Road Sign “Assist”

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Here’s a look at a piece of automated driving tech that’s beginning to pop up in new cars – Road Sign Assist. When paired with Intelligent Speed Assist (just mandated by the EU) it will be the end of us controlling our cars – and the start of being controlled by them.

That isn’t how the tech is being marketed, of course.

We’re told these are “assists,” ever-so-helpful.

In fact, they are peremptory, naggy and nudging – like an annoying backseat driver who does more than than just offer up unwanted opinions. This backseat driver is buried in you car’s dashboard – and has his hand on the wheel.

The brakes, too.

Both are controlled electronically – via drive-by-wire (and steer). Which means you don’t really control either. Not, at least, in the sense you used to, until about ten years ago. Before then – before drive-by-wire came online – you were in absolute physical control of the engine.

You pushed down on the accelerator pedal, which in turn pulled a cable that opened or closed the throttle – which caused the engine RPM to increase or fall back. The cable could possibly get stuck  – or snap – but there was no electronic consciousness countermanding your inputs.

Now, there is.

And not just throttle. 

Control intercession over brakes (Brake Assist) and steering (Lane Keep Assist) are filtering down even to economy-priced cars – like the 2020 Toyota Corolla I test drove last week (reviewed here).

If the car thinks you should slow down – or you haven’t signaled before attempting to change lanes – it will jump in and  . . .  assist you.

That is, parent, pre-empt and nudge you.

And it is going to get much more cloying, sooner – courtesy of Road Sign Assist. It ever-so-helpfully keeps track of all the traffic signage within the orbit of your vehicle, as you drive. Speed limit signs, advisory speed signs (this one’s going to be insufferable) and stop signs, etc.

For now, a helpy-helperson icon appears in the dashboard to “assist” you in noticing whatever the totem pole is. It follows that the next step will be making sure you pay proper homage to the totem pole – by strictly obeying whatever it symbolizes.

Which it will do by cutting throttle, applying brakes and countersteering – all done electrically, via drive-by-wire.

You don’t need to have 1,000 yard eyesight to see what’s coming. It is practically being shoved in our faces already. The last three new cars I test drove – including the 2019 Mazda CX-9 – come standard with or “bundle” RSA with the other cloying saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety (read: control you) tech that is becoming unavoidable in new cars.

The EU has just mandated Intelligent Speed Assist, effective with the 2022 model year – to assist you to hew to every speed limit, not just limit your speed.

It works in conjunction with – surprise – Road Sign Assist. The car sees the sign, sees (well, senses) that you are exceeding the limit – and  . . . assists you by cutting the throttle, until you no longer are “speeding.”

It also has the capability to rap your fingers for exceeding advisory speed recommendations – as in curves – as well as throttle back how “aggressively” you accelerate. And brake.

And steer.

This “assistance” will not be optional – something people are free to buy or not. Instead, it will – it is – being pushed as part of the suite of standard equipment – meaning, you can’t avoid it, without avoiding the new car.

This ought to raise some red flags – and would, if people could stop staring at their cell phones and agonizing over “the game.”

2022  is less than three years away.

Whatever’s in store for us has already been designed. The push from the top down to automate cars has taken on an almost frantic pitch, like the scene described by Orwell in 1984 when everyone in the Records Department had to work ’round the clock to “adjust” every reference to the War Against Eastasia, which was now (ad always had been) the War Against Eurasia.

Driver “assists” work on the same principle and are being pushed by similar (and real-life) people, for purposes exactly the same:

To get us under their control.

Behind the wheel and otherwise.

. . .

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32 COMMENTS

  1. was just ranting to my millennial kid that self driving cars will be a hazard to navigation as THEY drive limits and IMPEDED THE FLOW of traffic. it will be like a road full of old asian ladies that can’t see over the dash of the 1974 dodge dart…except the cars will be full of douchenozzle fey millennials that are playing on their phones and self important virtue signalers that HAVE NO PROBLEM forcing their retarded pace on the rest of us.

    FUCK!

