Okay, so that’s the pinion part of it. The rack part of it is… That’s just your pinion. That is my pinion, yes. And you all have pinions of your own, I know.

We’ll move ahead here with the rack now, which is the device that slides laterally back and forth, and actually drives… The the wheels to turn in one direction or another. That’s all a mechanical system. So there’s actually a mechanical force that moves the wheels right and left. And and that’s how the car steers.

In the case of the Tesla, there is a, an electric motor that picks up the signal from where the pinion is inserted into an electronic transducer. And then that electronic signal travels to an electric motor, which has its own interpreter and drive system that uses that signal to then run an electric motor, which is connected through a rubber belt to the actual rack system, which moves the to.

Which then moves the rack back and forth as far as the car. So as you can see, there’s lots of parts in there. Lots of things can go wrong. The other thing that’s on the pinion is a feedback mechanism. So there’s some kind of system in there so that you when you turn the wheel, you know you’ve turned the wheel.

And then if you release the wheel, it moves back to the neutral position. So you’ve got a feedback system in there. Apparently in these tests, something’s going wrong in that system and it’s freezing up. So I don’t know how deep they go into that, but It seems like a fundamental problem If in fact the steering wheel locks up because it’s hard to see how the steering wheel would lock up If it’s only going into that electronic device.

In any event, I looked into this a little bit and it turns out that the entire Integrity of the Tesla steering wheel as of the steering system as of 2021 was dependent upon a fan belt that connects the the motor to the rack system. And Anthony, have you ever had to replace a fan belt or the serpentine belt on your car?

Anthony: No, but I’ve seen it done.

Fred: Seen it done, and how long does it take and, what’s your guess on the cost of that?

Anthony: The cost of the belt itself or the cost of paying the guy to put the belt in place? Both. The belt itself I think was like 15, 20, not a lot of money. The guy installing it and whatnot and telling me I need new undercoating priceless.

Priceless. Absolutely priceless.

Fred: We don’t need the undercoating. But it turns out that if you have a Tesla, you’ve got to completely disassemble the entire rack and pinion system in the car in order to replace that rubber belt that connects the drive motor to the the rack system. So it’s a very complex system, very expensive to maintain, a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong.

Yet they say that the power steering is equipped with full redundancy with separate power feeds. So what does redundancy mean? Michael, back to you. What does redundancy mean?

Michael: Redundancy means putting in place at least two systems to prevent, to help things out if there’s a failure in the first system.

Anthony: That’s more like a lawyer answer. Come on. He was making it up.

Fred: He wins. He gets credit for that. The problem with the claims of full redundancy in the Tesla is that it’s like their claim for full self driving doesn’t really exist. So what they’ve done is they put multiple cables between the battery and the drive motor and saying that’s full redundancy.

Actually, full redundancy would mean you’ve got a separate path for the signals. Or actually got separate signals coming off the the pinion from the steering wheel, right? And then you’ve got different processing that goes on and goes, has to go into a computer somewhere that determines what that signal means in terms of the amount of steering you’re going to put in.

Then you’ve got to have redundant systems to steer the car. None of that is, of course, evident in the in the Tesla. And a fine engineering point here. Isn’t interesting. If you measure something once, you know what the value is of that measurement when you measure something twice, you no longer know what the value is because the two measurements are going to be different.

So a full redundant system has to take different inputs, run them through different algorithms to determine what that means in terms of steering and then put them through different steering systems so that if one fails, The other one will take over, just as Michael said. None of that’s evident in the Tesla.

None of that’s evident in any other self, in any other electric drive vehicle that I’m aware of, electric steering drive signal. So they’re taking a step back from the redundancy that used to be evident in the hydraulic systems where a manual override just by cranking the steering wheel would actually allow you to steer the car in an emergency.

That’s completely lacking in these Vehicles, which are pretty common now that have electric drive for their steering, so they’re steering. So they’re actually interesting. Once again, they’re taking a step back from safety in order to look at putting advanced technology into these vehicles. So that’s not a good idea.

