Non-Emergency Automated Braking

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Something strange – and dangerous – happened to me the other day while I was out test-driving a new Toyota Prius.

The car decided it was time to stop. In the middle of the road. For reasons known only to the emperor.

Or the software.

I found myself parked in the middle of the road – with traffic not parked coming up behind me, fast. Other drivers were probably were wondering why that idiot in the Prius had decided to stop in the middle of the road.

But it wasn’t me. I was just the meatsack behind the wheel. The Prius was driving.

Well, stopping.

Like almost all 2019 model year cars, the Prius has something called automated emergency braking. It’s a saaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety system meant to correct for distracted driving – or just slow-to-react driving.

Sensors embedded in the car’s front and rear bumpers scan the perimeter and if they see something in your path that you don’t – or you haven’t applied the brakes in time to avoid hitting whatever it is – the system will automatically brake for you.

That’s the Cliffs Notes version of how it’s supposed to work, at any rate.

The other day, it worked  . . .  differently.

In a way that Toyota – and not just Toyota – may not have anticipated.

But should have.

This instance of non-emergency braking may have occurred because we had an ice storm the previous day. Everything got shellacked with a coating of the stuff.

I scraped the ice off the windshield and side glass before I headed out – as people have been doing for generations – so that I could see. The problem – I suspect – was that the car couldn’t see.

Those sensors embedded in the bodywork were probably still covered by ice, giving the car a case of temporary glaucoma. As a result, the Prius may have thought it saw something in the road – and slammed on its brakes to avoid hitting what wasn’t there.

To prevent this from happening, those sensors must be kept clean. Especially if there’s no way to turn off the saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety system tied into those sensors. Which in most cases, there isn’t.

But people haven’t been advised about keeping those sensors clean – at least, not strongly enough. There is info to that effect in the fine print of the owner’s manuals of most cars quipped with this feature, including the Prius.

But even if one is diligent about checking (and cleaning off) the car’s various embedded sensors before one begins driving, what about while one is driving?

Weather happens sometimes.

It was sunny and clear when you left the house – or are on your way home from work – but mid-trip, it begins to snow or sleet . . . and the car’s entire front end (where those sensors are embedded) gets coated by slush/slurry/road spray . . . and the car can no longer see very well or even not at all.

What then?

There aren’t warning icons/buzzers in the gauge cluster of any new car equipped with this system (so far as I have been able to determine) to let you know that it’s time to stop and wipe off the bumpers because the car can no longer see – and (like your grandma, who also can’t see very well anymore) might just do something unpredictable.

This is arguably . . . dangerous.

The car braked hard, too.

I can now describe what the dashboard of a Prius tastes like. Needs A1.

And I wasn’t able to countermand the car. Dead stop – no matter how hard I pressed down on the gas. The car wouldn’t budge for several seconds that felt much longer than that as I eyed the car in the rearview getting bigger and bigger as it got closer and closer.

Luckily for me, he wasn’t tailgating.

Had he been, an accident would have been all-but-certain. The Prius would have been accordionized.

It’s another example of saaaaaaaaaaafety technology that brings with it unpleasant – potentially lethal – unintended consequences; new risks which didn’t exist before. Other examples include air bags, which can kill or maim you as well as save you, depending on when – and how – they go off.

What if I had been on a busy Interstate highway with a speed limit of 70 instead of a lazy country road with a speed limit of 45? What if an eighteen-wheeler had been behind me doing 70 when the Prius erroneously decided it was time to jam on the brakes?

Leaving aside my gruesome death – who would get the blame for it?

Me? Or the car?

Better call Saul.

Automated emergency braking is one of several technologies now commonly available (and often standard equipment) in new cars that pre-empt the driver’s decisions – which opens up a yuge can of legal worms.

Another one of these saaaaaaaaaaaaafety technologies is lane keep assist, which countersteers (using electric motors connected to the steering gear) when the car thinks the driver is veering out of his intended lane of travel.

The problem is that sometimes the driver is leaving his lane on purpose – perhaps to avoid something that actually is in the road (a big pothole, maybe a dog) or during a passing attempt. If the driver doesn’t use his turn signal – not a high priority during an emergency maneuver – the system assumes it needs to correct – and the car fights the driver’s steering inputs.

This is arguably not very saaaaaaaaaafe, either.

It’s also incredibly annoying to be parented by your car.

And there’s more – and worse – coming.

Already here.

I just got finished test-driving the new (2019) Subaru Forester. It comes with a facial recognition saaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety system that scans your face (and eyes) as you drive and if the car thinks it sees you take your eyes off the road – even when you haven’t or just briefly – it will poke you in the ribs – electronically and audibly – via a buzzer/warning light in the dashboard.

We’re being systematically pushed out of the driver’s seat while we’re still in it. And while were still technically (and legally) responsible for whatever the car does.

Strange days, indeed.

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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122 COMMENTS

  1. The irony is that more people are going to end up dying from all these “saaaaaaaaafety” (lol) devices than they would from your run-of-the-mill drunk and/or distracted driving. But hey, let’s keep on idiot-proofing and infantilizing society until the populace is unable to figure out preschool math without consulting “Siri” or “Alexa”.

  2. The summation said exactly what my opinion of this Big Brother crap is.

    We’re not supposed to be distracted while driving. Yet the Subaru system will make extraneous noises directed toward us while we are driving, just as a way of distracting us back into being not distracted.

    Yes, that last sentence made as much sense as the saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety feature it was describing.

  3. I have read through the numerous comments, and wow, I can see how screwed up this saaaaafey stuff would get living way up north in Alaska, where it would not take long at all for those stupid sensors to get blocked by a snow storm. Or blocked by snow (and frozen ice) because the roads have not been plowed yet. What if I want to swerve to avoid Bullwinkle (aka, a moose) that just darted out on the road, but end up hitting him because the steering wheel will not allow me to? And yes, when an accident happens, and someone end up paralyzed or dead, can the survivors sue the manufactures for damages? For it would seem that neither party (if both have vehicles with such saaaaafety) mechanisms in place, have had, in essence, no control over their vehicles. A gentleman named Eric mentioned “drive-by-wire” throttle, breaks, and steering. I will not pretend to know what that is, so I am asking: What is that?

