No Net Driving

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Why take off the training wheels?


Wouldn’t it be “safer” to leave them on – even after the kid learned how to ride the bike without them? It would help prevent the kid from toppling over. Of course he might never learn how to competently ride the bike – or rather, how to keep it balanced, on his own – if you never took them off.

And what if you took them off, then? Before he’d learned how to ride without them?

Add a few thousand pounds of steel, glass and plastic – plus 70 miles-per-hour.

Every new car and most cars built since about five years ago comes standard with the electronic equivalent of training wheels that never come off. Always-on “advanced safety technologies,” such as automated emergency braking that stops the car if the driver is too asleep-at-the-wheel to have noticed traffic ahead has stopped. That beeps (and sometimes, brakes) if the driver doesn’t see there’s something behind him – a person or another car – he’s about to back into (or over). That keeps the car in its travel lane so the driver can concentrate on the text he’s sending.

Unless, of course, the weather turns them off. Without warning – and just like that. No net driving.

“Advanced safety technologies” depend on little cameras that are embedded in the front and rear bumpers of new cars. These see when the driver isn’t looking – or paying attention. What they see – data about the evolving traffic situation around the vehicle – is fed into computers that can (and do) intervene to correct for driver error, including the driver simply not paying attention.

Arguably, they encourage the driver to pay less attention. Just as a kid riding a bike with training wheels installed doesn’t need to concentrate as much on keeping the bike upright, himself.

The training wheels will do that – and he assumes it. The knowledge that the bike cannot tip over gives the kid a false confidence that he has learned how to ride the bike, which of course he hasn’t, really. It is why the true measure of riding competence is being able to balance the bike without the training wheels. It is why a rider who has developed the skill to balance his bike no longer needs the training wheels, ever again.

But a coating of ice (or mud, for that matter) over the camera’s eyes effectively blinds the modern car’s training wheels – the “advanced driver assistance technologies.” The car no longer automatically brakes if the driver fails to notice that traffic ahead has slowed – or stopped. That another car has just turned into its path from a side road. It is now up to the driver to keep the car in its travel lane.

What if he does not?

What if he cannot?

These “advanced driver assistance technologies” are habituating a generation of new drivers, who came of age in the age of all this “assistance,” to assume the electronic safety net will always be there to catch them. Some are no doubt unworried about taking care to avoid following too closely, to maintain adequate following distances and to keep their eyes (and minds) on the constantly evolving traffic situation – rather than the text they just received – because they have been taught to drive in cars that have their own eyes – and minds.

Some might suggest this presents a safety issue.

What parent would send his kid down a steep hill on his bike before the kid learned how to ride it without training wheels? Or took them off before the kid was ready – without telling the kid?

A car equipped with “advanced driver assistance technology” will at least tell the driver when the net is no longer there. A message will generally appear in the instrument cluster so advising him. But what if the driver doesn’t pay attention to that? Isn’t the premise underlying all of this “assistance” that it is needed precisely because the driver isn’t paying attention? If he’s not paying attention to the road – to the evolving traffic situation – what makes anyone think he’ll pay attention to a pop-up warning in the instrument cluster?

And even if he does notice the car advising him the net’s no longer there, will he suddenly transform into a more attentive driver on account of that?

Maybe the “safest” thing to do when weather impairs the ability of “technology” to come to the “assistance” of drivers who never learned how to and so need such “assistance” is to prevent them from being able to drive the car when it cannot keep them “safe,” via “technology.”

If the cameras are iced over – or otherwise vision-limited, as by fog – then the car “assists” the driver by not moving, at all.

That would be “safest” of all.

Well, aside from taking off the training wheels. After the “kid” has learned how to “ride” without them.

. . .

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  1. When my 12 year old is old enough to drive, I plan on letting her use one of my older cars or perhaps obtaining another old vehicle (it will be at least 15-20 years old, likely 25 or 30)

  2. Good luck getting home in a blizzard if you have to get out and clean off the sensors every 30 seconds. Gonna be a lot of people frozen by the side of the road.

  3. My old A3 had an “ice warning” that would pop up on the dash display when temperatures dipped below freezing. Didn’t matter that it was a Colorado bluebird day with no chance of precipitation and bone dry roads, that warning came up. My Cherokee will kick up a message on the Sirus info-tainment system if there’s a winter storm warning issued for the county I happen to be driving through. Considering Garfield County (for example) runs from the Utah boarder to about 130 miles east (and ~1500 ft elevation gain), there’s a pretty good chance I won’t see any inclement weather.