True redundancy would include parallel sensors, independent software processing. And by the way, that independent processing would typically rely on different algorithms because you can have a systematic failure, systemic failure. If you use the same algorithm to transfer one signal into a driving signal versus the other one, right?

If you have the same software, you can have the same mistake in both software. So it’s much better to have different software that does that job. Of course, the problem is at the end of that, you might have a different signal coming out of those two systems. So you’ve got to have a third system that resolves the differences between those two signals, a supervisory controller that says one’s wrong and one’s right, so I’m going to take the correct signal versus the wrong signal.

It gets really complex.

Michael: It does. Do you need a redundant supervisory controller as well?

Fred: You can do that. That’s how the Teamsters started. There’s a I’m familiar with one jet engine control system that was called a quad redundant system. So it relied on four inputs and four parallel processing systems.

And the reason they used four is because if one fails, then you’ve still got three. So you’ve got a tiebreaker between the three. And so the very, so they have to sort between the various inputs to determine what is the right amount of fuel to put in the the gas turbine, and of course, if they put the wrong amount of fuel in the gas turbine, a lot of things can happen, almost all of them bad.

Yeah, for a real critical system, you need to go to some pretty sophisticated hardware and software designs to actually implement full redundancy to get the benefits that Michael was talking about of one system taking over if another system should fail.

Michael: And then the more redundancy you put into a vehicle in terms of hardware and software, does that present more attack surfaces for, cyber issues to occur with?

Fred: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, inevitably. Because the more software you put into it and the more different components you put into it the more expansion of the attack surface that is inherent in that design.

Michael: It almost sounds you’re saying that, in order to achieve this safety, we also have to have, concurrent, really strong cyber security protections.

Fred: Yes, or you can just say I don’t care about that. I don’t care about stepping back from the previous safer systems, and I’ll just go ahead and put this whiz bang motor in there because people like whiz bang.

Anthony: Oh, I do love a good whiz bang. Whiz bangs are good. Whiz bangs are good.

Michael: Whiz bangs are good.


Fred: that’s, so that, that’s really all we’ve got to say about that today. We don’t know exactly what’s going on with the Tesla, but there’s… A lot of opportunities for failure within the electric drives electric power steering systems. It’s a step back from the safety that was inherent in the previous hydraulic power steering systems, and it’s a fun thing to advertise.

Anthony: But drive by wire, it’s not new, like Airbus has been doing this since the 80s, they’re all of their planes are drive, fly by wire. Sure. They’ve had this system, now the 80s was a couple weeks ago so they’ve got that, their systems by regulation and by, Engineers not being maniacs are fully redundant.

They have to run a whole bunch of tests to say, Hey, all these things break and whatnot. We can still fly the plane and still control the plane. So I imagine in an automobile, the system doesn’t need to be as complex as an airplane, but on a fundamental basic engineering level, it’s the same thing that was 1980s.

True or false?

Fred: True and false.

Anthony: I’ll take, I’ll accept true as an answer. I will not accept false. You’re right. Okay. Why is it false?

Fred: You gotta realize in an airplane, okay, they do have sophisticated safety designs. If they have redundant controls for, we’ll say, an elevator, not only do they have full redundancy, but they run the wires through separate channels in the airplane.

In different locations in case… You get an impact in one place, you’ve still got the control systems running through another channel. You won’t find any of that in cars.

Anthony: Why not? Wires aren’t that expensive.

Fred: Wires aren’t that expensive. Everything’s expensive.

When you produce millions of cars, everything’s expensive. There is incredible cost pressure on the engineers to make things as simple as possible and as as, as cheap as possible. So I know of one vehicle. In my experience that had a vibration problem at a certain speed, and all of a sudden the side panel would start to boom on the side of the car at a certain speed.

So they did a lot of extensive tests, figured out what the frequency was that was causing that, and decided to fix it. The engineer was given… A budget of exactly one dollar for the engineering fix that was allowed to fix this particular noise problem.

Anthony: Gorilla tape. Sorry? Did they use gorilla tape? Is that how they fix it?

