AuthorTopic: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization  (Read 10836 times)

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Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« on: February 18, 2017, 02:09:24 AM »


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Published on The Daily Impact  January 30 & February 2, 2017






Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner




Driverless Cars: Their Time Will Never Come







 



 



 



 



 



 



The driverless car. An idea whose time will not come. Ever.




Can we just get real here for a minute? Our streets and highways are never going to be populated by a significant number of driverless cars. Any more than our lives are going to be enriched by attentive robots exhibiting artificial intelligence. We are no closer to deploying fleets of driverless cars now than we were to having a flying car in every garage, as the illustrated predictions in Popular Mechanics and the like insisted through the 50s and 60s. And 70s and 80s. (I should have warned you about the disorientation a sudden dose of realism can have; sit down and breath into a paper bag, it will pass.)



The deafening hype we are hearing about driverless cars is the sound of an entire industry trying to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to itself. Everything we hear about the auto industry is good (“2016 U.S.Auto Sales Set New High Record”) because everything we hear comes from the auto industry. And yet its healthy glow is beginning to take on the ghastly sheen of a dead mackerel.



Ever since President Obama saved the auto industry from meltdown in 2008 (yes, he did, you can look it up) it has been the leading light of American industrial activity. Sales bottomed out at fewer than 10 million units in 2009, but have risen steadily since, to an all time high of 17.5 million units, in 2016. What could be wrong with this picture?



Couple of things. First, these sales were accomplished by offering low- and no-interest loans, low- and no-down-payment loans, then extending the length of the loans to lower the payments still more. The average term of a car loan is now five and a half years, with six- and seven-year loans ever more frequent. Still this wasn’t enough. To get the numbers they wanted they had to start making loans to less and less credit-worthy buyers. Before long, in order to keep the big wheel turning, lenders were bundling car loans and securitizing them for more cash to lend to sub-prime borrowers. The sales were booked. The loans were booked (with everyone involved collecting their commissions in cash).  But the cars haven’t been paid for yet, and now the default rates are in the stratosphere. According to MarketWatch:




The number of subprime auto loans sinking into delinquency hit their highest level since 2010 in the third quarter, with roughly 6 million individuals at least 90 days late on their payments. It’s behavior much like that seen in the months heading into the 2007-2009 recession, according to data from Federal Reserve Bank of New York researchers. “The worsening in the delinquency rate of subprime auto loans is pronounced, with a notable increase during the past few years,” the researchers…said Wednesday.




Nobody could have seen that coming.



Another thing. When the factories ship cars and trucks to the dealers, to sit on lots for no one knows how long, they count them as “sold” even though the dealer has the right to return them. At the end of 2016, a banner year for “sales,” an all-time high of almost four million cars were sitting on dealer lots unsold.



So despite the glossy paint on its exterior,  the auto industry is rapidly rusting out from within, and desperately needs its Next Big Thing to appear NOW. Hybrids were it for a while, but gas prices went down and huge SUVs rule the road again. Electric plug-ins? Naw. See the fate of the hybrid. But self-driving cars? Now you got some buzz, man. This could be it.



But desperation generates its own buzz. The makers of computers and cell phones and tablets have all been seeking the Next Big Thing with equal desperation for years. A few years ago it was The Smart Watch. Drum roll!!! Fanfare!!! Launch!!! Nobody bought ‘em. Remember Google Glass? Gone. Virtual reality is currently having its 15-minute audition. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7? Crashed and burned. Literally.



None of these products came to market in response to a need people had. You know, like when they invented the fly swatter. These were things that engineers and marketers believed the general public could be enticed to buy. And that used to work, back when we had a middle class in America with money to spare. Then, you could make a go of pet rocks with the right advertising campaign.



But driverless cars? Let’s try one though experiment. It’s a couple years from now, and you call an Uber car, and when it pulls to the curb and waits for you to get in, there is no one in the car, and there are no controls in the car. Are you going to get in?



Me neither.



 



That Which Kills Me Also Costs Me Money: Study







 



 



 



 



 



 



Blackout 1965: Think of it — all those people trapped in all those apartments, needing to know: how much is this going to cost?