    These systems are purely informational now. But imagine if there’s a winter weather advisory issued and the automaker/insurance/state decides that you shouldn’t be out in that? We already know that starters can be disabled by banks and lessors if you get behind on payments. Why not if the expert administrators decide that it’s too perilous to drive?

    Carried to the logical conclusion, the NWS issues a weather warning. “Liberty” Insurance shuts down the cars. CODT decides to not bother plowing until they’re good and ready. Someone does a study showing that road closures reduce CO₂ emmissions, encouraging those with an agenda 21 bent to play the better-safe-than-sorry card all winter. Besides, you can always just work from home!

  4. Anyone here remember the old Star Trek episode “The Ultimate Computer”? Whenever I hear talk of “self driving cars”, I’m reminded of that episode and what COULD happen if we were to go down that road and have a COMPUTER completely take over driving a car instead of a human who KNOWS how to drive one.

    With government having gone mandate happy just over the past going 3 years, could you imagine what might happen if the government were to “mandate” that ALL cars on the road be “self driving” under guise of “Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety”?

      • Eric,

        I’ve learned stuff from Star Trek as well, particularly the original series and “The Next Generation”. Many of the Star Trek episodes may have seemed “out there” during their original broadcasts, but now seem to have been prescient when watched again.

        And with this push from the technocrats of the world to turn humans into human-machine hybrids, I’m curious if they got that idea from the Borg.

      • I remember one time around late 2008. I was a grad student at the time, and my career was taking me to whatever the next step was. I had no money, my credit cards were maxed out, a deadline was fast approaching, and I needed a small amount of money for an application fee. Like $10-20, it was a trivial amount even back then.

        I called up the credit card company, navigated to get a person, explained the situation, and begged for a temporary marginal increase in my credit limit. I explained that if I didn’t get it I stood to have no income soon, which was in no one’s best interest.

        She wouldn’t give it to me, and neither would the supervisor, and neither would anyone else, because the computer said no. I said I knew that, I was asking for a one-time exception, and asked to talk to whoever tells the computer what to do. They couldn’t or wouldn’t do so.

        I don’t exactly remember how I got myself out of that mess, but that conversation (15 years ago now) stuck with me ever since.

        I don’t like where things are going.

  5. This safety bubble the control freaks have constructed depends on computer code. Read somewhere long ago how some self driving vehicle in Az was unable to “See” black people. This opens up endless possibilities. Perhaps some disgruntled coder somewhere writes a line of code into the self driving cars OS, the car becomes unable to “see” masked covidiots. Hilarity would ensue on many levels as the safety cultists cried out in pain for more regulation, in the name of saaaafety.

    In a clown world full of clowns, puttering around, honk honking in their clown cars, it might just be safer to stay off the road, stockpile some gas, and wait for the fever to burn itself out.

  6. A couple of places on the net have the story about problems in the automobile sector regarding current prices and the value of loans. Zerohedge has some of what is happening. Of course.

    Seems to be a problem in the used car market and the lending of monies to buy cars, payments are being delayed, delinquent.

    Carvana is in trouble. 245 USD per share to 3.55 USD per share is what you call a collapse, car flipping is really what they are trying to do. 5.03 USD today, dead cat bounced.

    Seneca the Stoic sees a collapse.

    One stock I follow has a share price of 61.75 USD, BlackRock has a few hundred thousand shares. Last night, I saw a bid to buy at a price of 24.61 USD per share. The 52 week high was 112 USD.

    Something ain’t right out there. Can’t win them all.

    • ‘problems in the automobile sector’ — drumphish

      One perceives that you are a connoisseur of doom, like my goodself.

      How these dark headlines lift the spirits on a cloudy winter day:

      Perfect Storm Arrives: “Massive Wave” Of Car Repossessions And Loan Defaults To Trigger Auto Market Disaster, Cripple US Economy

      “I’ve been a doubter, but after what I saw this morning, I’m now FULLY convinced that a wave of car repossessions will hit in early/mid 2023. If lenders are willing to backstab each other in order to put more loans on the road, we’re in trouble.” — ZH

      Ahhh … that’s the doom porn red meat I crave.

      Things are lookin’ up … for the repo biz.

      • Hi Jim,

        I went out shopping this weekend and the usual crowds were not there. The week before Christmas and no rush, hard to fathom. The fourth quarter numbers are going to be pretty dismal and we are heading into a double dip recession. I anticipate a significant shutdown of locally owned businesses in my area come May/June, maybe even sooner. Even the restaurants have slowed down. January and February are usually the worst months for businesses. If December is any indication we are in for a brutal 2023.

        Once we add in the higher interest rates that will rank the real estate market

      • Jim,
        My brother asked me the other day: “Do you see any good in the world”? My response was thus: Depends on how you define “good”.

