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Published: Wed, 07 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Wed, 07 Dec 2016 14:47:15 -0500


Why It's a Good Thing That Driverless Cars and Trucks Are Going To Take Decades...

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 10:30:00 -0500

Yesterday, we posted a video conversation with me and Reason Foundation founder Bob Poole talking about the promises and timeline for fully automated cars and trucks to take over America's highways and city streets. Watch that here on Reason's YouTube channel. Poole's main point isn't that driverless cars and trucks aren't a good thing, but most of the hype surrounding them is just that: hype. It's one thing to create trucks, say, that can drive the interstates in special lanes over long distances. That's a tough challenge, but one that can be handled relatively easily (big emphasis on relatively). But at some point, those trucks need to break bulk and their contents need to get repacked into smaller delivery trucks. Safely navigating city or suburban streets is a massively more difficult enterprise and it's one that needs to be taken into account when projecting the costs and benefits of a driverless economy. Similarly, argues Poole, who knows transportation policy better than most parents know their own kids, the death of owner-operated cars is probably wildly overexaggerated. You can't take desultory ownership trends from years of the Great Recession and extrapolate forward. Yes, we use our cars for only a few hours a day at best, so the dream of just having on-demand transportation show up when we summon it (Uber! Lyft! Etc.!) is attractive, but we also pay for the ability to get into our mobiles whenever we want. The price is set by our peak demand, not our average demand. None of this is to say that a driverless world won't happen or that it won't be a good thing. As much as I love driving, if I never had to do it again—or pay for a car repair directly out of pocket—I'd be a happy camper. It's just that the overhyped timeline for the full transition is 30 or more years away, assuming everything goes smoothly. The good news with that? All the equally overhyped fears about 3.5 million truckers being thrown out of work overnight is equally nonsense. Like almost all major changes driven by technology and economics, creative destruction doesn't actually happen in a quick, unpredictable fashion. Indeed, to the extent that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump kept harping during the 2016 campaign on bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States, you'd think factory work disappeared overnight. In absolute numbers, manufacturing jobs as a percentage of employment peaked in the late 1970s. That's 30-plus years ago, so stories about towns being decimated by overnight closures are, for lack of a better word, bullshit. I lived in Buffalo, New York in the early 1990s and people there were acting as if aliens had descended and stripped out all factory and heavy-industry jobs in a 24-hour period. In fact, the city's population (and economy) had peaked in 1950 and industrial employment had been bleeding out for decades. The idea that places get turned into a wasteland overnight is the worst sort of nostalgia that helps no one but keeps whole areas frozen in time. Manufacturing as a percentage of the U.S. workforce peaked in 1943—during World War II!—at about 38 percent. Since then, there's been a long, slow, totally predictable decline in the number of Americans working in factories that everyone could see coming and continuing. The point of that history lesson? Occupational change, like technological change, takes more time and gives more room to adapt than we normally think. Yes, travel agents have in many ways been superseded by online services. The typing pool is never going to make a comeback. Traditional taxi drivers are almost certainly sunsetting. And long-haul trucking and car-based delivery men and women might not be needed in 2050. But the upside of fully automated vehicles taking longer than Elon Musk predicts is that we'll have more time to adapt to the world as it changes and retool our skills and sensibilities. Listen below or subscribe to Reason's podcast at iTunes (rate and review us there too!). And remember this is our annual webathon, in which we ask visitors to to support our print, [...]

Sorry, Elon Musk! Driverless Cars Will Take Longer Than You Think.

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 10:00:00 -0500

If you listen to Elon Musk, driverless cars are a technology that are just around the corner.

"I really consider autonomous driving a solved problem," Musk said in June 2016 in The Guardian. "I think we are probably less than two years away."

But, Bob Poole, Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow and Director of Transportation Policy at Reason Foundation is skeptical of Musk's timeline. "Skepticism is coming partly from researchers [...] at UC Berkeley, at Carnegie Mellon, at MIT who say this is a much harder problem than a lot of people, including Elon Musk, make it out to be."

