Reader Question: Is Saaaaaaaafety Market – or Uncle – Driven?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Simon asks: Eric, I very much enjoy your articles about the ridiculous saaaaafety features on modern cars, like the one I read today about your Prius coming to a stop on the highway (which is why I intend to keep driving my 2014 vehicle until it falls apart).  However, what I’d like to understand in your articles is which of these features are being compelled by Uncle, and which are simply voluntary experiments by the car manufacturers.  If the latter, presumably if consumers don’t want to pay for these features, or don’t like them, then the relevant cars will fall out of favor and these features will cease being included.

My reply: It’s both – Uncle and the market.

It used to be the case that busybodies and control freaks within the government – and without, such as self-appointed “consumer advocates” – would push these things onto the market via mandates and the car industry (and car buyers) would be carried along, usually kicking and screaming.

But something happened over time.

The car industry decided it was better (and much more profitable) to join ’em than to fight ’em and now pushes saaaaaaaaaaaaaafety tech/systems even more aggressively than the government, often developing it on their own and installing it in cars without being mandated and then demanding a mandate be imposed. This is what’s happened with automated emergency braking, which almost every major car company has “committed” to installing by model year 2022 (see here).

See also the EV Idiocy. The industry – most of the heavy hitters – now support a national “zero emissions vehicle” (electric car) mandate.

But the culture has also changed.

If you’re over 40 today, you can probably remember a time when most people were not obsessed with saaaaaaaaaaafety and snickered at people who were. That has reversed.  Or at least, it sure seems to have.

One can find evidence of this everywhere. In my profession, too. It used to be that car journalists were like me – guys who loved the smell of gas and exhaust and driving fast without wearing seat belts in a car with T-tops that you could actually see out of, because it didn’t have to comply with federal roof crush standards.

I find myself a lone Aurochs wandering an empty field…

Most car journalists today serve as the amen corner for the Safety Cult. They demand to know why the latest whatever-it-is doesn’t have “x” or “y” saaaaaaaaaafety tech. They don’t care much about about how fast it goes or how well it corners or how good (or not) it looks.

Because they reflect the readership – at least, apparently.

There are pockets of resistance, though. Such as here. I will defend the ramparts to the end. As Mencken once said, there comes a time in every normal man’s life when he feels the urge to spit on his hands and raise the Jolly Roger.

Exactly so!

 . . .

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

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