If They Can’t Get Traffic Lights to Sync…

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They can’t even get automated traffic lights to work – to sync the green/red cycles in order to smooth the flow of traffic – but we’re supposed to believe that millions of automated cars are going to sync perfectly, whizz along at 100 MPH in tight formation, without a hitch – just like the Blue Angels, the Navy’s precision flying demonstration squadron.

In the rain and snow. The heat of high summer, the bitter cold of January. Dirt, sand, potholes. 24/7, year ’round – for year after year after year, ongoing. Mechanical and electrical components will never wear out – or crap out, unexpectedly. 

Really?

Traffic lights are pretty simple things – even the “smart” ones that have cameras and sensors with which they can “see” traffic (just like automated cars). But coordinating lights to go green at the same time – instead of one going green and then the next one just ahead going red, causing needless stop-and-go traffic congestion – seems to be a bridge too far for the same technocrats who promise a seamless, Blue Angles-like automated car experience.

Even when traffic lights are successfully synced, they rarely remain synced for long.

Something always goes wrong. A power outage scrambles their brains. A software/programming/hardware glitch upsets the apple cart. The timing gets jumbled. Red light, green light, red light.

Stop – and go.

But at least you can stop (and go).

For now.

Your current autonomous car – the one controlled by you – still has brake/accelerator pedals and a steering wheel.

Your Future Car may not. The idea being to automate those functions, in order to take away your autonomy.

The good news is that it’ll probably work about as well as automated traffic lights.

Leavings aside the emasculation that automated cars would impose on us – male and female alike – by depriving us of the ability to control our vehicles, which would mean a return to childhood, a time when our parents took us places and we sat in the back and had little to no say in the matter – there is the false assumption about the omniscience and perfection of automated vehicle technology.

Notwithstanding the abundance of evidence that technology – much simpler technology than the technology necessary to automate millions of cars – routinely craps out.

Traffic lights, for instance.

Or the computer you’re probably reading this on. Your smartphone. Have either ever crashed or done something Weird for no apparent reason? What happens when you accidentally spill some coffee on them? Drop them? What about five or six years from now, when the drive is getting arthritic, the OS out of date?

At least they’re not moving down the road at 70 MPH.

Automated cars will – we’re told – move down the road at much higher speeds. Inches apart, us asleep in back or watching YouTube videos.

Whisk, whisk.

In perfect safety. Just like the automated Uber . . .

The Blue Angels also fly inches apart and at hundreds of miles per hour. Usually, without crashing. But they are piloted by autonomous humans, who do not depend on rote programming or technology to maintain formation in an environment of constantly changing variables which they – their autonomous intelligences – must recognize and correctly deal with, independent of technology. Each pilot makes minute course corrections, based on his independent judgment. No programmed auto-bot can anticipate every scenario. Computers can only react in ways anticipated by the programmer.

Unlike an autonomous human pilot at the controls. Or a competent human behind the wheel – assuming he’s allowed one.

Also: Aircraft are obsessively maintained and inspected according to a schedule that would never fly in a daily-driver (or daily driven) automated car scenario. It’s too complicated – and much too expensive. There is a reason why most people don’t own airplanes – even single-engine Cessnas. It’s not so much the training (and skill) needed to learn how to fly. That part is affordable, a few thousand bucks and a few months, if you’re interested. About the same in expense and time as it takes to get a driver’s license in Germany.

But the aircraft is a six figure proposition and the FAA mandatory scheduled safety inspections/teardowns and rebuilds double down on that. Combined, it’s beyond the financial means of nine (point nine) out of ten people.

Yet it would take something along those lines – assuming the technology can even be made to work reliably and safely outside of the attenuated world of a handful of demonstration mules – for this automated car thing to ever scale.

Millions of automated cars would have to be tied in to an FAA-esque infrastructure and mandatory scheduled inspections/teardowns/rebuilds very similar to those currently mandatory for aircraft.

This will get into serious money.

Who will get the bill?

How will they pay it?

Is anyone buying this?

Yup, they are. 

It’s a carny’s market out there. 

. . .

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97 COMMENTS

  1. While I appreciate the concern, the take over of driverless cars is a very long way off. The most recent accident, resulting in a fatality, in Tempe Arizona has resulted in the suspension of permission for Uber to test drive its self-driving cars in Arizona. The governor pulled the plug on March 26th in a letter to Uber.
    The other autonomous car companies are not effected, but the police & state department of transportation (ADOT) are keeping a closer eye on them. People are really wary of this new tech, and the government control freaks are the very wariest of them all.
    This might be an actual case of a blind squirrel finding a nut in that the government is actually doing its job and protecting the public from a real threat.