According to a new study, if a solar storm blew out most of America’s electric grid, it would cost us $41.5 billion dollars. The worst scenario calculated in the study would affect 66 per cent of the population, as well as the nation’s manufacturing, government and finance sectors. Other countries would be affected as well, but we don’t care about that, the study simply created a seven-billion-dollar chump-change jar for the foreigners. After putting a price tag on every imaginable aspect of Apocalypse Now, one of the study’s authors said somberly, “We felt it was important.” He found it “surprising” that prior studies — yes, there are prior studies making the same calculations — lacked “transparency” and missed entirely some direct and indirect costs.



Encyclopedic as it may be, and transparent as well — you can see right through it — the study raises at least as many questions as it answers [Please disengage your fake-news sensor and engage your irony alert]:




  • now that we know what the incineration of the grid will cost, can we just not do it? Is that why you told us?


  • now that we know what it will cost, shall we just put that much money in a savings account, so that when it happens, we can just write a check and we won’t be affected at all?


  • Utilities have always known about the threat from severe solar storms, and  how to protect the grid from them, but have so far refused to spend the money. So now can we get them to spend up to $40 billion? At least?


  • Isn’t this pretty much the same things as commissioning a financial analysis to calculate how much money you will not make in the 10 years after your death? (A million dollars? Holy crap! Now I really don’t want to die!)



But here’s the real question. Have we as a culture become so devoid of human values and empathy that we no longer even have the language to discuss the meaning of anything without assigning cash values? Where are the studies concluding that an event like this would put us all instantly back in the Stone Age, that most of us would die in the first year, that our civilization might never recover? 



In our world, knowledge has been industrialized. Armies of researchers often funded by the companies that will benefit from a right conclusion, delve into everything from the health benefits of food to the effects of chemicals, from evaluating stocks and bonds to  the economic cost of homophobia. If the conclusion is wrong — that is, of no benefit to the sponsors — it can be buried, and alternate studies funded. See “Exxon and climate-change research.”



Rice University researchers have calculated the cost of carbon emissions, and called for a compensatory carbon tax. In other words, never mind the visible pall of pollution, the coughing children, the elevated cancer rates, the increasingly obvious destabilization of the planet’s climate, let’s figure out how many dollars it might cost and impose a fine, in dollars. Similarly, Stanford researchers have estimated the high cost of global climate change. Duh!



As with all crimes against humanity, we must first ask cui bono? Who benefits? Studies cost money, often big money. Promoting their results to a gullible public costs really big money. Somebody is getting something for all that money. [Note to self: Apply for grant to conduct large-scale study of the cost of studying the cost of things.]



Without conducting a study, I can only surmise that the beneficiaries of studies such as the solar-storm accounting are the very industries it studied. If we focused in detail on the human cost of such a Black Swan event — that is, an event of extremely low probability but extremely high cost — and the relative ease with which the industries could prevent it, we would be storming their gates. Or at least trolling them on Twitter.  



But put a price tag on it, any price tag, and our tendency is to think, “Yeah, we could do that.” It doesn’t matter how big it is. Personally, I cannot get my head around any number that has more than six digits. I thought it was a private affliction, but it turns out to be pretty widespread.



Talk to any industry about its responsibility to the humans it is supposed to be serving, and to future generations of them, and it goes into a defensive crouch and insists that a corporation is not a person when it comes to ethics and responsibility. But threaten them with a future fine or cost, and the board meets, and says “Yeah, we could do that.” 



So that’s cui bono, baby.



Offline Farmer McGregor

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Re: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2017, 08:49:37 AM »
Quote
Can we just get real here for a minute? Our streets and highways are never going to be populated by a significant number of driverless cars. Any more than our lives are going to be enriched by attentive robots exhibiting artificial intelligence. We are no closer to deploying fleets of driverless cars now than we were to having a flying car in every garage, as the illustrated predictions in Popular Mechanics and the like insisted through the 50s and 60s. And 70s and 80s.

File this one right alongside 'colonists on mars' (let alone 'other habitable planets'), cryo-stasis, fusion reactors, high-rise greenhouses, 'the singularity', and so many other techno-fantasies.  The desperate straits of the auto industry in general should be a clue to the fact that there just isn't a market for super high-tech (read: super expensive) vehicles outside the bubble world of the 0.01%; there's hardly a market for less expensive cars or they wouldn't be offering those ridiculous loans.

Just more smoke and mirrors (bread and circuses) to keep the lumpen from focusing on reality, like that a decade from now we may not need the interstate highway system.