Poole suggested to Reason TV's Editor in Chief, Nick Gillespie, that it will take a few decades at least before engineers are able to figure out the unexpected surprises of driving on city streets, not to mention the high cost of implementation into a market of cars that are not driverless. Further, Poole points out that once driverless options are available, they may completely throw a wrench in city transportation projects that are projected to take 30 to 40 years to build.

Interview by Nick Gillespie. Editing by Paul Detrick. Shot by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein.

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Trump Regulatory Rollback: Auto Fuel Efficiency Standards

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 17:00:00 -0500

(image) The Obama Administration imposed fuel efficiency standards on the automobile industry requiring them to increase fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Now carmakers are reportedly asking the incoming Trump administration for a "a pathway forward" on setting final fuel efficiency standards through 2025 and calling on the next administration to "harmonize and adjust" the rules.

Predictably, any hint that regulations might be rolled back brings forth howls of protest from activists. And so it has. Public Citizen, the self-styled "people's voice in the nation's capital" issued a press release decrying the notion that corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards might be loosened:

In 2009, in the aftermath of financial losses that stemmed from poor sales of inefficient fleets and higher oil prices, American taxpayers rescued the auto industry after it nearly went out of business. Now, this same industry sent a memo to Trump's lobbyist-staffed transition team asking for permission to ease off improved fuel economy standards.

Let's not forget that the reason the auto industry had to be bailed out was because automakers built a fleet of gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles that they could no longer sell. More fuel efficient cars would have saved them and taxpayers the trouble, but now it appears that the auto industry has learned nothing from its recent mistakes.

Federal regulators raised fuel efficiency standards because they save consumers money and are an important part of our effort to combat climate change.

Back in 2009, I criticized Obama's proposed CAFE standards as an inefficient stealth tax on driving. It's inefficient because drivers pay more, car companies make less money, and state and federal governments don't get any extra revenues. If activists and politicians want Americans to drive more fuel-efficient cars, the simple and honest thing to do would be to substantially raise gasoline taxes concluded a 2002 National Academy of Sciences report. Ultimately, I argued, setting CAFE standards is just a way for cowardly politicians to avoid telling their fellow citizens that they should pay more for the privilege of driving.

Brickbat: Phantom Tickets

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Last year, Joseph Youngstein's 2004 Dodge Durango was stolen and totaled. He turned the plates in to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles and got a receipt saying they'd been destroyed. So he wonders why he keeps getting tickets issued to the old license plates. He is also angry that his new vehicle, a Chevy Equinox with completely different plates, got booted because of all the tickets on the old plates.

Google Self-Driving Car in Crash: Like Always, Humans at Fault

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 12:03:00 -0400

(image) A van t-boned a Google self-driving car as its driver ran a red light. The car was pretty well wrecked but apparently no one in either vehicle was greatly harmed. In a statement to 9to5Google, the company noted:

A Google vehicle was traveling northbound on Phyllis Ave. in Mountain View when a car heading westbound on El Camino Real ran a red light and collided with the right side of our vehicle. Our light was green for at least six seconds before our car entered the intersection. Thousands of crashes happen everyday on U.S. roads, and red-light running is the leading cause of urban crashes in the U.S. Human error plays a role in 94% of these crashes, which is why we're developing fully self-driving technology to make our roads safer.

Red-light running human drivers have hit Google vehicles before. For example, Google's latest montly report on its self-driving car project noted:


In that same report, the other four accidents involved human drivers in other cars rear-ending Google vehicles.

Brickbat: Obscure Law

Fri, 23 Sep 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) When Victoria Herrington got a ticket for having an obscured license plate, she couldn't believe it. All of the letters and numbers on the plate and the renewal sticker were clearly visible. But the dealer's plate frame obscure the on the very top of the plate, and that's why she was cited.

Feds Want to Support Automated Cars. Oh, Also: They Want Much More Regulatory Authority.