  2. Sheridan Drive, Tonawanda, NY, outside of Buffalo. The lights are timed so that you catch every one unless you drive 25 or 55. The speed limit is 40. At night, when the road is clear, I’ll do 55. During the day, you’re screwed by people who obey the speed limit.

    I did some investigation to determine why this was so. It seems that this road was used for drag racing in the 50s, so the town changed the timing so that everyone was inconvenienced. I doubt that it worked, since there’s probably a 70 and a 85 and a 100 mph window.

    • Bobster, I’ve had cars with Tonawanda engines and they were always cutting edge. I had one 350 that went 200,000 miles before the teflon timing gear fucked it up. It had virtually no cylinder wear, piston wear or main bearing wear. It had two types of lifters, one type for each side. it was a great engine which I allowed a friend to have and he let set outside and ruin. That wasn’t the only thing ruined. The engine had no parts that were listed in the Chevy parts list. It was a “runner”. I loved that 350.

  3. Eric, could you do an article on what the heck happened to the Elio? Was it a scam from the beginning? Was it well-intentioned but got derailed? Why the heck can’t we have cheap cars costing less than $10K in America?

    • I don’ think it’s a scam, but definitely a long shot. The odds were against the Elio ever really getting off the ground. The company never really had sufficient funding to manufacture it and unlike Elon Musk with his heavily-subsidized, money-losing Tesla, Elio does not have the favor of the federal gangsters behind him.

      There doesn’t seem to be much recent news about Elio Motors. Last I heard they were sitting on over $100,000,000 in debt with only about $100,000 in the bank. The following is the latest I could find doing a quick search, with Paul Elio claiming “late 2019” for production:

      https://www.abc15.com/news/let-joe-know/elio-motors-buyer-wants-money-back

      • Just got a new e from Elio. Sorry to say they’re waiting for prospective owners wants and desires. And now the buy in is $8450 instead of the $6800 of days gone by. Well, there’s enough room for me and Cholley Jack. CJ needs his own seat and 80 lbs of pit bull needs his privacy too. But the roads we live on I’m afraid would eat an Elio but I’m not without hope. it’s not like everything we need requires a 4 Wd big pickup…..and I can make it to a big rig with my stuff for a week or two in a car, I just don’t like it if I have to wait years for it. I do wish them all the best though. It’s sorta like the girl from many decades ago who kept saying “I’m just not old enough”…..sorry, gal, I was.

        • It’s a familiar pattern with small automotive startups. There were quite a few right after the war but not many survived for long, most never got past a few prototypes being built. Production pushed back, purchase price rises, insufficient funds for production so release date is pushed back some more, etc. – a death spiral. I’d like to see Elio Motors succeed but will be surprised if they manage to pull it off.

          I’d hate to try driving one of those around here with the vicious potholes (more like lunar craters) that we get in winter. At least with a conventional car you have a shot at straddling them.

      • I understand Tesla is having major production issues, and the management is seeking volunteers from their acolytes to help prodice 300 cars per day.

  4. Self driving cars are a great idea–for when you get so feeble that your kids take your car away from you, leaving you stranded. With a self-driving car, you’d just get in, program where you want to go, and sit back. So, what happens when you can’t find a 10 year old to enter your data for you?

    • John Illinois, I feel that situations like that–the elderly who are incapable of (or terrified of) driving in the first place, going short distances to known places–are really going to be one of the few markets for these self-driving cars. In all my discussions with passengers about self-driving cars I only found one person, a total techno nerd, who was enthusiastic about the idea of self-drivering cars. Everyone else was thinking this was one of the stupidest ideas ever attempted.
      And who knows? Maybe it WILL be better to get ole Bertha, the 4-foot-nothing, 85 pound Sun City senile to ride to the drug store in a self-driving car than to leave her behind the wheel of the 1976 Plymouth Behemoth she can’t see over the dashboard of.
      Some of us who have to drive among the old farts of Sun City and other retirement communities are praying for the perfection of self-driving technology simply to get these menaces off the road. I’m not in favor of anything being mandated; nor am I in favor of greater control from government agencies. But I would like to see these vehicles perfected & used to augment a free market in transportation. Getting incompetents, frightened people, old people, drunks, and damn fools off the road will go a long way to improving safety & restoring the pleasure of driving.
      And no, I am not being a clover. I am not in favor of giving up ANY of my rights in driving; nor do I favor some government schmuck having access to my whereabouts (in real time or historic data). But dammit, I have to work around these total fucktards who somehow got keys to cars when they can’t even handle a Mario Cart. Having them voluntarily removed through a free market introduction of driverless cars, to me, would be like angels singing.
      NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!