Great commentary.
--Greg
« Last Edit: February 18, 2017, 08:54:16 AM by Farmer McGregor »
For years we have let ourselves believe that as long as we have money we will have food. This is a mistake. The government will bring forth no food by providing hundreds of billions of dollars to the agribusiness industry.  --Wendell Berry after the 2008 crash

Offline JRM

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Re: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2017, 09:10:13 AM »
like that a decade from now we may not need the interstate highway system.

I'd like to see this proposition detailed out a bit.  Why? How?
My "avatar" graphic is Japanese calligraphy (shodō) forming the word shoshin, meaning "beginner's mind". --  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoshin -- It is with shoshin that I am now and always "meeting my breath" for the first time. Try it!

Offline g

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Re: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2017, 09:16:53 AM »
like that a decade from now we may not need the interstate highway system.

I'd like to see this proposition detailed out a bit.  Why? How?

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I had thought the Farmer was pointing out it was an absurd falsehood fabricated for the Dim to consume.

Hi Farmer, Welcome aboard the Diner.  :hi:

Offline Eddie

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Re: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2017, 09:36:01 AM »
Welcome Greg.

My view is:

1. Driverless cars make some sense, because it makes NOT owning a car for an average urban/suburban denizen easier and less onerous. Companies like Uber have come up with a very good idea that is compatible with a world that already desperately needs to power down. Ride sharing, or just super cheap taxi transport, can compete against private car ownership as a transportation model.

2. For JIT delivery, driverless trucks make huge sense, because it cuts the cost way, way down by eliminating the need for humans constantly at the wheel. This overcomes the problem of (a) paying so much to humans just to be behind the wheel and (b) the wasted time they spend in enforced shut-down mode, sleeping at the truck stop.

The technology is already at a safety level that is superior to human driving, in spite of the news stories that jump on every mistake and bobble that occurs as the tech is rolled out.

This really isn't the tech of the future. It's the present. People are using it right now in test markets world wide. The biggest problem is pushback from existing businesses that will be wiped out by it.

If this BAU world keeps turning for another year, you'll see it begin to have a real impact.

http://www.theverge.com/2017/2/17/14652056/chevrolet-gm-bolt-lyft-autonomous-fleet-plans

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline JRM

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Re: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2017, 10:09:57 AM »
2. For JIT delivery, driverless trucks make huge sense, because it cuts the cost way, way down by eliminating the need for humans constantly at the wheel. This overcomes the problem of (a) paying so much to humans just to be behind the wheel and (b) the wasted time they spend in enforced shut-down mode, sleeping at the truck stop.

As robots and machines eliminate ever more humans from "the workforce," how are people supposed to "make a living"?  Will "unnecessary" people be warehoused in giant human warehouses, dwelling in 6'x6'x6' cubicles and fed "food paste" from tubes protruding from these cubicles? Or will they just be "euthanized"?
« Last Edit: February 18, 2017, 10:14:54 AM by JRM »
My "avatar" graphic is Japanese calligraphy (shodō) forming the word shoshin, meaning "beginner's mind". --  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoshin -- It is with shoshin that I am now and always "meeting my breath" for the first time. Try it!

Offline g

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Re: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2017, 10:12:20 AM »
Welcome Greg.

My view is:

1. Driverless cars make some sense, because it makes NOT owning a car for an average urban/suburban denizen easier and less onerous. Companies like Uber have come up with a very good idea that is compatible with a world that already desperately needs to power down. Ride sharing, or just super cheap taxi transport, can compete against private car ownership as a transportation model.

2. For JIT delivery, driverless trucks make huge sense, because it cuts the cost way, way down by eliminating the need for humans constantly at the wheel. This overcomes the problem of (a) paying so much to humans just to be behind the wheel and (b) the wasted time they spend in enforced shut-down mode, sleeping at the truck stop.

The technology is already at a safety level that is superior to human driving, in spite of the news stories that jump on every mistake and bobble that occurs as the tech is rolled out.

This really isn't the tech of the future. It's the present. People are using it right now in test markets world wide. The biggest problem is pushback from existing businesses that will be wiped out by it.

If this BAU world keeps turning for another year, you'll see it begin to have a real impact.

http://www.theverge.com/2017/2/17/14652056/chevrolet-gm-bolt-lyft-autonomous-fleet-plans

I like the idea but remain an agnostic on electric and driver less vehicles.