    • Hi Can-Can,

      “Drive by wire” means that instead of a physical cable (as for the throttle) connecting the gas pedal to the . . . throttle, it’s all done electronically… by wire.

      Actually, by sensors.

      You push down on the gas pedal and the system uses sensors to register this and the computer signals the throttle to open to the appropriate degree…

      This is done for several reasons, among them packaging. During the car’s assembly, it is easier to just plug things in rather than (as in our example) have to manually install and adjust a cable.

      The downside being you’ve just made a simple thing very complex – and something that can’t be fixed by the side of the road (unlike a snapped throttle cable).

      Also, the drivetrain is now much less under your control. The computer decides how much throttle will be allowed and can (and does) shut off the throttle, for various reasons, none of which you get any say in.

      There is also the possibility of run-away acceleration, accidentally and intentionally – though not by you. The computer could just go haywire. Or it could be hacked. This latter is a vulnerability physical cables aren’t vulnerable to. If the cable gets stuck, you could reach down and pull the gas pedal back up – and get the racing engine under control.

      If the drive by wire throttle runs amok, good luck…

      • “If the drive by wire throttle runs amok, good luck…”

        Well, you could just turn the ignition key to ‘acc’ or ‘on’ from ‘run’ leaving the steering unlocked. If cars still had ignition keys…..

        Of course hitting the ‘start’ button should work, right? LOL. The ones I have seen shut the car complexly down, including locking the steering.

        In 35 years visiting industrial plants, every machine (even stationary) has a prominent ’emergency off’ button. 4000lbs of 70mph steel, has a ‘start’ button. Pure idiocy.

        Maybe you should give this a try in your next test car. Somewhere safe of course.

    • We live about 10 miles from the highway on a mostly dirt road in Montana. Mud, snow, or dust all the time.

      Don’t have to be in Alaska for all this sh1t to cause problems – basically, anywhere outside Southern Commiefornia or Florida.

  4. Likely a certain death toll has to be reached, directly from the “safety” automation, and actually reported on by the MSM, before we will be given a choice in this.

    And maybe that won’t even be a factor, on the Precautionary Principle: the deaths CAUSED BY the automation are negated by the overwhelming fictional numbers SAVED by it. Nobody can ever know that number, but we just know it has to be more than those killed by it. ‘Cuz better safe than sorry, right?

    ‘Cuz driver’s licenses make better drivers, right? And registered vehicles make better drivers and safer vehicles, right?

    Life’s a crap shoot, so even if safety belts crush you to death, and faulty, unpredictable air bags fail and kill you and risk the lives of others around you when they do, they’re still saving more lives than not, right?

    And speed limits, “asset forfeiture” as a consequence of traffic stops, stop signs, stop lights, etc. Better to be “safe than sorry.”

    Would life really be so much more dangerous without all these things that actually do cause death, maiming, and destruction? So MUCH more?

    I don’t think so. And real-world experiments where speed limits, traffic lights and signs have been removed demonstrate this. These conditions actually make better drivers, because they must be more aware and drive defensively. And I bet most have never even heard of these experiments. Look them up and see.

    They’re not reported because they might catch on, because how would all the politicians and other busybodies making bucks on our enforced “safety” make a living otherwise?

    • Amen to that, GC! I love how people always talk about life being SO much better now than it was in the past; as if people back then had no brains to distinguish the good from the bad.

  5. You’re not being paranoid at all Eric. Facial recognition in your car? WTF! Talk about demonic BIG BROTHER technology at it’s finest! Sure, it’s just an option now and you can turn it off, give it time, eventually this shit will be standard and non disableable. Just like that crazy nanny state auto braking BS that could have gotten you killed. Screw all these so called “cars” and everything they put into them. I wouldn’t take a new vehicle if you gave me one for free.

  6. We need to do anything to keep our good old vehicles alive. But…
    The big picture is this: Every little bit of help we get, asked for or not, diminishes our capacity to help ourselves. Eventually we will lay down and beg for a blanket and nourishment. Those who know better what is best for us will be gone. Then what?

  7. If things continue with automotive automation, eventually the Congress will have to create an automotive automation court similar to the vaccine court to compensate large numbers of people injured by the unintended consequences of driving vehicles with minds of their own.
    I think you should consider yourself lucky that the road was coated with black ice and the sudden application of braking caused it to slide off the road into whatever was or wasn’t there. I’d hope for a single reflector on the delineator pole rather than two or three.

    • So unlike your snarky comment to Eric below, you here maintain that computers do actually have minds?

      ‘Splains a lot!

      Do you believe people should be free to make their own decisions, or not?

  8. Very scary story. We had a similar but non dangerous “bug” recently when my wife’s Chrysler 300 with “safety tech” started generating odd screen messages about something that was described only in an acronym wasn’t “on” any more. Turns out rain/mud had blocked the front bumper sensors for that.

    But you make a good observation about potholes (or moving animals towards the road, children playing) etc regarding things that current sensors can’t or don’t notice. What about these hazards? Until or unless the sensors can detect/react to these, we are toast.

    Basically you and all others driving these vehicles so equipped are “Beta testing” them. Yes, they work fine until some undiscovered bug is found the hard way. Your own eyes inside the vehicle are behind the windshield and always protected from the elements. External sensors are not and thus subject to degradation and blockage. Windshield wipers and defoggers (front/back) are needed for human eyes to work. What is “built in” for external vehicle automatic sensors? Aircraft have elaborate gear and de-icing protocols just for those critical sensors to work under extreme conditions. What are the robot cars going to do about this?

    Until enough Beta testers are killed/injured, nothing will be done.