  2. Wonder what it does when/if the monitoring device (camera) gets muddied up? Does it refuse to go until you clean/fix it?

    I don’t think it will be much fun with a car nagging you all the way to Disney World. I don’t like AUTO ANYTHING that might interfere with my judgement especially from geeks and others that somehow think only THEY know how to drive properly and want you forced to do it their way. As a ex truck driver I have plenty of experience in this area.

    Soon we see all these driver ‘assist’ programs become mandatory. Remember when Seat Belts were in the cars but not mandatory to use?

    A good example of killer tech is the 737 MAX. The trim controller could be turned off but it would turn itself back on after five seconds. It also could ‘out control’ the manual input from the pilots. Killing 300 people apparently isn’t enough,,, all I read now is how much money they’re losing not flying the plane. There’s proof in the pudding that ‘they’ don’t care about lives…. only money and control and digital provides both.

      • If Boeing insults its government partners the way VW did then it would suffer similar consequences. But Boeing isn’t about to do that. Furthermore government wants the automated future and it has never considered a few or many deaths a reason to stop what it wants. It’s only a reason to get what it wants and stop what it doesn’t.

        • Hey Brent,

          “…it has never considered a few or many deaths a reason to stop what it wants.”

          In the lead up to mandated airbags, all of the car companies informed the regulators that air bags would kill children and small adults. The government suppressed this information because they knew it would undermine their goal.

          Jeremy

  3. Problem: Driving a motor vehicle requires a certain amount of skill and ability. Not everyone has this ability.

    I’m all in favor of automobile automation. There are a whole lot of people who should not drive. Hiring a driver is expensive. Even good drivers are not always in the right frame of mind to drive and other circumstances can cause driver failures.

    Given enough time to allow for the technology to develop, automation will become inexpensive enough to be standard equipment. But our society is conditioned for immediate gratification, especially when it comes to “life saving” technology. It becomes mandated before it is affordable, and certainly before it is perfected. So manufacturers will get extra accommodations, like liability waivers, protected markets, and patent protections that will freeze innovation at whatever point Uncle’s bureaucrats decide is good enough. Then, after a few thousand people die because of the gimped tech, CEOs, marketers and lawyers will be hauled before the committee tribunals to explain that this stuff is only doing what it was programmed to do, and it’s really really hard.

    Meanwhile, there are a few open source self-driving projects in the works. Some of them are running on vehicles that have the drive-by-wire systems in place, using the CANBUS and a few more sensors. They are crowdsourcing road data and feeding into AI systems to “teach” machines how to drive. Something tells me the DOT isn’t going to approve any of these systems to be deployed unless they get backing from some big player. For certain the big auto manufacturers will never sign off on any “hacking” of their systems. Watch for ever more barriers to accessing the control systems in vehicles, more encryption (becauz hax0rs!) and more trips to the dealer for would-be simple repairs.

    • Hi RK,

      I disagree with you on this. The reason so many people are poor drivers is because poor/inattentive driving has been encouraged. In just the same way the people have been conditioned to be dependent on government for “solutions” to their problems. The real solution to poor driving is to encourage people to become skilled/attentive drivers. It is not an unreasonable expectation – and it would enhance rather than detract from liberty.

      And why not? The safe – the competent – handling of a car really is a moral obligation. Those who can’t competently handle a car ought not to be driving. And their incapacity ought not to become the pretext for incapacitating us.

      Automated cars will fundamentally gimp mobility. They are a nightmare coming to life.

      • So you’re against automatic choke (or EFI), Synchromesh (or DSG, or slush box) transmissions, electronic ignition, electric starter motors, automatic fuel pumps, and all the other advancements that have eliminated most of the controls found on a Model T?

        The thing isn’t automation itself. It is how it is deployed. I believe a distributed/independent navigation system that has no dependence on a network is a fantastic idea. An inertial guidance system could be developed, or at least a system that can choose what satellite navigation system it uses (the more the merrier). But that’s hard. It would probably require a few more cycles of Moore’s law to be feasible at a consumer friendly price. Unfortunately, no one wants to wait, so shortcuts are taken. One such shortcut is getting Uncle to fund and promote the idea, through the DARPA grand challenges. Soon the automakers will begin to demand regulators codify their favorite solution, freezing out anyone who might see a better way, one that doesn’t rely on big centralized systems.