One thing is for certain. While never seeing one yet the folks that own or have seen a Tesla just absolutely rave about them as the most marvelous technology one could imagine. It's unanimous praise and marvel in my experience.

If consumer sentiment is reliable, these type cars are just getting started and are definitely here to stay.

Offline g

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Re: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2017, 10:19:26 AM »
2. For JIT delivery, driverless trucks make huge sense, because it cuts the cost way, way down by eliminating the need for humans constantly at the wheel. This overcomes the problem of (a) paying so much to humans just to be behind the wheel and (b) the wasted time they spend in enforced shut-down mode, sleeping at the truck stop.

As robots and machines eliminate ever more humans from "the workforce," how are people supposed to "make a living"?  Will "unnecessary" people be warehoused in giant human warehouses, dwelling in 6'x6'x6' cubicles and fed "food paste" from tubes protruding from these cubicles? Or will they just be "euthanized"?

There will always be enough work to be done to keep folks busy at something is my view.

Twenty hour work weeks and a huge burgeoning recreation, education, art flourishing economy are more likely options to come about if BAU can continue IMO.         :dontknow:

Offline JRM

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Re: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2017, 10:35:49 AM »
There will always be enough work to be done to keep folks busy at something is my view.

Um.      This isn't happening NOW, and should be expected to get worse as robots and automation systems (and 'outsourcing' - to slave wage locations) continue to eliminate jobs.

Who has a magic wand to wave at it?  What sort of magic are you talking about?


Twenty hour work weeks and a huge burgeoning recreation, education, art flourishing economy are more likely options to come about if BAU can continue IMO.         :dontknow:

Many people cannot afford such luxuries NOW, how will they do so in your utopian world?  Today, a very many millions of people in the USA can afford (barely) rent and food, and not much else.  How will they suddenly have access to luxuries like a "huge burgeoning recreation, education, art flourishing economy"?

My "avatar" graphic is Japanese calligraphy (shodō) forming the word shoshin, meaning "beginner's mind". --  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoshin -- It is with shoshin that I am now and always "meeting my breath" for the first time. Try it!

Offline Eddie

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Re: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2017, 10:51:12 AM »
2. For JIT delivery, driverless trucks make huge sense, because it cuts the cost way, way down by eliminating the need for humans constantly at the wheel. This overcomes the problem of (a) paying so much to humans just to be behind the wheel and (b) the wasted time they spend in enforced shut-down mode, sleeping at the truck stop.

As robots and machines eliminate ever more humans from "the workforce," how are people supposed to "make a living"?  Will "unnecessary" people be warehoused in giant human warehouses, dwelling in 6'x6'x6' cubicles and fed "food paste" from tubes protruding from these cubicles? Or will they just be "euthanized"?

Oh, please.

We, as humans, have just witnessed two centuries of existing technologies and patterns of work constantly being EXTREMELY disrupted, with businesses that existed for generations being eliminated and replaced by a faster, cheaper way. Do we have less humans as a result? Did horse wranglers and mule skinners get euthanized? Is the human population shrinking?

People, as individuals, are always challenged to find a way to make a living. Amazingly, some people seem to thrive in just about any scenario you can come up with, and many others couldn't find their own asshole with both hands.

The challenge of living is to find the basics of food and shelter and to make yourself comfortable within your means. Thus it has always been.

Am I concerned that technology is eliminating a lot of jobs? Yes. Do I think the future depends on humans driving trucks over the open road, not so much.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline g

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Re: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2017, 10:52:59 AM »
There will always be enough work to be done to keep folks busy at something is my view.

Um.      This isn't happening NOW, and should be expected to get worse as robots and automation systems (and 'outsourcing' - to slave wage locations) continue to eliminate jobs.

Who has a magic wand to wave at it?  What sort of magic are you talking about?


Twenty hour work weeks and a huge burgeoning recreation, education, art flourishing economy are more likely options to come about if BAU can continue IMO.         :dontknow:

Many people cannot afford such luxuries NOW, how will they do so in your utopian world?  Today, a very many millions of people in the USA can afford (barely) rent and food, and not much else.  How will they suddenly have access to luxuries like a "huge burgeoning recreation, education, art flourishing economy"?

I wasn't talking about a cure for poverty, just the way the future work place might evolve. Just a guess and casual opinion, not an economics course.