      • We are all beta testers,be it active or passive.NHTSA will sweep it under the rug until its ubiquitous and cant be reversed.Rand Paul will expose it (Trey Gowdy being gone).Cortez and Kamala Harris will make political hay out of it and anything else and ignorant union hack Kamala, a 2 or 6 year senator, will be elected to pres,our first ‘diversity’ black woman president.Seen the game card before (obummer).Only the time frame is in question.

  9. Since it’s unlikely the Automotive Gestapo will relent on the so-called “safety systems,” and the fed dot gov will be a “lost cause swamp” on it, the fifty (57? ) states need to immediately pass laws requiring all vehicles with automatic braking systems be easily identified ata distance, say, a 6″ wide 48″ long da-glo orange strip across the rear bumper to the rest of us can avoid them.

    I’m not too concerned about the 18-wheeler that eats a Prius – as long as I’m not right next to it when it happens – but I am extremely concerned that i might be behind one, or any other vehicle, 5that suddenly auto-brakes.

      • That justifies computer-controlled vehicles on the roads?

        Most motorcyclists are aware enough of the surrounding human drivers to anticipate most of their likely actions; can’t with unexpected bolting deer hidden by brush or most other critters trying to be road-kill. Computer-controlled cars, obviously, cannot be anticipated, even by the driver! That’s the point here, after all, isn’t it?

        That, even in their best state, cannot anticipate all real-world situations and scenarios that most human drivers could cope with, barring radical lack of sleep and inebriation?

        Would you prefer a computer-controlled vehicle on a real-world road rather than a human driver? Knowing the programming and electrical limitations and vulnerabilities of the computers versus the generally capable and competent road-savvy of an experienced human driver?

        You don’t like driving? Then don’t. Figure out a way not to, but don’t expect the rest of us to give up our autonomy for the sake of your own preferences. Please.

  10. Every car I have ever had did what I told it to do and never did anything I didn’t tell it to do. A car that either disobeys me or does what I didn’t tell it is about the worst idea I’ve ever heard. If all new cars are going to have this idiocy installed, then I will be buying older and older cars as the years go by, and paying more and more to keep them running.

    • Amen, fellow Doug! The idea is well-intentioned, which is precisely how tyranny gets established…some about what the road to Hell is paved with…obviously, as Eric discovered and brought to our attention, not all the ‘bugs’ have been worked out, which makes the pushing of it by “Toy-Yo-Ter” and the “S-a-a-a-a-f-t-e-e-e” obsessed nitwits ever the more disturbing!

      Comes down to “Gubmint” intervention in the marketplace, mandating or at least pushing a feature that the public in general neither demanded nor, if they had the discretion, are willing to PAY for. Our response is to say, “No thanks!” to this new “Gee-Whiz” technology, and stay “Old School”. Which, as long as we can keep our old rides going, we ought to be free to do. Just what my #1 son and I have encountered in the process of restoring a 1966 Plymouth Fury II is an eye-opener, though. Getting parts for a 53-year old ride can be a tad challenging, but thus far nothing we’ve been unable to surmount. It’s the BUREAUCRATIC hurdles that have proved frustrating thus far, like (1) California Air Resources Board, “CARB”, actually restricts sale of some parts for that old heap, including a TRUNK LOCK. Please explain to me why in the hell Summit Racing is prohibited by CA law from shipping a god-damned TRUNK LOCK from their Sparks, NV store to my son in Roseville, CA! Fortunately, he has a good friend that lives nearby and visits on occasion, so the friend makes the purchase and brings the “contraband” parts with him. Let’s hope the “Ag” Inspection station on I-80 west bound doesn’t starting flagging forbidden vintage car parts! (2) The City of Roseville imposes all sorts of bureaucratic nitwittery, like he had to get a PERMIT to keep the derelict on his property. Now, not allowing an eyesore of an old sled to rust in peace on the driveway, that I can understand, but he needs to either keep it in the garage, or, if he wants to put in the in backyard (and there is a high enough privacy fence to deal with the eye pollution), build a shed to garage it in, and, of course, get a PERMIT for THAT! (3) When this heap is finally road-worthy, it still must pass an S-a-a-a-a-f-t-e-e-e inspection (brakes and lamps), and I get the impression that DMV is rendering vintage rides into the “Trailer Queen” category by bureaucratic dint rather than any objective evaluation as to their road worthiness.

      My response? Looking at property in Nevada, which doesn’t (yet) tax my retirement, back in “Murica’! There the Plymouth will go if we encounter too much resistance to have it cruise the highways and byways once again.

  11. When non-automated cars are outlawed, only outlaws will have non-automated cars. They’re going to shove utopia down your throat. And you will cooperate.

  12. some rentals have speed iimiters which is real fun to find out when attempting to pass someone on a two lane Georgia blacktop at night.

    • Hi Mark,

      Almost all new cars have speed limiters. These are usually tied to the speed rating of the factory tire, but not always. And it would be easy for almost any modern car with telematics capability (which is almost all of the) to have its speed restricted anytime, to any degree. It is almost literally a matter of throwing a switch.

    • I had this experience several years ago when driving a 2011 Ford Fusion, which my (now) ex-wife and I had LEASED. Two mistakes I won’t make again! At least the screen had the audacity to tell me that per terms of the LEASE the vehicle was speed-governed to 80 mph!

      At least not so with its replacement, the 2014 Ford Focus, which I bought! I had that little econobox box (which, appropriately, is “Fridge” white!) up to 105 out on US 50 in the Nevada desert, somewhere between Ely and the Utah state line. That’s a part of the country you want to get through quickly as possible!

  13. This scares the crap out of me. Two weeks ago I was in Cayenne at my daughter’s school. it was just getting dark. I was going down the two lane road with a center turn lane when a goofball in a jacked-up Tundra traveling in the opposite direction came left across the turn lane heading right for me. I snapped the wheel to the right to get as far away as I could onto the narrow shoulder ready to jump the curb. All I had time to do was go to high beams. The clown was barreling down probably doing 50 or more.