        But the fundamental idea is sound.

        • Hi RK….

          Speaking only for myself,,, improving engine/tranny operation is a bit different and in no way inhibits the humans operation or makes what could easily be life and death decisions that only a human has the ability or right to make. No matter how many times they repeat ‘AI’ (Artificial Idiocy? ), a computer is still a line by line operating system with a lot of branching. They can do really cool things BUT they cannot ‘think’ and are not ‘self aware’. If it were self aware it probably wouldn’t let most of us out of our driveway!

          The improvements you mention will not slam on the brakes when IT determines you have erred or worse,,, or run a bush hidden stop sign because the dumb human isn’t paying attention since he has it in auto. It does not slow you to 25mph in a construction zone for 15 miles at 2am due to signs not taken down and no construction in sight anywhere.

          My 2c

          • So much this. The people pushing for automation… have they ever played a video game? No, scratch that, have they EVER interacted with a computer in any meaningful way? Because if they had ever done those things, they would know that it is literally one of the worst ideas ever. Brand new gaming rig, top of the line, and it functions incorrectly all the time. Come to find out, that’s not from an assembly error or even a faulty component. It’s from the graphics chipset supplier not having their stuff together and uploading glitchy drivers that like to occasionally crash the whole system while also filling the reliability monitor with lots of scary-looking errors. The computer has not been invented yet that won’t go derpy at least occasionally. At least we are somewhat familiar with the ways in which humans can “glitch”!

            Mainstream media sources (Motor Trend being the latest) will spread all sorts of canards about high-speed yielding or 120MPH automated autobahns or some other way these demon machines will make our lives more “efficient” but it is all 100% pure manure of the bovine. Even leaving aside all the reasons those things will never happen in any useful way, or at least not for long, “efficiency” should never be seen as an end in itself. A means to an end, maybe, but never an end in itself. Even in a work environment, that doesn’t work. An alright employee who is fun to have around and helps make the work environment more bearable will always be preferred over a “master” who is also a jerk.

            • I had a $1500 19″ laptop, fast as hell, state of the art. Then I downloaded the very important to whatever the word was for the next most important update. I had barely gotten it up dated till later in teh day, Microsoft said Not to install the update for the video card. Too late for me and the computer immediately fucked up. You could get another for $75 from China. I thought about trying it myself but being a pretty new computer I decided to turn it over to professionals. Except the “guaranteed” new chip was defective and the only way they’d accept the old one back and give you a new one was to “overnight” it to Hong Kong, probably 3 or 4 times or more what the thing cost.

              That was the end of that. It was a shame too. The 19″ monitor was so big it wouldn’t fit in a 19″ case, had to get a really large oversized case. It was a huge laptop but I loved it, maybe a bit larger monitor than the desk top on the latest desktop I had at the time. Of course the old CRT never screwed up but it was about the size of a Sony Trinitron. I left it in some store I had rented since the computer with it got fried by some internet bug in ’09 on a day they warned everyone to not get on the net but I and the wife both did to get a sale. I should have told the guy to wait a day or piss off since both computers got ruined.

              I’m not the biggest fan of computerized anything. A couple days ago the power went out. Why? The same reason as nearly always. It was a nice, calm, cool day, next to no power being used that day for most homes and a Sunday to boot so barns weren’t being used for the most part. No, after the big rain, barns weren’t being used at all since it was a 4WD trip to most of them which nobody had any need to make.

              I once worked high line construction for a year and a half. Godawful work since we weren’t really set up for it and had crap like pole gennies to set transformers instead of a bucket truck. Nothing like fighting a 40′ hotshot pole in a west Tx. wind.