Tue, 20 Sep 2016 12:40:00 -0400

The good news is that the federal government genuinely does want self-driving or automated vehicles to happen. Credit a heavily technocratic Obama administration that loves the idea of replacing the poor choices of feckless citizens with smooth, sleek algorithms. Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a 116-page report detailing how it plans to regulate the introduction of these cars, which they're calling "highly automated vehicles," or HAVs. So we can have a debate over whether it should be legal to allow HAVs to drive in HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes. The administration wants these cars on the road, but on its own terms. President Barack Obama makes it clear in a guest commentary over at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where HAVs are now being tested on the road. He also makes it clear that the federal government will be deciding what is and isn't safe. Obama and the NHTSA are your parents watching you do a wacky chemistry experiment for a science fair project making sure you don't mix the wrong things together: Regulation can go too far. Government sometimes gets it wrong when it comes to rapidly changing technologies. That's why this new policy is flexible and designed to evolve with new advances. There are always those who argue that government should stay out of free enterprise entirely, but I think most Americans would agree we still need rules to keep our air and water clean, and our food and medicine safe. That's the general principle here. What's more, the quickest way to slam the brakes on innovation is for the public to lose confidence in the safety of new technologies. Both government and industry have a responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen. And make no mistake: If a self-driving car isn't safe, we have the authority to pull it off the road. We won't hesitate to protect the American public's safety. To be completely clear, "For [the Department of Transportation], the excitement around highly automated vehicles (HAVs) starts with safety," is a sentence somebody actually wrote with complete sincerity in the executive summary of the report. Much of the report is technical, dry, and about figuring out how HAV regulations fit within existing federal framework. That is very nearly praise, given the much worse potential alternatives. The NHTSA is providing guidance to the states in the report, trying to separate what the federal government wants to control (establishing vehicle safety standards, managing recalls, issuing guidance to manufacturers) and what it wants to leave to the states (licensing drivers, enforcing traffic laws, managing safety inspections and liability rules) Essentially it's similar to the separation of authorities over vehicles right now, but what they're trying to do is prevent individual states (and cities) from creating their own rules about what an HAV must have or do in order to be allowed on the road. It's one thing to have different speed limits from state to state; it's something else entirely if it's illegal for the vehicle you're in to be on the road in some states but not others. That's exactly what has happened in some states when lawmakers passed their own regulations. But despite the emphasis on making way for innovation and experimentation, make no mistake: The NHTSA is also using the development of HAVs to lobby for more regulatory authority. Buried deeper into the report, after outlining the various processes for car manufacturers to get their vehicles approved, are requests for additional authority to control the process. One of those authorities they're asking for is pre-market approval of new vehicle types and technologies. Read this section and suddenly you might hear the sound of screeching tires in your head: NHTSA adoption of a full pre-market approval approach for HAVs would entail replacing the self-certification process with at least two new statutory pr[...]