    We passed so closely that I was shocked it didn’t actually hit me but if the paint had been another layer thicker he would have. It was that close.

    Fast forward to “Saaaaafety”
    I snap the wheel right to avoid a head-on collision – potentially fatal – and the “saaaaaafety” system snaps the car back into the lane and slams on the brakes when it sees the other vehicle ahead. But at that speed and distance, no way to avoid the crash.

    I wonder who my family would sue in that case?

    • Hi Alex,

      Lawyers are going to have a field day with this… the unintended consequences alone… but also faults arising over time due to wear and tear/failure of the components which comprise the system.

      Keep in mind that almost all new cars already have drive-by-wire throttle; drive by wire brakes and steering are coming online soon, too.

      • My business is industrial automation, I design, build and program process control systems.

        People think computers are smart, but they are absolutely dumb, if a situation comes up that is either undefined or outside some boundary limit, the system will most likely fail or go into a non-functional state. Unlike most humans, the controller cannot improvise or otherwise “figure it out”. It can only wait until new instructions are executed or the data/state changes.

        The problem with complex systems is the more complex the system the harder it is to cover all the possible conditions. Even the best programmer can overlook an expected or unlikely state of this or that, there may be an infinite number of unexpected conditions.

        But what I think this really is, is another attempt to backdoor us all into taking the bus. Killing inexpensive diesel cars that could take us 800 miles and 5 minutes to get back on the road, replacing them with EV’s which the realities of chemistry and lithium mining would limit the number of available cars by a massive percentage, and make them way too costly for most people.

        Then the ones that can afford them still have no freedom of travel. You then have to tell the car where you want to go and the course can easily cross-check the limits, it’s not like you are going to take the wheel, HAL has it, and HAL needs permission from Collosus or SkyNet or whatever before it takes you anywhere.

        The holy grail of any totalitarian regime is gun control with mobility control when you cannot go anywhere without permission, and you are at such an arms disadvantage that any revolt would be suicidal, then the plan will be complete.

      • There is no “programmer” These are collaborative efforts usually by multiple teams, isolating one person’s piece of work from the whole is about impossible.
        And then who knows was it hardware or software that failed or underperformed? They took a low bid on the sensors with 2% less range, put the lower limits outside the allowable band the system either faults or does nothing or executes another routine, which one happened?
        There is simply no way to pin the blame on anyone.

        • I agree, now that quality control departments have been eliminated as unnecessary, due to their gross incompetence. The legal system will find someone to pin the blame on, and letting it fall to them will be all of our collective responsibilities. Until each and every individual is willing to be responsible for every possibility under their control, everything will be out of control, forever, much like Orwell’s stomping boot.

          • Yeah; so how about just getting the government out of things, like drivers and cars and their associated risks, it has absolutely no business in? How about a free market for human beings to choose what they want their vehicle equipped with — or not — with the recognition that they take full responsibility for their choices? And when requested automation goes awry, the manufacturers can be held accountable for it? How about that?

            • sounds like a fever dream – mine LOL.
              The reality is the companies WANT the regulation, it gives them a defense. “Hey not our fault, we conformed to 100% of the federal safety standards.”

              Big Pharma does this routinely.

              • The precise reason to get government out of it all. No regulation, no federal safety standards, only real-world; companies must take the risks, making their products and services the best they can be, as testified to by the number of customers paying them for them, or go under, without possibility of “bail out.”

  14. This is the result of wishful programming and piss-poor field testing of the program priorities. Computers can only react within the limitations of their programming, but they cannot anticipate, imagine, or improvise. The fantasy of mechanized “autonomy” is just that, as autonomous driving is a function of FREE WILL, which no machine possesses. How many times has a desktop or laptop computer malfunctioned or failed? There isn’t one that hasn’t! And this is in a car subject to temperature extremes, bumps and bangs on the road, and weather conditions. How much more foolish can the buying public get? This is going to end badly for everyone, I suspect.

  15. Eric, for your viewing and reading pleasure:
    https://newsroom.nissan-global.com/releases/release-4a75570239bf1983b1e6a41b7d03bb7e-nissan-and-nasa-extend-research-into-autonomous-mobility-services?query=SEAMLESS+AUTONOMOUS+MOBILITY&sortOrder=Relevance

    Apparently these new autonomous vehicles are easily befuddled if construction is happening or small debris blocks the road. Regression defect compared to human drivers who simply drive around it unabated….

    • They think they can coordinate hundreds of cars on a roadway when they cannot even synchronize two traffic lights 50 yards from each other

      • The traffic signals are deliberately made so you have to stop twice. The anti-destination league and the church of speed kills combined to have that to prevent the sin of “speeding”.

        Robot cars are programmed to follow all the congestion causing teachings of the anti-destination league.

        • The looniest thing I have ever heard was the concept of “traffic calming” that is doing what you said to deliberately slow down the traffic flow.

          There is a word for 75 cars packed in bumper to bumper creeping from light to light but “calming” is NOT that word.

  16. Never driven an auto breaking car, but have driven some with those retarded warnings….. the amount of times it went off for no rational reason I always worried about how it would be like with this auto breaking thing. You have confirmed that fear with this….. Wonder if this will become the next airbag sort of scandal (which no government would do anything about because its not as nice an earner)….

  17. This issue does not exist in a vacuum.
    Safety is the excuse, but money is the motive for this technology.
    Same for all the environmental bull shit.
    For starters, and this is no small factor, women intrinsically do not accept responsibility for their actions. When they wreck, they will scamper out of their cages and blame the damn vehicle, or a man. This will be accepted by the manginas who white knight for them.
    A bigger component in this equipment instillation is money extraction. The Feral Reserve System, a private bank, is desperate to promote money grabs. They keep the profits of usury. The same people who run the FED run our government. In fact, name something they do not run…WTF ?
    This is not going to get better, and you will not be able to indefinitely buy older used cars. The only answer is to eradicate these people by any means necessary. They need to be sent packing.