              But what we did was pretty basic, line fuses and mechanical trips. Years later the distribution point for us was revamped to digital. It fucks up at the drop of a hat. Nothing like a calm, cool day to set it off.

              I’m still looking for the 90-94 GM diesel pickup I can make like new again. They get pricier every day. My entire life, Motor Trend was always the go to mag to be bought off by the highest bidder.

              • Oh, and by the way, my Galaxy S5 is trying to take the same shit my 4 took a year ago. I’m considering One Plus for replacement.

                I reckon I’m spoiled. I could get a flip phone but streaming video to the tv wouldn’t be in the mix anymore. And it’s not like I can afford this expensive shit. The phone, which is cheap in comparison to similar models of other brands, cost twice what the tv did….a month ago. We’re into one of those times where everything you have is taking a shit. The lawn mower just quit. I started it and it died. I never got power to the switch again. And it has so many nanny bullshit things on it I’m just going to wire around the entire ball of wax. I’ll have start, stop and charge when running. No turning the switch key back and pushing a button to go backward with the blade on. No more getting off without the parking brake being fully on and have it die. Piss on it. It’s just a damned lawn mower. I don’t need to see that I’m about to run over a toddler when I back up. Probably the new ones have cameras. I know the fuckin blade is running when I get off and don’t need a brake on to keep it from hauling ass……on level ground.

                • I have one and a half smartphones. The one is a $35 Wal-Mart Alcatel I got because my job wanted me to have a smartphone (cheaper and more powerful than sending everyone scan guns). The other is some weird Indian-market-special Samsung my mother got from her cell service provider which just up and bricked itself for no apparent reason (may have been related to a popular ringtone-downloading app, or maybe something to do with FRP). There’s a way to reset the firmware by hooking it up to a desktop, once that was done it worked like new and all her data was there, however by that point she’d already bought another phone. It’s somewhat feminine-looking and runs an older version of Android than mine, so the only reason I ever really cared about it is that it has a better camera (important for one task type which has been suspended indefinitely because the client wasn’t happy with our data collection platform).

                  • The One Plus has a killer cam and is right there with the upper end phones for a few hundred less. I’d rather keep the money and the S5 but that’s how it goes.

            • I’m not saying I want to beta test the fully autonomous version. But version 3.0 maybe. That’s why letting things happen organically and incrementally seems the prudent way to go.

              As I watch my parent’s decline, along with my aunts and uncles, I realize that autonomous automobiles aren’t for us, they’re for the future us. One major reason why people end up in the old folks’ home is because they lose the ability to drive. Oh sure, “statistics” show that old drivers are better, but much of that is AARP bullshit. Tweak the numbers well enough and you can prove the Earth is flat too. If mom can still live in the house and get to the grocery store twice a week (or have the store deliver for the same cost), get to her monthly lunch with the gals and church on Sunday, that means she’s still independent, still functional and doesn’t have to uproot her life as much.

              • Hi RK,

                Yes, but this is like saying everyone should be forced to wear Depends because someday, many of us will need them.

                When – whether on account of age or for some other reason – a person can no longer drive, that person is responsible for figuring out alternatives. It’s obnoxious to impose their limitations on others, who aren’t limited.

                Bear in mind that this automated car stuff isn’t going to be voluntary – nor limited to old-timers. We are all going to be nudged into these meatsack conveyors – or at least, the attempt is under way. I will fight it with everything at my disposal. I’m not a technophobe. But I dread the tyranny tech is making feasible.

                • Eric,

                  “everyone should be forced to wear Depends because someday, many of us will need them.”

                  A wise man once told me, “Never trust a fart when you are over 50.”

                • But why call to abandon the whole thing just because the current devices offered are going to rely heavily on a highly controlled “system” when other possibilities, albeit not as expeditious, are also possible?

                  It will take decades to get this stuff working well enough for the lawyers, so the big players are taking the lobbyist route. That way they can just blame the regulation when it fails and not get their ass handed to them in court.

                  • Morning, RK!