      • Not jackin with you but everything you say ends up with “butt”
        You really need to make a decision. When my own father lost his “way” it wasn’t so black and white.

        After all, we are still all people. There are no easy answers.

  5. After self driving vehicles are mandated how long before it will be required to file your driving plan with the Federal Automotive Administration for approval, and will you be allowed to deviate from your planned route?

    Will there also be a Federal “Cash for Crashers” program to get the driver required cars off the roads?

    • In response to the first part: Immediately, and no.

      The second part: Most likely. Or they’ll just issue a fatwa declaring them unfit for the roads.

    • Never happen. Filing plans like that would take too much data, and too much time. People would not put up with it. Cars are not airplanes. The only reason the FAA got flight plans and control freak behavior mandated is because, planes have always been far fewer in number & popularity than cars.

      • I believe the plan is that the robot car will do it electronically once it has been given a destination and the central computer will issue the approvals based on rules programmed into it. It will take seconds to get a yes or no or alternative route.

      • Air traffic control should be fully automated, eliminating the humans who just read the computer recommends instead letting it talk to the ones in the planes. Once they see how much better that works without human intervention, self-driving cars would be easy, being 2D instead of 3D.

  6. Just a couple of thoughts from a guy who made his living in IT.
    The self driven car will fly much better as an outgrowth of the mass transit idea, perhaps a customizable destination pad that detaches when appropriate, rather than bringing privately owned vehicles up to mass transit standards.
    Artificial intelligence is improving at a pace that will outstrip the natural variety within the next decade. The very systems we’re counting on to make a large scale roll out of driverless cars possible may shut the idea down as completely impractical.

    • As long as there is reliable power available. What happens in natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes? No one has ever been able to synchronize traffic lights sensibly, let alone an IT programmed car. And what will happen to the sensors in the winter when they get coated by a puddle of slush thrown up by the leading car?

    • It is what the former director of RTD, John Simpson, had in mind to do on light rail tracks.
      Smart phones are already smarter on average than their owners, if you want to consider artificial intelligence intelligent.

  7. All this because of one UBER accident with a death. First, who was maintaining the road lighting? Government. Was the human safety driver paying attention? Did the human cross in a safe place, or did the human even look to see a car coming?

    How many times a day do you want to flip off some idiot driver? Do you think autonomous cars will have road rage? Now that Uber has screwed up, maybe they will leave the market; maybe they will have to use someone elses safer better systems. When was the last time a failed government system was eliminated, vs. given more money.

    I worked for Nasa after the second shuttle was lost. There were 5-10 thousand workers at my Nasa Lab. We were all given a 500 page, high gloss (read expensive) book with pretty pictures and diagrams, that clearly nobody outside the authors would bother to read (or understand). We held meetings to talk about what went wrong and what we could do about it. Never mind that I was simply a computer programmer and knew nothing about the shuttles. When it was my turn to comment, I suggested we privatize the space program. I wasn’t exactly laughed at, but they said, “next”. At the end of a few days I noticed the trash bins were filling up with those shuttle books. And the program continued, with more money of course.

    Anything that gets us away from government roads, cars, rules, traffic cops, etc. has got to be an improvement. And the mindless boring job of driving where humans often can’t even remember how we got somewhere on the road (as our conscious minds drift off) will be eliminated, just like how we don’t use humans as much in boring repetitive factory jobs.

    Of course the problem will be that many humans simply enjoy racing around the streets, at least when one is young. This is the main fear of human drivers. But that will pass; they can go to racing tracks for fun. I do think that there’s a danger of the government monitoring everything we do, but that’s coming anyway, what with all of us dumbly posting information about ourselves with the likes of facebook; and then there’s the fbi, cia, and the nsa that will know everything we do anyway, whether we go places in autonomous cars or not. We all have cameras everywhere, with face recognition, so knowing where we go is a done deal. And besides, we all carry little devices that can already track our every movements – called a cell phone.

    • In answer to your questions of “First, who was maintaining the road lighting? Government. Was the human safety driver paying attention? Did the human cross in a safe place, or did the human even look to see a car coming?”
      The City of Tempe AZ was manitaining the road lighting, and the lighting in the area exceeded specifications. It was a well-lit area.
      WE do not know if the standby operator of the Uber test vehicle was “paying attention” or not. However, we do know that the pedestrian was jay-walking, and the driver of the Uber was NOT cited by Tempe police. Nor was the Uber company cited.
      And apparently, no, the pedestrian was not crossing in a safe enough place, and may or may not have seen what was coming; but in either case, failed to react in time.
      It was a case of “The woman just stepped out n front of my car”.