    • Hi Jack,

      There are many angles to view; here are two:

      The driver increasingly has less control over his car; the car pre-empts and second-guesses him. Leaving aside whether this is “safe,” it is certainly emasculating.

      The car will be programmed to pre-empt in the most ne plus ultra Cloverific manner imaginable. I foresee cars that prohibit anything less than a full and pointlessly lengthy stop at every stop sign – even when a rolling stop would have been perfectly safe (and save fuel as well as wear and tear) because it’s clear there’s no other traffic around… strict adherence to all speed laws, of course… passing limited to those increasingly rare legal passing zones and only if it can be done without exceeding the speed limit… otherwise the car won’t allow it…

      This will suit the geeks, of course.

      But it will ruin driving for those who still care about it.

      • This reminds me of the nice, clean, ORDERLY domed city from “Logan’s Run”, with the ever-present “Sandmen” to ensure that no one “Runs”! Hey, even presaging “Tinder”, there’s some form of goofy teleporting device called the “rotation”, which gives one a hookup, and presumably you don’t even have to buy her dinner and a movie! And, when you tool around, the vehicle guides itself (on a track, even then, like “futuristic” movies of the 70s, they were extrapolating from extant technology). Nothing to do but talk, eat, and fuck…save for the Sand Men, and the doc that has that “New You” practice (with the lovely late Farah Fawcett as his assistant), who the hell WORKS?

        Of course, there is a CATCH….GAME OVER at age 30! There is the possibility of “renewal” through the horrific slaughter spectacle called “Carousel”, but everyone knows its bullshit. And just to be sure that there’s a backup to what the Sand Men don’t get, there’s “Box”, a maniacal robot, voiced by the late Roscoe Lee Browne (“It’s my JOB…to FREEZE you! Fish, plankton, and the bounty of the sea..sea greens, fresh as Harvest Day!”).

        There is an optimistic prediction, as Washington, DC (As Gordon Liddy puts it, “District of Criminals”), which the fleeing Sand Man and his lovely co-hort (Michael York and the fetching Jenny Agutter) escape to, is abandoned and overgrown, the US Capitol building being inhabit by a doddering old man (Peter Ustinov) and a horde of cats. Better than the cretins currently infesting it!

  18. I was behind a Camry that was following a Prius last week. The signal ahead turned yellow and all three of us were proceeding through the intersection when the Prius made a dead stop, causing the Camry to rear-end the Prius. I dodged the collision by changing lanes and was stopped by the light that had by now turned red. The Prius driver was a 20-something guy who looked shocked at the accident.

    Maybe his car stopped on its on, I don’t know. It’s bad enough that Prius drivers are some of the worst drivers on the road. This automatic braking for hallucinations is worse.

    • Hi Anonymous,

      I’ve driven several – dozens – of new cars with this “feature,” which causes the car to brake when it’s not necessary. For example, when there’s a car up ahead that’s stopped, signal on, obviously in the process of turning off the road. It will be gone by the time you get there. Your automatic emergency-equipped car will brake regardless. Or, while you are attempting a passing maneuver in traffic.

      And in some cases, for no reason at all. The system misjudges the environment. It thinks the berm beside the curve in the road up ahead is an object in the vehicle’s path – and hits the brakes. But what the Prius did – sudden brake application on a straight/dry road while just driving along – has never happened to me before.

      These systems are programmed to be extremely pre-emptive nannying. Imagine Clover in charge of your car. People should clue in. this is but a sneak peak at our automated driving future.

      • We are lucky you are still here with us today in that matter!
        Of course some CEO or CTO will say its just another reason every car on the road needs to be automated to keep you safe in that instance…

        • Thanks, Brazos… I needed that. For some ineffable reason I’ve been … slow … and just down for the past 3-4 days. This happens at times. I wish I knew why..

          • Combination of factors = you’re human.

            Tomorrow’s another day. No one who’s sane is ever “up” all the time. Anyone who claims to be is lying and/or lethally insane.

            Despite the ugly statists obsessed with controlling us because they fancy they’re so much better than we are, you have people who love and admire you here; you’ve provided an outlet for the sanity you and we need to see reflected in our fellows.

            Thank you, Eric. Always.

          • Eric your body is telling you to take a short break, or vacation, for those Americans who don’t know the term.
            Another problem here is that you are automatically at fault in a rear end collision. This will have to change, now that cars stop for no reason whatsoever. Wonder what those insurance companies are going to do now. Because they have been big proponents of this “technology”.

      • Maybe there shouldn’t have been automation to control the driver whose judgment was overridden, risking not only the Prius’s driver’s life, but any passengers he may have had, and all the other drivers’ and their passengers’ lives?

        That stupid computer cannot do anything but the program, which does not take into consideration any other variables surrounding this real-world contingency.

        No computer should ever be allowed to override a human being. Especially on real-world roads.

    • “It’s bad enough that Prius drivers are some of the worst drivers on the road.

      Not necessarily. Some Prius drivers use the car because it has good mileage. Having to drive 80 miles, one way, for your work is one of the reasons a person gets a Prius. Even though he would rather drive a Porsche.

  19. I drive one of those 18 wheelers you’re rightly concerned about. My normal route is along the I95 corridor between north Jersey and Virginia. People do enough weird shit behind the wheel without the car doing it for them. Now I have something else to keep in mind. Thanks a lot, car companies. I’m glad I read your articles so I can stay informed on the lunacy going on.

    This brings up another point. I have no intention of buying a car newer than about 2010 ever again, as I don’t want that crap on my car. But I am planning to rent a van to take a trip next year before relocating, to take my family on a house hunting trip. Now I will have to study up about the rental vehicle to determine what saaaaaafety garbage it’s equipped with so I know how to drive it. Oh boy. Life was so much easier without all this shit.