                    My call is to abandon it being force-fed to us; same critique I apply to electric cars. This stuff is being pushed. It is not organically (market) driven. Note the mandates – automated emergency braking mandated here; Intelligent Speed Assist mandated in the EU.

                    Soon, everything will be mandated. And we who don’t want it will be compelled to “embrace” it. This ought to be obvious by now.

                    I am not opposed to the tech, per se. But I am extremely opposed to the way the tech will be forced upon us.

                    • On that we can agree. I’m pretty much taking the opposing view on automation because I think that we like to be over-romantic when it comes to our cars. They are a real pain in the rear much of the time. And there’s the traffic problems -because Uncle can’t keep up with demand and won’t let the free market build roads, so we all have to deal with rush hour jams.

                      But I also see comments on sites like Ars Technica where they’re all-in on automation and can’t wait to try this stuff out. And I also know that the $99 Android burner phone and s***y low-end Dell PC from work are hardly state of the art too. There are systems that can work, but they aren’t going to get released until Uncle gets his back doors. And to ramp up production you need Uncle’s blessing.

    • you go ahead and cede YOUR control…i’ll drive my car thanks. don’t need your help and your rationale here is simply facile

  4. So I have to wonder what the Road Sign Assist does when you pass a sign that says:

    Four Wheel Drive With Lockers Only Beyond This Point

    Hahahahahah!

  5. “Which it will do by cutting throttle, applying brakes and countersteering – all done electrically, via drive-by-wire.”

    Going to be fun making my own signs to put over the existing ones.

    Remember the Coyote and Road Runner cartoons? Paint some new road lines end at a cliff….. Big sign that says “detour”.

    Active Darwinism.

      • As if having ASS in the car isn’t going to be enough, you will now have ASS-IST. I drove a 2014 Hyundai the other day for a customer. It would not hold the 70 mph speed I set with the “cruise”, due to traffic ahead, that wasn’t even in the lane I was travelling in. It refused to legally pass the other traffic, because that is what some ASS-hole programmed it to do. It’s all now “conditional” driving, “as permitted”, rather than as I want, or need. I was forced to disengage speed control to overtake any other vehicles, period. So why even bother, if the damn system won’t “allow” it to maintain speed in the mere presence of other traffic? The Overprotective-Nanny-Crap now comes with a built-in Alarmist-Mode. Just wait until we get the feature that disables the car if we say anything out-loud that offends the built-in Politically Correct Audio-monitor!

        • Actually if the cars did have “AI”, they would refuse to even leave the driveway for “fear” of an accident or a ticket! If I wanted that, I’d just ride a jack-ass, the 4 legged kind, I mean.

            • Hi Lone,

              Even that – four-legged transport (and two) – will inevitably by shackled in the same manner. We already are required to carry a de facto internal passport, for example. And compelled to produce “our papers,” just like East Germans used to have to do. I know I sound like a broken record, but principles – and precedents – matter. If one thing is tolerated, more things of a piece inevitably follow because there is no longer any principled basis for objecting to them.

              • The county I live in is trying to make the Amish buy a license for each buggy or wagon they use. It actually applies to everyone, but is directed at the Amish as that is their primary transport. So far it mostly gets ignored.

                The ONLY time I carry any type of ID is when I am driving. Kind of throws the AGW’s for a loop when they ask for it and you don’t have it. Wife got pulled over for speeding about three years ago. We were going fishing and I, as is normal, didn’t have my papers with and wasn’t wearing my seatbelt. Copper asked if he could see my ID and I said no. Didn’t elaborate until he asked. When he finally did I willingly told him my name, but he had to ask first. I don’t think he liked it very much. He looked a little irritated.

                The wife always has fits at me for being too “extreme” about stuff like this. She thinks I should just go along with it all. The only point I can agree with her on is that it would make life easier. Of course, my livestock leads a pretty easy life, too, until it is butchering time.

                • Lone, that whole thing sounds familiar. You have gone along with it all. And this is the payoff.

                  But it won’t ever make “your” life easier. You are offended by the entire thing…..and she isn’t. It will make “her” life easier if you just “go along”.

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