      • The darkness in the video is an effect of the camera. She should have been visible to the human eye. I’ve seen small critters darting into the road with time to react with less light.
        The idea that something can be made automatic and the human is responsible to pay 100% attention is nonsense, but used by robot car defenders and cheerleaders.
        There’s nothing wrong with “jay walking” if the person doing it is alert. The idea that people need to walk out of their way for automobiles is nonsense and the term was invented to shame people into walking in squared paths. Of course for robot cars that has be strictly enforced. Just more clamping down on our getting from a to b.

          • You must live in the only state in the union that gets back all of the fuel tax that it collects back from the federal government.
            In most states, the sidewalks and the streets are equally poorly funded by the state government without the help of promised federal funds. A lot of places don’t have any sidewalks to maintain.

          • The public way is just that, the public way.
            The taxes on motoring support the additional needs of motor vehicles and subsidize trucking.

            People use the argument you just made for bicyclists as well. My bicycle can get by with a 2 inch wide dirt trail. It doesn’t need 12 foot wide paved lanes capable of supporting a loaded semitractortrailer.

            Additionally the roads upon which most people walk or bike are supported in part with property taxes just like they were before the automobile.

    • Those two shuttle incidents were both directly caused by known risky system components that had been identified years earlier, written up for fixes to eliminate the dangrous aspects of the systems, any years before the first shuttle launch even occurred. In both cases, the instant it happened, certain individuals knew exactly what HAD happened and how/why. I personally know one of those people. In the aftermath of the disasters, some remembered the calling out of the dangers, and that fizes had been proposed. Guess what??!!?? The folks tasked with fixing the issues went back into the archives, dug out the papers warning of the problems, and found the “fix” writttn out as part of the report. The changes were made per the writeups from years ago, and the problem was solved for future missions by MAKING the suggested changes per the warning made years ago. The “Houston we have a problem” failure in Apollo 13 was exactly the same situation. It too was known and identified long before that mission, the risks spelt out clearly, and a certain “fix” to absolutely prevent it happening. I knew the man who tagged that defect and wrote up the changes… but they were not perofrmed, as it was not “acceptible” to lose face by postponing the programme, and/or 2, the costs involved in retrofitting every launch vehilcle to comply. THOSE guys made it back safely, but the shuttle launch bomb.. well, that was a VERY sad situation.
      All that to say, issues with the autonomous rigs WILL be identified (many already have been) but not all will be suitably addressed until some catastroph forces the way.

  8. It’s interesting that flying has been heavily automated but trains still require an operator just in case. I don’t see this self driving car taking off for a long time yet.

    • And planes still crash. The more automated the flying becomes the more skills are lost by pilots. Which leads to pilots having even less confidence in their skills. Skills must get plenty of practice to remain useful.

  9. Yeah, these car computers work great until it gets below zero, then you better have the engine heater plugged in because the software can’t figure out the right fuel mix for that temp before the battery runs out. And if you do get it started, for heaven’s sake don’t shut it off for a half hour or the computer will refuse to even try to start again.

    The GPS directions can tell if you are in the correct lane in some huge city, but out here where I live it doesn’t even know where the roads are and supposes that there is a public road where somebody drove their cattle through in 1880. Self driving computer is not going to know that it rained last night so the right side of the road is a bog hole and you need to drive on the wrong/left side for a while. And when you go through that mud puddle all the sensors will be blocked so then what ?

    • I’ve never had an issue starting any of my computer controlled fuel injected cars in subzero cold (at least to around -15F or so) beyond slow cranking if the battery was marginal.

    • Parents live at the end of a dirt road in the country. Guugle Maps shows the end of the road going through their property to another country road that borders them (albeit, several hundred feet across pasture through their yard). I shit you not a damn ambulance came blaring down their road one day with lights flashing and got to the end, reversed to us (putting some fence up) and asked if we could open our gate to let them across their land so they could access the other road. Automation cars will work fine though and are ready for our nations roads! -Mark Zucerberrrrg/Gates/Some jackass

      • Good points Brazos_bend. I use GPS work daily, and I encounter a lot of incorrect information on it several times a day. This is a fairly high end device made by Garmin for big trucks. It doesn’t even know some of the weigh station locations, and it is sometimes wrong about state lines and sharp curves. Imagine how much worse it would be if the government took over GPS’s.