    • Hi Jim,

      History repeats … you may remember when cars sometimes stalled out in the middle of a intersection; that was usually due to a poor tune or the first-generation of government-mandated emissions equipment. Today, it’s similar – but worse – because we’re not dealing with a mechanical issue that can be fixed but a built-in design flaw. A software flaw.

      Computers literally have a mind of their own.

      I also will never own one of these things. And – just wait – it is going to get much worse, very soon.

      • I also will never own one of these things. And – just wait – it is going to get much worse, very soon.=======Absolutely.This autonomous stuff will be as common as airbags on everything really soon.Also agree they will limit old car sales,cash for clunkers happened,precedent set.

      • Computers have no minds. They do exactly what they are told to by their programming.
        Maybe you should take some computer programming courses so you can stop living in the imaginary land that your television has implanted in your brain.

        • Maybe you should stop being such a statist, mindless, holier-than-thou nanny scold, and learn to understand common English metaphor?

          Of course we ALL know computers have no minds — even the stupidly vaunted “AI.” It’s physically, scientifically impossible, despite the hype of the hyper-obsessed with controlling other human beings. But the fact is that is precisely what is wrong with these “do-gooder” death traps. NO COMPUTER SHOULD EVER BE ALLOWED TO OVERRIDE THE HUMAN OPERATOR, especially in a transportation vehicle, especially on the road in the REAL world, rather than a stupid computer simulation.

          What would YOU have done, O Omniscient Complete Nanny, in the original situation Eric found himself confronted with — the sudden and uncontrollable complete brake stop, in the middle of the road, for no reason? Do you think, in more traffic than what he was thankfully in, you would be here to mindlessly chastise him and everyone else who RIGHTLY understands the life-and-death consequences of computer-controlled vehicles?

          Because computers don’t have minds, they should NEVER be allowed to control a moving transportation vehicle on the road. Ever. BECAUSE they don’t have “minds.” They’re less competent than the most stupid human driver; they CANNOT go outside their programming, and there isn’t a human being alive who can program for all contingencies, ever. It’s not possible, is it?

          And that doesn’t even take into consideration all the electrical interference that can in an undetectable nano second screw the whole thing up.

          And WE ALL KNOW IT.

          How about a little more human thinking and understanding replacing your knee-jerk worship of “technology” and hatred of autonomous human beings? Maybe you should take some actual non-SJW ethics and morals, right and wrong, human-valuing reality-based-in-the-real-world courses?

          Time to join the reality-based human family, and be on OUR side rather than the side of the corrupt who will to control their fellows — making their fellows by default their ethical and moral betters. That would be a giant leap for mankind — including yourself!

  20. With the new “junk” being manufactured , I can see new businesses being started refreshing/rebuilding older model cars for commen sense people who enjoy actually driving and being in command of their vehicles.

  21. Always the same with any infant tech. Years (many) ago, I worked for a robotics firm. Half a million each for these very complex window manufacturing machines, with flying saws, drills, routers, etc. All touchscreen/PLC controlled. I asked a simple question…what happens, when you’re in a diagnostic mode and all control buttons are on the screen at once, and somebody sneezes on the screen? Nobody had the answer. So I disabled the air & hydraulics, then took a spray bottle and misted some water on the screen. Every single tool tried to fire at the same time. In a real world setting, this would have been catastrophic, and yet not one person had considered the possibility before me. All the engineers just looked at each other with the same uncomfortable terror. The machines won’t have to rise up against us, we’re programming them to do it by “accident.”

    • Hi Jason,

      Yup. Here’s another problem never discussed by the pushers of all this: Degradation over time.

      Even if this tech can be made to work flawlessly when new, when it is old, it will not. Things wear out. What happens to those sensors at eight years out and 120,000 miles? How about all the rest of the stuff these systems depend on to work correctly?

      Cars should not be this complex – unless they are subject to FAA-level safety inspection/teardown/rebuild protocols. Imagine the cost.

      But then, imagine the cost in lives when this crap begins to fail – which it will.

      And also when it “works.”

      • Hi Eric, funny you mention the FAA! An Airworthiness Directive was just issued concerning the new Boeing 737 MAX. The recent crash in Indonesia may have been caused by a computerized “safety” system going haywire trying to prevent a non-extant stall condition and instead causing a stabilizer runaway due to a bad sensor. The pilots may have been unaware of this new safety feature’s function and therefore may have been bewildered when their brand new 737 started to pitch nose down into the sea.

        I am fine if a car wants to warn me of a potential crash, but I do not see how automated braking can lead to anything but a moral hazard in the long term. Attention will move to in car gadgets rather than the road ahead with the assumption that the car will take car of any potential hazards. Drivers will have no idea how to deal with system failures. It was not too long ago that Toyota was in the news because drivers could not figure out how to get a floor mat from jamming the gas pedal and the push button start was stylish but not intuitive.

        • Nah, older 737s do the same thing, but via a different system- now it’s computerized control actuation, before it was hydraulic/mechanical actuation from a physical feedback system, but it has mostly the same operating characteristics. Press is just awful at actually reading and understanding FAA advisories, be it Boeing, Airbus- whoever.

          That behavior is the equivalent of anitlock brakes- pitch the nose down if attitude and airspeed indicate high-angle stall, so that the control surfaces will still work. Countermanding it is simple, too- turn off the autopilot, pull back on the yoke to correct. (Used to be *just* pull back on the yoke with the older version.) The PIC had to do something dumb or there may have been multiple concurrent failures to make a mess of it with any significant altitude at all. Boeing put out an advisory that basically just reiterated the existing type training, and the FAA then echoed it in an official capacity. Equivalent to a car maker having to patiently remind people that traction control notwithstanding, “turn into the skid”, or “if it starts revving wildly, put it in neutral and pull over, then shut it off”.

          The head of the United Airlines section of the ALPA (pilots’ union) actually said as much, contradicting most other airlines and union people, basically saying, ‘Turn it off, and hand-fly the airplane. You need to know how to hand-fly it, and when to ditch the automation if it does something odd or just if it is more complex to enter info into the computer than to simply make the plane do what you need with the manual controls. This plane lets you do that still.’ I would largely agree.