There are many possibilities, it's all guess work. Rapidly advancing technology and robotics likely to solve many problems besides just creating them as well.               :dontknow:

Offline JRM

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Re: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2017, 11:46:47 AM »
2. For JIT delivery, driverless trucks make huge sense, because it cuts the cost way, way down by eliminating the need for humans constantly at the wheel. This overcomes the problem of (a) paying so much to humans just to be behind the wheel and (b) the wasted time they spend in enforced shut-down mode, sleeping at the truck stop.

As robots and machines eliminate ever more humans from "the workforce," how are people supposed to "make a living"?  Will "unnecessary" people be warehoused in giant human warehouses, dwelling in 6'x6'x6' cubicles and fed "food paste" from tubes protruding from these cubicles? Or will they just be "euthanized"?

Oh, please.

We, as humans, have just witnessed two centuries of existing technologies and patterns of work constantly being EXTREMELY disrupted, with businesses that existed for generations being eliminated and replaced by a faster, cheaper way. Do we have less humans as a result? Did horse wranglers and mule skinners get euthanized? Is the human population shrinking?

People, as individuals, are always challenged to find a way to make a living. Amazingly, some people seem to thrive in just about any scenario you can come up with, and many others couldn't find their own asshole with both hands.

The challenge of living is to find the basics of food and shelter and to make yourself comfortable within your means. Thus it has always been.

Am I concerned that technology is eliminating a lot of jobs? Yes. Do I think the future depends on humans driving trucks over the open road, not so much.

The "Oh, please" comment was unnecessary. I'm being real here.  And I'm hardly uninformed about the topic.

The broad topic is called "technological unemployment," -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_unemployment -- and those who insist that it's not a worry usually refer to a thing they call The Luddite Fallacy -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_unemployment#The_Luddite_fallacy

Problem is, "the luddite fallacy" is a load of horse-pucky.  The idea that it is a fallacy is nothing more than a doctrine of cornucopian faith (with cornucopianism being more than simply the unreasonable faith in natural resource replacements and other assorted make-believe).

Quote
"Do I think the future depends on humans driving trucks over the open road, not so much."

But my point wasn't merely about truck drivers being replaced by technological innovation.  What is happening with automation and advanced technologies is that they are more swiftly eliminating jobs in places like the USA than Any Other Single Factor -- including "outsourcing" to places like China and Mexico. (Ample evidence upon request.)  This hasn't happened to trucking, yet. You're saying that it would, or even should.   I'm saying if it happens with apples it won't be long before it happens to oranges.  There's no point restricting my point to either fruit.  Or to fruit! My issue cannot be treated as so many small potatoes.  The "luddite fallacy" is bullshit. 

« Last Edit: February 18, 2017, 11:48:48 AM by JRM »
My "avatar" graphic is Japanese calligraphy (shodō) forming the word shoshin, meaning "beginner's mind". --  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoshin -- It is with shoshin that I am now and always "meeting my breath" for the first time. Try it!

Offline RE

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Re: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2017, 11:54:17 AM »

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I had thought the Farmer was pointing out it was an absurd falsehood fabricated for the Dim to consume.


This is a violation of the CoC.

RE
Save As Many As You Can

Offline Eddie

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Re: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2017, 11:56:05 AM »
But my point wasn't merely about truck drivers being replaced by technological innovation.

But it brings up the argument that always get trotted out, which is that if you introduce disruptive technology, it kills jobs.

I did not mean to be insulting, but I view that argument as specious. It overlooks the possibility that disruptive technology can often bring more benefits, cause us to use fewer scarce resources, and pollute less.

My main point WAS just about cars and trucks, however, and not the entire effect of technology on civilization, or whether technology can somehow save the world, which I do NOT believe for a moment. It's just that those saying driverless cars aren't on the horizon...well, they aren't getting around much, out in the real world...cause it's here, already.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline luciddreams

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Re: Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization
« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2017, 12:00:10 PM »
This is an interesting discussion.  I suppose it's completely within the realm of reality that we could have driverless vehicles on the road simply because the infrastructure already exists.  Unlike with hydrogen cars.  If all you have to do is take the people out of the equation than I see no reason why it couldn't work.  Seems like the wave of the future.  Robots will take on the menial tasks for us so long as we have the energy and resources available to keep making robots.

 

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