        • Rand McNally’s trucker atlas still shows a US through Baltimore as a good truck route. The only thing that GPS does is tell the unit where it is. A well-written GIS database is required to make the navigator work correctly. I doubt if any of the geeks that set it up know why a truck driver would need to know where a weigh station is. The GPS satellite constellation is very well operated by the federal government. Not so much the GPS receiver and driven navigation systems. If you can do better, why don’t you?

  10. I’m going to take a somewhat contrary view and defend automatic, but decentralized vehicles.

    1. The infrastructure to centrally manage millions of cars (highly-reliable, high-capacity, low-latency networks and servers) will not keep pace with the computing power of on-board, distributed systems (those which can predict the movements of objects and communicate with nearby peers).

    2. Your analogy to stop lights is, I think, flawed in this regard: Roads and stop lights are owned and operated by governments, which get paid regardless of how efficient their roads are (indeed, since they get paid by gallon of gas and not by mile traveled, they have a perverse incentive to minimize efficiency). Decentralized automated cars are already being developed by multiple competing firms, who must satisfy their customers; however much the government might offer to pay for control of your system pales in comparison to losing out on 50+ million customers to a competitor who meets their demands. Taking away Americans’ ability to go where they want when they want will be less politically feasible than taking away guns. And if the government doesn’t want you going somewhere, they can already find excuses to just close that business down or pester it into submission.

    3. For people who are good at driving and enjoy it, coexisting with automated cars will probably be a better experience than sharing the road with people who are either just trying to get to work 2 minutes earlier and driving without regard to others, or people who are distracted and would rather be looking at Instagram or Facebook. Automated cars will be highly predictable, rule-following drivers; they’ll know how not to tailgate, how to merge, how to maintain a consistent speed around curves and up hills.

    4. Following on the above point, most dangerous traffic conditions are caused by human psychology: not allowing cars to merge, slowing down needlessly, tailgating, etc. How many accidents today are caused by mechanical or electronic failure compared to the number caused by human limitations? I agree that the image of a train of automated cars inches apart going super fast is not realistic or even ideal. The beauty of independent cars is that one mechanical issue *won’t* stop everyone else, unlike trains or to an extent planes. A broken down automated car will be more likely to pull out of travel lanes, allow riders to transfer to another vehicle, and wait unattended for service; no need for emergency vehicles causing rubbernecking and more dangerously slow traffic. Not to mention that automated cars properly spaced out will be able to avoid a blocked lane more smoothly with less slowing than most humans seem to be capable of.

    5. Owning a car is, for most people, a necessary evil. We car hobbyists and enthusiasts enjoy driving and caring for our cars, but most people do the bare minimum to keep their cars running so they can get to where they’re going. Major cities have mostly cars for hire or commercial vehicles. When people can avoid owning a car and driving, many do.

    6. The political issues do concern me as well, but they extend beyond cars into almost every aspect of life now. A change in political winds away from progressive authoritarianism would improve life in innumerable ways, transportation being only one. But taking the political climate as a given for now, and the attitudes of most people toward driving and transportation, the current developments of decentralized automated cars that can coexist with human drivers on existing roads is probably the best outcome for liberty.

    • 1) Does not matter. The set up will be that the individual cars will query master if they have permission to go from A to B. They will get a permitted route from master. They will send their routes and other logs to master. There is no need for the master system to do the ‘dirty’ work of not crashing and it won’t. It will only control what matters, who goes where when. If this system causes delays, traffic jams, whatever that will be just too bad.

      2) I applied the correct part of this to 1). The competition between companies is irrelevant because government will take control when it decides the time is right. Competition will be in things like style, comfort, gizmos, and entertainment.

      3) Not if Naderites and Claybrookians have their way. They will by law and regulation mandate their anti-destination league desires.

      4) Many of those problems are due to decades of anti-destination league teachings. So many of these poor behaviors for throughput are actually taught to people.

      6) The technocratic nature of the modern state will not permit truly decentralized robot cars. Their programming will strictly follow the government experts’ desires.

    • Thanks for this thoughtful reply, Kevin. I can see Eric’s points but I can also see yours. It will be fascinating I think to see how this unfolds in reality. My brother has an automated Tesla Model S which he uses to drive for him while he’s on his 30 minute highway commute. He turns it off in the city. I think at first most drivers will use the tech in this way, as a sort of super cruise control.

  11. The Technocrats and the Political Class have no (serious) concerns about costs incurred by others. They always find a way to place themselves above the law, and get someone else to pay for it. See: Taxes.