Fred: I’m not sure how they did it, when you’ve only got a dollar to spend, you don’t have an awful lot of options on how to do that. Okay.

Anthony: If you’ve got a dollar to spend, I’ve got an option for you. Go to autosafety. org, multiply it by ten, and make a donation. Sure, you can multiply it by five, but ten is ten times as good.

Multiply it by a hundred. Oh my god! And Michael will send you an autographed copy of Gorilla Tape. It’s his independent freeform jazz album. It’s like John Cage’s 314.

Fred: You’re so good, Anthony. I love that.

Anthony: Okay. So that’s a power steering Tesla and why your cars will never be as safe as an airplane made by the French. Let’s let’s go into recall roundup. How’s that sound? Okay. Where’s my recall roundup? Okay.

So here’s one that always scares us. General motors. And airbags, right? So General Motors is recalling certain 2013 Buick Verano, Chevrolet Camaros, Sonic, and Volt vehicles. I’ve never heard of a Chevy Sonic or a Buick Verano, so they must be top sellers. The driver’s side airbag inflator may explode during deployment due to manufacturing defect.

Oh, this sounds delicious. What? Is this? This is not the Takata

issue. So

Michael: this is Takata. There are three, basically, three giant buckets of airbag issues that you’ll hear us discuss. One is the biggest Takata recall that started around 2015 and has affected you know, 80 million or so vehicles.

Those vehicles are still being repaired and replaced. The other one we discussed in recently, in fact, probably two months ago, was the ARC Automotive. This is the American manufacturer in Tennessee who is building bags that General Motors has recalled and that other manufacturers have recalled in small batches, but that hasn’t been recalled as a whole, the way the Tatas were.

This, there’s a also a. Kind of a third category of Takata bags that were cited as a potential concern back when the Takata recall was ongoing and at least in its beginnings. This is a group of airbags that have been desiccated. So basically it means that the airbags that are a real problem and that have been recalled for Takata were not desiccated, which means they don’t have, basically, if you think about the way I think about it.

When you open a pack of beef jerky, there’s sometimes a little pack of silica gel or something in there that’s non edible that’s intended to take the moisture to prevent moisture from building up in your beef jerky. It’s very similar in the airbag. It prevents, the degradation due to humidity over time is essentially what a desiccant does.

And It’s been maintained by the manufacturers that because of the desiccant, these airbags aren’t going to be subject to the same type of failure as the other Takata bags because there’s a basically a means to prevent them from degrading over time and from the inflator, the ammonium nitrate pellets in them that prevents them from becoming degraded to a point where they will explode in a In a deployment, so it was supposed to study this issue.

They’re supposedly tracking it long term. And in this case, General Motors is saying we’ve got an inflator explosion in Brazil in 1 of these bags. But it’s a manufacturing defect. It’s from a batch of bags that were produced that were out of spec or, whatever the excuse is. But this isn’t evidence that there’s, the same defect that happened to Dakota.

We don’t need to recall all 50Million bags right now. There’s just no evidence that’s happening. That’s basically their argument. We’d like to see a little more than a few sentences in a part 573 recall determination. We think that, the public deserves to know a little more about what risks might be going on in these desiccated bags.


Anthony: guess one in doubt blame Brazil. The next one we have this title is as adorable to me as Michael saying July. This is labeled Front Door Latch Paul May Crack. I don’t know what a Paul is. It sounds adorable. An unlatched door can open while driving, increasing the risk of injury. Not adorable.

Ford Motor Company. Potentially 112, 000 plus vehicles. Recalling certain 2014 to 2016 Transit Connect vehicles. The front door latch pawl may crack and prevent the door from latching. Okay tell me, what the hell is a pawl?

Fred: A pawl do you know what a ratchet mechanism is? Yes. There’s a little thing in there that goes click and yes.

And steps down. That’s the Paul, the little, oh, the little widget that falls into the crevice to keep the righteous from reversing.