Self-Driving Cars: Half-Assed Automation Is Stupid and Dangerous

Fri, 26 Aug 2016 11:05:00 -0400

It's crazy to ride/drive in a car that you need to take control over only when it's about to crash. You may reading a map; talking on the phone; even have drifted off a bit, lulled into a dangerous complacency by the fact that the semi-automated car works just fine in most situations. Then the klaxon rings telling you to take over RIGHT NOW. Of course, you haven't been paying attention, so it will take at least a few vital seconds for you to figure out why your car's computer has panicked and summoned you to take the wheel. Good luck with that! Yet, that is just the future that a lot of automakers seem to be aiming for as they inch toward full self-driving capability. A nice article in the Washington Post describes this fork in the road toward the self-driving car future. Some manufacturers like Audi will keep adding features that allow for mostly hands-free (but not attention-free) driving on, say, limited access highways. On the other hand, Ford, teaming up with Google, aims for fully autonmous vehicles. Initially their vehicles will operate within specified areas, such as, ride hailing services in cities, but eventually they will safely roam free on America's roads and streets. With regard to the imperative of full automation, in my July article, "Will Politicians Block Our Driverless Future?," I reported: [University of Texas engineer Kara] Kockelman argues that semi-autonomous vehicles, or what NHTSA calls "limited self-driving automation," present a big safety problem. With these so-called Level 3 vehicles, drivers cede full control to the car for the most part but must be ready at all times to take over if something untoward occurs. The problem is that such semi-autonomous cars travel along safely 99 percent of the time, allowing the attention of their bored drivers to falter. In an August 2015 study NHTSA reported that depending on the on-board alert, it took some drivers as long as 17 seconds to regain manual control of the semi-autonomous car. "The radical change to full automation is important," argues Kockelman. "Level 3 is too dangerous. We have to jump over that to Level 4 full automation, and most manufacturers don't want to do that. They want protection; they want baby steps; they want special corridors; they won't get that." Consequently the first law of the robocar revolution, according to [former Google consultant Brad] Templeton, is "that you don't change the infrastructure." Whatever functionality is needed to drive safely should be on board each individual vehicle. "Just tell the software people that this is the road you have to drive on and let them figure it out," Templeton says. "Everything you must do is in software or you lose." Some self-driving shuttles confined to specific areas—airports, pedestrian malls, college campuses—will be deployed, but they are not the future of this technology. In other news, Uber announced that it will begin deploying a fleet of 100 self-driving Volvos on the streets of Pittsburgh next month. While the cars will drive themselves, each car will have a "chaperone" to make sure that all goes smoothly and an engineer to record what is going on. As Bloomsberg reports: In Pittsburgh, customers will request cars the normal way, via Uber's app, and will be paired with a driverless car at random. Trips will be free for the time being, rather than the standard local rate of $1.05 per mile. In the long run, [Uber CEO] Kalanick says, prices will fall so low that the per-mile cost of travel, even for long trips in rural areas, will be cheaper in a driverless Uber than in a private car. "That could be seen as a threat," says Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson. "We see it as an opportunity." In the meantime, the MIT startup NuTonomy has just launched the first ever public test of ride-hailed fully self-driving cars in Singapore. And like Uber's Pittsburgh Project, NuTonomy's cars will,[...]

From Ticketing President Grant to "Do you have it up your ass?": A short history of the traffic stop

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 16:40:00 -0400

Today, everyone understands the concept of "driving while black," or the fear that African Americans are more likely to get pulled over for minor traffic and vehicle violations, especially when they are driving in areas that are wealthy and heavily white or places that are predominantly poor and that depend on traffic fines for revenue. While black and white drivers are pulled over at similar rates for clear traffic violations, black are five times more likely to be pulled over and searched in "investigatory stops." Which puts a fine irony on the "first known traffic stop of any note" in the United States. The year was 1872, the vehicle was a horse-drawn carriage, the city was Washington, D.C., and the offenders was President Ulysses S. Grant. Even more amazingly, the officer was William West, an African American. From the Washington Star's account, as quoted in The New York Observer: "I cautioned you yesterday, Mr. President," answered the policeman, "about fast driving, and you said, sir, that it would not occur again." "Did I?" mused Grant, still with a quizzical smile on his features. "Well, I suppose I forgot it, and that I might have been going a little bit too fast this evening: but hang it officer, these animals of mine are thoroughbreds, and there is no holding them." "I am very sorry, Mr. President to have to do it, for you are the chief of the nation, and I am but a policeman. But duty is duty, sir, and I will have to place you under arrest," West replied. "All right," cried Grant, "where do you wish me to go with you?" Grant ended up forking over a $20 fine. The Observer story, written by Josh Keefe, goes on to explore how the automobile, that symbol of freedom and autonomy, has also become a major tool of surveillance and reprimand. The car, after all, gave rise to the traffic stop, the most common way in which people interact with cops: The traffic stop, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, is "the most common reason for contact with the police." The agency estimated that in 2011, "42 percent of face-to-face contacts that U.S. residents had with police" were traffic stops. The side-of-the-road summit has a long history as a flash point in battles over the use of police power. Rodney King's beating occurred after a traffic stop. The Watts riots of 1968 erupted after a confrontation at a traffic stop. So did the 1967 Newark riots. "Cars are completely transformative," said Sarah Seo, an associate professor at Iowa Law School and author of a recent paper on automobiles and policing in the Yale Law Journal. "The massive growth of police departments really happens after the mass production of automobiles," she continued.... And of course, the rise of the traffic stop also gave rise to the traffic ticket. With the traffic ticket, every traffic stop turned into a money-making opportunity. "Every little town with a main road running through it loved [the automobile], because they thought 'oh we can increase our revenue.'" explained Cotten Seiler, author of Republic of Drivers: A Cultural History of Automobility in America. Policing the roads was "always about more than public safety." Seiler said. "It was about the exercise of the various types of power: local power, racial power and also about making money." It's a fascinating little story, well-written and full of odd historical tidbits such as the opening anecdote about Grant and Officer West. Given the large role traffic stops (and their cousin, automated traffic tickets via red-light cameras) have played in increasing tensions between minorities and police over the past few years, it's well worth a read. Related video about the ultimate traffic-stop nightmare: "Do you have it up your ass?: Drug warriors in New Mexico go too far."  src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" wid[...]