    Oh, sure, they’ll speak in terms to bait the hook. But those words are hollow. They know that they only get in trouble if the lights don’t change on time. Or if the trains don’t run on time.

    And did anyone look inside a train lately? They are essentially vehicles that operate without a human driver, except in an emergency. They operate on tracks, which do not allow deviation. Their operations are pre-programmed, so that they don’t accept the human inputs, except when an override is needed.

    The nearest large city to me has had synchronized traffic lights for over 30 years. Sometimes, they actually work.

  12. https://www.themaven.net/mishtalk/economics/waymo-orders-20-000-electric-jaguar-suvs-for-driverless-fleet-TXkw3dVSZ0q7ba89C9Nzpw

    Here’s the thing. Manufacturers love to crank out millions of the same damn thing. Customers want customization. Well, if they can get a 20,000 order from a single “customer” that’s a win-win. And a deal this big means some big price breaks, and an entire team of account executives who don’t have to do much selling, just hammering out details. 20,000 plain vanilla Jag SUVs can make the quarterly sales numbers in the right direction pretty quickly.

  13. Safety issues aside (most of which I agree with), Corporations and governments must be drooling at the opportunity to have a “captive audience” for any extended amount of time. People will not own these cars, corporations will and they will maximize the “entertainment” system for all its worth. In time, vehicles will be fitted with LED glass so you can choose “scenery” for a premium that is, but the serfs and peasants that cannot afford to pay a premium will be bombarded with advertisements and PSA’s.

  14. What happens to driverless cars when they encounter driver equipped cars and motorcycles? I am quite sure driverless motorcycles are a lot further out. The computational power required to run a motorcycle would probably cost more in dollars and mass than could be afforded by most. They will be a hazard to be banned? How good are the visual sensors in a snowstorm? Are all roads going to be equipped with electronic markers? My town has over 100 miles of unsurfaced roads. Will the car see hazards like downed power lines and fallen trees? No driving in adverse weather? A deer jumps between two cars and there is only one way out, do the cars communicate and decide who lives/dies? Way too many unanswerable (at this point) questions. The point about mandated service intervals is another very valid concern, especially to those like myself who do their own maintenance and repairs. Very good article, thank you.

    • How will a driverless car deal with a traffic light that’s stuck on red? Just sit there forever like the stupid clovers who won’t “run” a red light under any circumstances?

      • Those are the worst. In Houston there are these retarded mono pole, eye level stop lights on some feeder roads that ‘meter’ traffic coming onto the freeway. No cop, no camera, nothing next to it. I shit you not dumb birds sit there and obey the light every time. Maybe one in ten runs it as I have but the amount of people that sit at it is depressing. Two feeder roads up there are no stop lights. /Government

  15. As the old saying goes, “Follow the money”.
    The money people who established the federal reserve system also inhabit and run their government. The FED runs on debt. All conditions that make us give up our wealth, encourage borrowing known as debt. Every time we sit needlessly at a red light, run over a pot hole and knock out our alignment, or any of a thousand other expenses intentionally engineered into our lives, the money people prosper. We fail.
    This process knows no bounds. Debt mounts, money is created out of nothing, profits are kept and the debt is written off. Repeat.
    The money people desperately seek for new ways to install debt. The Fourth Reich is in full bloom and we all know how the last version of that reality ended. We are caught in a web of kosher laws rewritten to manage the activities of our daily living, and expanded beyond nutrition.

    • The money people in Iowa were floating the idea of turning I-80 into a toll road. For now it went nowhere, but how long before it happens is the question.

      • The same thing was being discussed by the Wyoming legislature several years ago, but just for trucks. The idea was abandoned when they studied how much money they would stop getting from diesel fuel tax and expenditures by truckers.

  16. Re: Traffic light timing. We don’t even need a single microchip to run a more efficient light system. Near where I live there’s a long street whose lights are timed sequentially all the time; drive at or near the speed limit and you cruise through one green light after another. Even perpendicular streets’ traffic benefits because its lights are systematically bound to the main street lights and can be to some extent anticipated. No electronics necessary and traffic flows well.

    Funny thing about digitalness: few complain about the unreliability and short-lived machines we rely so much upon. There’s a new Windows or Iphone about every 18 months while an older version gets dropped, but who cares? Maybe when aging automated cars start breaking down on backroads when it’s 25 below zero or cost $2000 and up for even minor repairs people will get a clue. But it will be too late by then.

    • In Filthadelphia, on major roads they actually time the traffic lights so you CAN’T make more than two in a row. IDIOTS!