Anthony: Can I hear Michael say the word Paul? Paul . Yeah. Not as good as July. Okay. So I guess that’s what’s breaking and and causing the doors to pop open.

Michael: Yeah. And it looks like cons.

It’s. It’s not a complete failure. So when this happens to your vehicle, it looks like some consumers are able to get their door shut or get in the car and have to shut it a couple of times and it catches. But functionally, at some point, the pawl could release. It looks like it could release even while you’re driving.

This failure could occur. So it’s definitely something everybody needs to get fixed quick.

Anthony: Okay. I

Fred: wasn’t aside. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I once had was driving Joan Kleeberg to a restaurant and in the seatbelt latch mechanism, there’s also a pall that drops into place and that’s why the seatbelt doesn’t release.

It jammed. I couldn’t get her out of the damn car. I’m banging away on it or she’s laughing. It must have taken, a minute and a half to finally. Somehow figure out how to get her out of the car. It was interesting and ironic.

Anthony: You like this story? Listen to Fred’s other podcast, Fred’s Dating Tips.

Okay, last one we’re going to do, I’m going to wrap up. This is one I don’t think we covered on last week, but it’s my favorite thing. Jaguar. 2019, this is 3, 000 plus 2019 Jaguar XE’s. A concern has been identified on 19 model year Jaguar XE vehicles with rear camera view and Navigation Pro specified.

Basically, rear camera, no good. Yeah,

Michael: We see this over and over again, and this is one of the common reasons we see for it’s because they’re putting the wires in the wrong spot that run to the rear camera.

Anthony: So would it be cheaper if they ran redundant wires? So if one set of wires failed, the other side would take over.

No. Why? That wouldn’t be cheaper than doing a recall? It would be cheaper.

Michael: Would it be safer? Yes. Would it be cheaper? No.

Anthony: Would it be cheaper than doing a recall? Because I imagine a recall costs more.

Michael: It would probably end up ultimately being cheaper than a recall. I would say that. Thank you very much.

Yeah. What would be even cheaper is making sure that you run wires through spots that aren’t going to be… Affected by people opening and closing a trunk, which is obviously there on the vehicle.


it’s a trunk slash wire stripper. What do you want? It’s a multi function tool.

Fred: Oh, who would ever expect that somebody’s going to open and close the trunk?

Anthony: After all… It’s a Jaguar. No one buys it for the trunk.

Fred: You’re not getting groceries into your Jaguar.

Anthony: Yeah, you buy a Jaguar because you imagine that, Oh, I’m buying a 1940 something Jaguar, look really cool.

And it’s got that shade of Jaguar green. Not realizing, Oh my God, it’s 2023, why am I buying this expensive? Hey, and with that’s our time, folks. Thanks for listening.

Michael: I helped I helped Marion Barry restart his green Jaguar back in the late nineties when he broke down on Capitol Hill.

Anthony: If you want to hear the rest of that story and how long Michael was in rehab for we need five new monthly donors.

Fred: Michael, what’s that device, the collapsible device that people use to keep the rain off their heads? Or what do you call that?

Michael: We call that an umbrella.

Anthony: That’s pretty good. That was normal English.

I apologize to our Piggly Wigly shopping friends. And hey thanks for listening. Thanks for subscribing. Most importantly, thanks for giving a five star rating in Apple’s iTunes app. If you use that app, whoa. It’s only app that I know that you allows you to do ratings. Hey, if you are listening to this on our YouTube channel, click the thumbs up.

I think it’s a thumbs up or the star button, whatever it is. If you’re listening to this on our Tik Tok channel, thanks for setting up our Tik Tok channel. That’s all I can say. That’s great. We should start a Tik Tok channel, but it’s like how to undo everything the kids tell you how to do in Tik Tok.

Fred: That’s true. And if you put us on Tik Tok, cut a wire and we’ll go even faster.

Anthony: Thanks everyone, goodbye. Bye

Michael: bye. Alright, I hope that was recorded.

Anthony: Oh, it better be recorded. For

Fred: more

Michael: information, visit www. autosafety. org


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