          Maybe time will show some problem, but there isn’t one evident as yet. Certainly, the 737 still *lets* the flight crew turn off and countermand the system, more than can be said for most traction control today- even if it’s off, it’s not always *off*.

          • MikeP,

            “You need to know how to hand-fly it,”

            There’s the rub.

            Due to safety regulations, the ones who know how to fly by the seat of their pants are being forced to retire or fly cargo for Fed Ex.

            And IMHO, it isn’t possible to develop decent stick and rudder skills in a simulator.

            I’ll even go so far as to say that you can’t learn sick and rudder when relying on a throttle.

            To back that up, I give three examples. Air Canada Flight 143, Air Transat Flight 236, and US Airways Flight 1549.

            To those three pilots, they just made a landing – as opposed to a “dead” stick landing.

            Like they say at the glider port, engines are for tow planes.

            Mike, you say “(Used to be *just* pull back on the yoke with the older version.)“

            Word on the tarmac is Boeing left out that little detail AND claimed as a selling point that NO TRANSITIONAL TRAINING was necessary.

            Is that true?

      • As an industrial chemist, we recognized that chemical mixtures degrade in as little as 2 years. Most medicines likewise. Yet these fatal airbags, that rely on spontaneous combustion of lethal chemicals, are allowed on cars. Sensors degrade over time also as they get coated with nature’s products.

    • PLC controls are my business, I have been doing them for 35 years. You would not believe all the incompetent crap I have seen in PLC logic over the years. It’s funny though I reprogram OEN machines all the time and for some reason, the Japanese stuff is the worst, they check nothing internally, just set some bits and assume all is ok. I worked on a system built in Japan that almost killed a guy at a paper mill when a machine called a Roll Grinder jumped the track and pinned a guy in the corner and none of the estops worked because a fuse had blown. The only thing that saved him was the 3 phase 480 supply cable was short enough to pull out of the housing which of course hit a puddle of water on the floor and damn near fried hi. He would have looked like one of the those pressed roasted ducks that you see hanging in the windows of a Hong Kong Deli.

    • It is hard to tell that the designers aren’t more infantile than the technology.
      Don’t they put emergency stop buttons on industrial equipment anymore?

      • They do but not everyone believes in the concept of “fail safe” In that case the ESTOP was from a set of NO contacts with the power to the input module coming from the same breaker that the shorted stop limit switch resided on. You had to set a bit to register the ESTOP, and the limit switch was NO too on the overtravel so when the switch shorted the system did not stop as it would have if it was fail safe set NC, open on a trigger. So any time it opened the system would stop.
        I couldn’t believe when I dug into it. This thing was made a big company too, hard for me to digest that someone on that engineering group would not have caught this. But then in large groups like that, it is always “someone else’s” job.

        These automobile systems will be developed by the same type who did the roll grinder.

  22. Enough bellyaching from the commenters. Other than a few of us Cro-Magnon men out there, you’ve happily and willingly purchased these digital monstrosities with nary a murmur, other than anonymous postings. It’s your choices that have condemned those of us with some semblance of common sense left. No doubt when the 2020 HAL models come out many of these whiners will be lining up to buy one.

    But the market hath spoken. Blessed be the market.

    • Keep in mind we’re the odd balls here. Our market preferences are too small in number to matter. I’ve bought nothing but MT cars but look what’s happened to MT offerings. So what I buy is pretty irrelevant to what automakers make except maybe some Mustang options.

      Cars wear out. Currently my almost 20 year old Mazda is imploding. Now stuff is breaking before I finish fixing the stuff that’s broke. Rust is invading faster than I have time to weld in new steel. I don’t have that kind of time. And if I buy some other vehicle almost as old I will be in the same boat trying to fix everything the previous owner didn’t or messed up. When I buying a used car out in the wild it takes considerable time and effort to find a good one that is what I want. So new is usually more cost effective. The problem is that fedgov mandates this stuff or the automakers think they must have it because the other automakers do. And so comes figuring out how to disable it.

      • All very true, as I can attest from trying to maintain my aging fleet of cars. Still, if car buyers would stop buying techno-crap, biting the bullet of maintenance for a while, a few car makers might actually produce bare-bones models again.

        The cost of keeping these new cars fixed once they start wearing out might well outweigh current costs of maintaining older cars. That, or we’ll have to buy whatever demented digital creature (or electric car) is available ten years from now and forever.

  23. There is a pass on basic engineering for these systems. Failure modes and effects analysis is clearly not being done, not done correctly, or simply ignored. TM started the fine print nonsense with their systems. They are asking for stuff that won’t happen. And here in the land of road salt there is _NO_ keeping the sensors clean of salt and ice. There isn’t. It’s not practical to stop every couple miles to clean them.

    And are people going to maintain these things? Of course not.

    • Correctly done FMEAs have multiple people from different departments within an organization to bring different points of view in order to highlight possible failure modes. the problem is, that can be costly and time consuming, given scheduling and the sheer number of components that need to be analyzed.

      Where I work, the FMEAs are almost all library FMEAs…check the box, do the test. No one actually sits down and thinks about all of the possible failure modes.

      And I work in a big auto scale manufacturing concern…think IE Bank worthy.

  24. All this carp is designed to get millennials OUT of IC cars and into mASS Transhit. Me? LOL I will keep my old truck..soon we will be like Coobah..50 yr old cars for us serfs, and limos for the elites and politicians.

  25. Happened to me while driving a friend’s Chevy Colorado — Had no idea it came with this “feature”. Out of nowhere, the red idiot light flashed and the brakes jammed — weather was fine and no other vehicles in sight. Had to pry the seat cushion out from between my cheeks! Fortunately, it only happened one time the whole trip.

    Never driving that or any other similarly equipped vehicle again!

