Subjective safety

By Eric Peters

If they were at least consistent, you might be persuaded that Our Controllers were truly concerned about our safety. As opposed to using “safety” as the pretext for controlling us.

Not infrequently, to the detriment of our safety.

There are many examples to prove the point but the latest is the push for congressional approval of an exemption for automated cars from the federal safety requirements that apply to not-automated cars. Specifically, an exemption from the regs which forbid the sale of automated cars that lack back-up controls which a human driver can use to prevent the car from doing something manifestly unsafe because its automated systems have experienced a technical hiccup.

Having some way to intervene when an automated car runs amok doesn’t seem like a bad idea – assuming Our Safety is the criteria  – especially given that automated cars haverun amok and given that the more of them there are in circulation, the more often this will happen – for the same reason you get more flat tires when there are 10 million cars out there driving around vs. 10 cars driving around.

It’s an odds game.

And the odds worsen over time, too – as technology (like everything else) is subject to deterioration arising from wear.

But the truth that must not be spoken is that technology is fallible. Imperfect humans cannot create perfect anything.

Without, say, a steering wheel – which Ford is talking about removing from its automated cars, just a few years hence – what happens when the car decides to steer itself off the road? If there is no brake pedal, what will be the fate of an automated car – of the people inside the automated car – when mud obscures the camera that feeds the data to the computer that automatically applies the brakes when the car “sees” traffic stopped ahead, or a red light – but doesn’t see it, this time?

It doesn’t seem particularly safe.

But that is not the objective here. If it were – well, there would be no talk of exemptions from safety standards. So why is it being pushed?

The reason for the exemption push is severalfold:

First, there is a bullying determination to get automated cars on the road and in mass-circulation as soon as possible  – safety be damned. Like electric cars, they are being force-fed to the public via mandates and subsidies.

The why for that is simple enough to grok: Automated cars are controlled cars. And not controlled by us. This is why I very specifically refer to them as automated rather than “autonomous” cars – the latter term being the favored disingenuous term of the technocratic elites, corporate and government, who are using all their prodigious resources to impose automated cars on us by convincing us the cars will be autonomous.

As in, independentFree of control.

This verbal shuck and jive is of a piece with Repeal . . . and Replace Obamacare.

Remember when they talked about just repealing it? Now the plan is to enshrine it. But a Republican version of government-controlled health as opposed to one conceived by Democrats.

Either way, government-controlled health remains.

Automated cars will be as un-autonomous as a city bus. They will operate on their schedule, not yours. They will be programmed to operate a certain way – not your way – and that way will be based upon the least common denominator. The risk/comfort threshold for speed (as well as getting up to speed) of the most nervous old lady or “mom.” The parameters of operation set down by the same people who post speed limits at least 10 and often 20 MPH below the ordinary flow of traffic. Only it will be far worse because in an automated car, driving faster than granny-paced speed limits and disobeying idiotic traffic regs will literally be impossible. No steering wheel, remember.

Wait and see.

The idea – floated by the technocrats – that we will be whisked along, Jetsons-style, at high speed to our destinations is as silly an idea as believing that getting to where you’re going via the Greyhound Bus will be faster (and more enjoyable) than driving there yourself.

Which is why they are touting “autonomous” cars. It’s deliberately deceptive – the ear of fresh corn used to lure the cow to the chute.

Of a piece with the shuck-and-jive that they are only concerned about our safety. Ranchers are more honest with their cattle.

The second reason for the exemption push has to do with liability. They are much less concerned about our safety than they are about their money. Automated cars represent a massive risk  . . . of lawsuits.

As things stand.

For example: When Teslas with automated driving technology have crashed (several have) who gets the bill? Is it Tesla? Or – counterargument – is it the fault of the driver, who failed to correct for the automated car’s mistake in time?

The lawyers representing both sides get a nice payday. The car’s occupants get taken for a ride – for good or bad.

The stenography car press never touches on these issues; they are much too prickly. They get in the way of the goal – which is not to free people, charge them less – or make things safer for them.

The object of the exercise is to corral and control them – and when “safety” concerns present a problem, those concerns are either ignored (see, for instance, the history of air bags) or exemptions are given, as is being proposed lately.



Eric Peters is the automotive columnist for the Southern Arizona News-Examiner. Visit his website for all things automotive at


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