      • In my a*hole city there are some roads with signs declaring “traffic lights timed for frequent stops” . They’re actually proud of effing up the traffic – and your temper.

        • MIB , those a holes live to fuck shit up. I’ve known some who laughed when people complained. They don’t laugh so hard when some other a hole deems them non-necessary. Sometimes there’s a leeway and they can suck ass for their jobs. I’ve seen the suck-ass in action, for months and years, just to keep a job that requires little to nothing, the absolute limit of their abilities.

      • One can drive from the west end of Cody, Wyoming to the east end at about 5mph over the limit. It takes much longer to take the reverse path. It takes an unusually intelligent planner to make things work the same in both directions.

  17. Back in the 80s, I had a brief stint at Garrett Airesearch in California, where I did software validation for the APU used in the Boeing 757/767 aircraft. (An Auxiliary Power Unit is a tiny turbine engine that runs the generator, helps start the mains, etc.) FAA specs required that, for computer software used in commercial aircraft, every possible code path must be correctly taken for all relevant possible program states. It’s painstaking, tedious, but necessary work. It validates that the unit will work, even when, say, the plane’s upside down in a flat spin with the main engines stalled. Software flaws in aircraft components lead to failure and death. The validation process exposes and corrects the flaws before the aircraft gets certified to fly … to save lives.

    None of this is being done with self-driving cars. There doesn’t appear to be any certification process for autonomous car software, no FAA-like oversight. I’m not aware of any Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) experts at Google, Apple, Tesla, etc. All of them seem to be “wingin’ it.”

    As these vehicles proliferate, there will likely be many injuries and fatalities. Most will involve “only” a half dozen or fewer souls per incident (unlike plane crashes, which kill hundreds).

    Worse, it seems that governments are shielding these companies from liability. Is this a trial balloon to see if the general public will accept high failure rates? Or is this just typical late-stage crony capitalism in action?

    Nobody “wings it” when designing dams, bridges, skyscrapers, planes or ships. All employ exacting, laborious certification processes, certified engineers, and high standards. It saves lives. But somehow it’s okay to “wing” software for cars? Why the rush?

    • Hi Mr. Bill,

      “Why the rush?”

      Exactly.

      There is a reason – sub rosa – for all of this. My opinion is that it’s to destroy autonomous cars – the cars controlled by us. To give control over our movement to the government-corporate nexus.

      Either that – or the country truly is run by imbeciles.

    • MrBill, one possible reason they’re not doing this kind of extensive software validation you’re describing, unit testing, etc… is because how on earth do you unit-test a 10,000 node, 10-layer convolution deep-learning neural net? These are opaque machine-learning systems that take in enormous reams of video data, and learn solutions from those data. No human can deconstruct and understand the “learning” captured in the weights and connections of the networks. If it can’t be understood, how do you test its failure modes?

    • Mr. Bill, the bridge that collapsed in Florida was not tested properly. So much so that a worker tried to complain but was brushed aside by ‘crats. A lot of winging and no engineering in sight.

  18. It won’t matter that the hardware won’t last and that the software is bloated and finicky. They are going to do it hell or high water. In fact its general crappiness will be a feature not a bug.

    • They want to be able to pull the plug in a matter of minutes the Gov’t vehicles will probably be so well designed and capable a EMP attack will probably just charge their batteries ,

  19. I despise those so called smart lights. they stop you often for no reason, the”old-timers” could time the lights to let you go all the way through town if you caught a green light running the speed limit, a dang smooth flow of traffic, not this herky-jerky ordeal we put up with now.
    To tell you the truth this bullshit driving “privilege” is something I wish I could without. you can go from doing alright to financial ruin in a matter of seconds and I swear I believe some troopers get their rocks off writing tickets and they probably have a “triple – o” if you had a previously clean record, I would like to say “F-m all”.
    I just got done watching two officers killing a Black man they couldn’t control( Lucky for these “Heros” they found a gun on His person) they gave Him 6 rounds, makes Me want to puke.

    • I generally agree with you about smart lights. I often approach them at a reasonable speed, but ten yards before I get there they change to red because no vehicle is adjacent to the light. There could be twelve cars right behind me, but because no one is actually at the light we all have to stop and wait. IDIOTS! So, what do savvy drivers do? Speed up to beat the red light whenever possible — increasing the likelihood of accidents.

      All traffic engineers have to do is sense for cars 10-20 yards down the road instead of right at the light — but traffic engineers are imbeciles!