    • Drumphish one of the problems with companies like Carvana, Zillow and even Uber/Lyft is that they thought they could take over a low net margin business, take it national with what’s basically a database, and then somehow become profitable. But the expense of running a used car lot is the real estate and contracts with the repo man, not the sales and marketing. Inventory is there to get people in the door signing up for high-risk credit. Classic case of not knowing the market but trying to weasel in with OPM. My guess is that if the founders of Carvana bothered to run a used car lot then learned how to build web sites they’d have a better business plan.

  7. this stuff is coming on motorcycles too. I bought an adventure bike that came with ‘lean sensitive traction control’ that is adjustable from 1-10. While I didn’t think to much about it, I started playing with it on dirt roads. It worked amazing. So I kept lowering the threshold and found myself going way faster than the conditions warranted, or that I could have accomplished myself without it, and almost went over a cliff at the next switchback turn. Luckily I’m an experienced rider and was able to keep it, and me, from going over the cliff. It woke me up. Wholly crap, this thing is going to get novice riders in major trouble. I have heard of a few already.

  8. Over the years I’ve driven in some horrendous road conditions without having an accident, but nowadays even on clear ice free roads people don’t know how to drive. WTF?

    On the other hand one advantage of the current anti collision system is that if you can’t disable the mother in-law nanny computer via the touch screen you can always do it with some electrical tape…

  9. ‘But a coating of ice (or mud, for that matter) over the camera’s eyes effectively blinds the modern car’s training wheels.’ — eric

    What I see in the video is a lame defroster that can’t cope with ice on the top half of the windshield. Turn it up higher, though, and there goes another 20 miles of range!

    What’s an EeeVee punter to do on a winter’s day?

    Moreover, how does a 6 ft 3 in guy scrunch down to see under that low ice visor, with the phone videoing (like an elderly geezer) from just over the top of the steering wheel?

    It don’t look s-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-f-e to me!

    • Hi Jim,

      Luckily, I learned how to drive before “assistance’ technology! Also, in cars that required paying attention, such as a three-on-the-tree ’69 Ford pickup and a Beetle with rusted floorpans and a “defroster” that consisted of an old rag I kept in the glovebox to smear the window sorta-clear enough to see…

    • a friend who owns a tesla asked me to help her figure out why her defroster never works well. Took me 2 seconds “because your car doesn’t turn on the AC compressor (less humid) like ICE cars, to save energy. She has to keep pushing the ac button. She done with the car because it is too inconvenient.

      • ‘Took me 2 seconds “because your car doesn’t turn on the AC compressor (less humid) like ICE cars, to save energy.” — ChrisIN

        AHA … that explains it.

        Saving precious battery, only to run into the ditch cuz you couldn’t frickin’ see.

  10. A friend of a friend developed a strange disease and coud no longer drive. He was in a wheelchair for the rest of his life as a result. Being extremely wealthy, he bought an expensive Tesla with the Autopilot option. He would let the Tesla drive him around. Didn’t take long before he was in an accident. No one was injured, fortunately. Self-driving is coming. That sounds like trouble to me.

    I think seat belts, air bags and anti-lock brakes were great idea
    I don’t want all the other advanced safety technologies
    — they cost money, and are just more parts to break

    • Hi Richard,

      I’d very much like to be able to skip air bags and ABS. I have no use for either and would prefer not being obliged to pay for them. Air bags are especially annoying to me because they have destroyed interior design. My ’76 Trans-Am (like many cars of the pre-air bag era) has a three-spoke “Formula” steering wheel unique to Pontiac. It is the centerpiece of the car’s interior and really sets it apart from the interiors of other cars. Now all cars have the same ugly blobs. These ugly blobs – plus the 4-6 (or more) embedded throughout the rest of the car – have also added thousands in cost to each new car, as well as insurance costs.

      Yes, they “save lives.” That is beside the point. Should broccoli and skinless chicken also be required eating? It would “save lives,” too!

      • Eric,
        “they have destroyed interior design”
        And if they deploy, regardless the reason, they destroy the interior. A major factor in “totaling” a car.

        • They’ve also destroyed interior comfort. Narrow seats set further inboard from the door opening (side impact protection), dash/console integration to keep you stuck in the “correct” position for the airbags deployment envelope, airbags in the side bolster of the seats limiting the available padding – it’s a nightmare.

          Seems the modern world can’t settle on a happy median, every so called advance adding cost complexity for decreasing returns. Gotta chase down that last scrap of safety data, no matter what it costs. Pareto rolling in his grave.


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