Technology will save us

February 26, 2020 § 7 Comments

I’ve heard people say that with the advent of autopilot technologies, car collisions will become a thing of the past, along with “accidents” involving cars and bikes, i.e. situations where a driver negligently hurts or kills a bicyclist because, latte.

Ah, yes, the eternal American optimism that technology solves all.

Unfortunately, our laissez-faire approach to death machines subjugates the potential of autopilot technologies to the primacy of profit, in this case, Tesla. This article in The Verge shows exactly why autopilot technologies aren’t going to save anything anytime soon. In one jagged, incomprehensible nutshell: There is no regulatory body in the U.S.A. that can develop and implement safety standards for autopilot technology.

The reason?

Corporations run much of the world’s economic and legislative machinery, and most especially, car corporations.

Buried in the article is the mention of LIDAR, a technology that could have prevented the death of the driver in the Tesla case. Of course Elon Musk claims that LIDAR is unnecessary for autonomous vehicles and that his proprietary autopilot system works fine. Except when it doesn’t.

One snide cyclist recently snarked, in reference to my rather dim view of automobiles, that “Cars are the enemy, right?” He, not coincidentally, works for a car company, but that aside, here’s my answer: “Yes. Cars and the infrastructure that support them are the single biggest threat to people and the earth.”

Cars make you fat. They encourage sedentary lifestyles which make you sick. They create stress. They waste time. They suck money out of social welfare projects, holding hostage things like education, healthcare, social security, and livable cities. They pollute the air and water. They contribute massively to global warming, whether run on gas or electricity. They separate people from the environment and from each other. Best of all, they create a geopolitical dynamic in which nations murder citizens of other nations in order to maintain hegemony over oil supplies.

There will soon be more cars on earth than people.

But don’t worry. Like Henry Ford before him, Elon’s gonna get you all fixed up.


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§ 7 Responses to Technology will save us

  • Serge Issakov says:

    I haven’t been a fan of Tesla’s approach, releasing Level 2/3 tech to the public, much favoring how Waymo and Cruise are doing it, going straight to Level 4, but I admit Musk may be onto something. First, they’re getting tons of data from every conceivable scenario, and data collection is key to proper training of autonomous vehicles. Second, the bar they really need to clear is not to be perfectly safe, but to be better than at least the average human driver.

    The problem is perception. If one gets into a crash by making a mistake a human would be unlikely to make, that’s easily seen as unacceptable, even if overall they’re crashing/killing less often per million miles than are human drivers.

    Regarding this technology not addressing the “cars are bad” issue, I think they might. What really needs to happen is pooled shared rides in vans and mini buses, so you have cheap and efficient near door-to-door service.

    You request a ride on your app, it tells you to walk a block or two to a given spot, you get there and are picked up within a few minutes, and taken to a spot a short walk from your destination. You can pay extra to be picked up/dropped at the respective doors.

    Once enough people are doing that, it should reduce the number of cars, and all the associated problems.

    But our main concern, I think, is that they “see” and don’t hit bicyclists. The Arizona Uber f-up aside (that was a human failure, not a tech failure), by all account theys seem to be quite good at that.

    • nickcw says:

      Great post. I think if you want to see what tesla are doing this video shows how advanced their system is. I am sure this car is driving way better than a fat bloke in a truck drinking coffee and texting!. Also Tesla are TRYING to stop the world being dependent of dirty fuels. Electricity does not have to come from burning stuff!

      • fsethd says:

        The absence of governmental regulation and Tesla’s complete disregard of the recommendations, or even response, says it all. The mere production of the Tesla results in 146,000 metric tons of CO2 emitted per facility. This doesn’t begin to touch the mining, transport, and disposal of the batteries and battery components, or the fact that Teslas run on coal and nuclear power. They aren’t clean at all, they’re just marginally less dirty than gasoline-diesel powered vehicles. And they’re still cars. They clog the streets, make you fat, make you angry, support bigger and more wasteful highway expenditures, pollute the earth, and run people over. So, Elon needs to get a bike.

    • fsethd says:

      I think the main issue is that it’s a regulatory free-for-all. No government, just for-profit CAR companies using the public as their experimental animals.

  • Neal Henderson says:

    US Commercial Airlines have had several years without a fatality Let’s hear it for Education, Enforcement, and Engineering …. among other things …..

    Where is the USA impetus for safe ground transportation?

    It is possible …..

  • t_r_a_v_e_l_l_e_r says:

    You have a fascinating blog 🌸🌸🌸

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