  20. Traffic lights are intentionally set up to make for frequent stops. The speed kills crowd had that done decades ago.

    But you’re getting at what would be the heart of my essay on automated cars. How the damn things will be maintained and inspected. The number of sensors required is enormous. Then the software to read that data. Then the car refusing to operate because power steering fluid has run low or some such. All that comes to mind are some the lyrics of The Doors “Peace Frog”.

  21. The entire government is full of sh*t! Those so-called smart lights will change color right in front of a heavily loaded semi-truck ,forcing him to stop, in order to let 1 4-wheeler take off. The smart thing would have been to wait a few more seconds before changing color. If the State is really so concerned about fuel economy: the lights would be synced for the big heavy trucks, because they have to burn a lot of fuel each time they have to take off.
    If the State really cared about safety, they would teach kids in driver’s education class about proper driving around trucks and motorcycles.
    Speaking of automous vehicles: I saw a Tesla tractor trailer stopped on a shoulder on I-44 in Springfield, Mo. last week. I do not know whether it had mechanical or tire problems, but a repair truck was parked in front of it. You would think an event like that would be reported by at least theocal media, but I could not find that story anywhere.

    • Probably a tire problem with all that sh!+ laying on the roads these days, take a stroll down the shoulder of RT.29 and look at the junk laying there, nails ,drywall screws, metal screws you name ,I used to scoop some of that dross up and chuck it down the D.I..They ought to make state troopers carry powerful magnets on the chassis of their cruisers to pick up that junk, now that would be a good use of taxpayers ( saving taxpayers money, rather than costing them money) Stop the world, I want to get off!

      • And isn’t it amazing that those screws end up in your tire at precisely a 90 degree angle, even as they are laying flat on the road? And they penetrate several layers of rubber and 2 steel belts. Ever tried to put one of those screws into a tire? Takes a lot of energy and time, yet they magically appear in your tire when you didn’t even see or run over a screw.

    • Brian, are you trying to say govt. is full of shit? I can give you options such as horseshit, bullshit, dogshit and the ever gagging catshit. Just trying to help…ha ha ha ha. Just shitting you….dog…..

  22. You know, if ordinary consumer-people saw what just about any manufacturing production line looked while in operation today, they would “oooh” and ” aaaah” at that too, so these bullshit commercials don’t impress me at all. To say nothing of the extremely altered conditions the “stunt” was conducted under. And that’s all your looking at folks, an expensive stunt, aka, shit that won’t fly under normal operating conditions. Where was this twat narrator to say “guess it works” each time Evel Keneivel jumped 50 buses, or some equally insane shit?

  23. Would be the death of small businesses not connected to the “Free market grid (smirk)” that these auto cars will operate on. Take a guess who will have access to and control where these cars are allowed to go.

  24. Great article, Eric! I have to wonder though, if the impedance of the flow of traffic isn’t deliberate. Just another bit of frustration to get people to abandon their cars and embrace their driverless future. They already put “traffic calming” features in on roads these days, which are deliberately intended to impede the flow of traffic. Why wouldn’t they use the lights for the same purpose?

    • I used to have to go through a “traffic calming” obstacle regularly. Dumbest thing I ever saw — and it had the opposite effect on me, that’s for sure. A 4-way stop would’ve been cheaper and more effective. Traffic engineers = IDIOTS!

  25. I’ve been looking at getting my sport pilot certification. Like Eric says, it’s about $8,000 and a few months (or weeks if highly motivated) work. For that I gain the ability to fly little piston engine aircraft and have one passenger. Daylight and VFR rules only. No medical required (although I could pass a medical anyway). And you can rent aircraft. By the hour, day whatever.

    The difference though is that there’s a culture of proficiency. You take tests to get your certification, but they’re given by flight schools who forward the results off to the FAA. You are trained by other pilots, not by high school history teachers who also took a driver-ed train the trainer course. The other pilots have a lot of interest in making sure you know what you’re doing since an idiot in the airspace could really ruin a lot of people’s days. The FAA is more of a clearing house than a permit issuer. Yes, they have the power of law behind them, but by the time you get through the training (and recertification) if you’re not going to join the culture, you’re going to be weeded out. Again, not by the FAA, but by your peers. Remember powered flight predates the FAA by about 40 years, although Uncle had his hand in aviation all along, but standards were more driven by the culture than government edict.

    Oh, and those air-show guys do crash, probably more often statistically than anyone else.

    https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=thunderbirds+airshow+crash&qpvt=thunderbirds+airshow+crash&FORM=IGRE

    • Thanks, Mark!

      I’m working on another I think you’ll like about the Mahindra Roxor… a simple, inexpensive vehicle we’re not allowed to use on road.

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