  26. My 2018 Tundra will slow me down for a car that’s preparing to turn in front of me and sometimes continues slowing me down to a near stop even after the car has turned and is no longer in front of me. Like you say, there’s no overriding it. The radar garbage can be turned off, but it must be turned off every time the engine is started.

  27. Good lord! Talk about not ready for prime time.

    I’m curious about the facial recognition thing: My eyes are always moving, from road to mirrors to gauges, etc. Is a time limit engineered into the software? If I linger on something for a second too long, such as a bunched up shirt that may be an animal, does the HAL 1000 intercede? And if I wear sunglasses does it even know where I’m looking?

    Never did I think these would be questions I’d ask with a straight face. Strange days. Yep, Strange days.

    • And what happens when you turn your head to look in the rearview mirrors, or look over your shoulder to see into the mirror’s blind spot?

  28. Wow Eric, that would be downright terrifying on the highway. The law of unintended consequences is going to make all of this saaaaaaafety crap cause way more crashes than they’ll ever prevent – was going to type “accidents” but there’s nothing accidental about this nanny garbage being forced on us. I hope the family of the first poor sap that gets killed due to a similar incident wins a gigantic lawsuit against the manufacturer.

  29. I’ll keep my old truck thank you. I too have had that happen to cars in front of me, all of a sudden they are braking hard and for no damn reason you can see in front of them or coming from the side and you can see the panic in the car as they are trying to not crap their pants and are watching the the cars come up behind them. I can see the law suits piling up in a few years as people are killed and maimed by all the safety devices in cars that don’t work as good intentions and .Gov people think should work. I even now refuse to get into new cars and trucks that have all this safety crap in them and the damn low slung front windshields.

  30. The Cherokee has a camera installed low on the front bumper. It tends to collect mag chloride and other schmoo from backsplash. The salesman made a point to mention it needs to be cleaned when I clean the windshield. Several times the system has sounded an alarm because the driver assist system couldn’t see. And it has slammed on the brakes a few times when the Sun was low on the horizon but never hard enough to stop. That’s what led to me overriding that “feature,” since it really was nerve-racking and dangerous.

        • Only if enough can be convinced to buy it to constitute a profitable market.
          If you don’t want it, don’t buy it, and it will go away if enough others do likewise.

          • They won’t have to be convinced. This is not a free market. These “features” will be mandated. People buying new cars have historically shown they will put up with just about anything. They won’t stop buying because of this.

            Remember, these are the same people buying Google and Amazon surveillance devices as well as spying “smart” TVs to bring into their homes. They LOVE the convenience that Big Brother brings to their lives. Hey, if you have nothing to hide, right? (The only time the driving public really rebelled against a gunvermin mandate was the seat belt interlock debacle of the 1970s.)

            Once wireless monitoring is mandated for new vehicles, 10-15 years or so down the road you’ll be hard-pressed to find a used car without the system unless you’re a die-hard willing to drive a very old vehicle – assuming those are not legislated off the road in the name of saaaaaaaaaaafety.

        • Wow, Big Brother rides along with me and rats me out at the first hint of noncompliance. I already have the ABS disabled, just reconnect it when I go for the annual saaaaafety inspection and disconnect it as soon as I get home. They’ll probably bury the transponder so deep under the dashboard it will be impossible to get at, at least they recognize not everyone will be ok with this but rather than make it voluntary they want to make mandatory and tamper proof.
          I hope I can find an older car that I can keep running for the rest of my driving days, my ‘01 Corolla is ready to succumb to the rust accumulated over years of driving through road salt ☹️

      • How so? Why else is this being done? Who does it connect to? Who does it tattle to? And who do they “cooperate” with?

        What is the purpose of it, after all?

        The issue isn’t really whether or not Big Brother is directly involved. The issue is, who has the right to control others?

        Let alone in their own private property, which they pay for.

        • Don’t buy what you don’t want and the market will force producers to product that which they can sell, eventually, or go out of business for lack of it.
          The bottom line problem in all of this is the gross and self-inflicted ignorance of most Americans. Each person has to decide whether to lick the hands that feed them.
          “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
          ― Samuel Adams

          • But we don’t have a free market and the government takes wealth from taxpayers and savers to bail out the companies we don’t buy from.

            • The market need not be free to work very well.
              All we have to do is have the courage and intelligence to tell it what it needs to know.

              • Is this one of those live in the shack in the woods libertarian purity tests? If I avoided every product that was tainted by government regulation, government cronyism, or anything else with the state as an actor I would be tanning animal hides to make clothing.

                • Sorry, you’ll have to go nekkid. Living in the woods, hunting, and gathering are sa tightly regulated as anything else is. Just might be able to fly under the radar longer.

              • You mean like the market for seat belts and air bags? For kiddie bike helmets? For giving up plastic shopping bags and drink straws? For the First, Second, and Fourth Amendments to be kept supremely intact? Etc., ad nauseum?

                Are you actually claiming Americans outside of “legislators” and their cronies and lobbyists had a choice in these things?

          • If you and I could choose whether or not to buy a car/truck with seat belts and air bags, you would be right.

            But that’s not the case.

            Even given the supreme stupidity, fear, and ignorance of a significant number of the population, if you were right, they could have what they want, and we could have what we want. That is not the real-world case, even citing the great Sam Adams. We’re long past the point where you can choose and I can choose, and our neighbors can choose, and we’d all be able to have what we choose and not forced to have what someone else “in authority” chose for us — and ENFORCES on us, like it or not.

            Have you read U.N. Agenda 21? Or U.N. Agenda 2030? If not, please do, before you dismiss anyone who is alarmed by them of being a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy nut. The fact is, electric cars are going to be forced on us, like it or not, no choice, and self-driving cars are going to be forced on us, like it or not, no choice. Among several other things. For our safety. For our own good. For the children. For the sake of diversity, to make us stronger, better, more tolerant people. To save the planet.

            Exactly how do you propose to change that, given that we do not have a free market in any sense of the term? We’re all ears.

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