First Self-Driving Car Death

Fri, 01 Jul 2016 06:01:00 -0400

(image) Almost two months after it happened, the Associated Press is reporting that a driver in Tesla S model car who was apparently riding it in "autopilot" mode was killed when his car crashed into a tractor trailer on a highway in Florida. The truck driver claims that the driver was "playing Harry Potter on the TV screen" at the time of the crash and driving so quickly that "he went so fast through my trailer I didn't see him." There are reasons to doubt that account, as Tesla Motors notes that it not possible to watch videos on the Model S touch screen. According to the AP, investigators believe that the car's cameras "failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky and didn't automatically activate its brakes."

The current version of Tesla's Autopilot reminds drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and remain alert at all times. This is the first known death in over 130 million miles of Tesla Autopilot operation. For reference, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety calculates that in the U.S. there are 1.08 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. As I reported in my Reason June feature article, "Will Politicians Block Our Driverlesss Future?," a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study commissioned by Google estimated in January 2016 that human-driven vehicles crash 4.2 times per million miles traveled whereas current self-driving cars crash 3.2 times per million miles, a safety record that's likely to keep improving as robocars gain more real life experience on the roads.

Demanding that self-driving vehicles be perfect in comparison to human-driven vehicles is clearly not the right standard. Better is more than good enough.

First Driverless Car Insurance Offered

Thu, 09 Jun 2016 18:31:00 -0400

(image) Automobile accidents will become rarer as self-driving vehicles take to the highways in the coming decade. Earlier this year, researchers at Virginia Tech reported that self-driving cars are already safer - they crashed 3.2 times per every million miles traveled versus 4.2 crashes per million miles traveled by conventional automobiles. Nevertheless, insurance companies have been reluctant to cover driverless vehicles so far. Does liability accrue to the owner, the manufacturer, the software supplier, etc.? The British insurance company Adrian Flux has just jumped in and is now ordering policies to cover driverless vehicles. As the press release from the company explained:

The new driverless policy has additional features over a standard car insurance policy. Customers will be covered for loss or damage in the following scenarios:

  1. If updates or security patches for things like firewalls, operating systems, electronic mapping and journey planning systems haven't been successfully installed in the vehicle within 24 hours of the owner being notified by the manufacturer or software provider, subject to an increased policy excess

  2. If there are satellite failure / outages that affect the navigation systems, or if the manufacturer's operating system or authorised software fails

  3. Where there is loss or damage caused by failing, when able, to use manual override to avoid a collision or accident in the event of operating system, navigation system or mechanical failure.

  4. For loss or damage if your car gets hacked or an attempted hack results in loss or damage.

The company evidently expects cars equipped with self-driving features to be involved in fewer accidents, so insurance rates will be correspondingly lower. Perhaps some American insurers will now be encouraged go into this line of business.

If you were a subscriber to the magazine, you'd already have been reading my cover article, "Will Politicians Block Our Driverless Future?" Just saying.

Nobody Walks in L.A.

Fri, 22 Apr 2016 06:00:00 -0400

Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles, by David Ulin, University of California Press, 152 pages, $16.95 David Ulin is nothing if not indecisive. At one point in Sidewalking, the former Los Angeles Times staffer's book about walking around L.A., he listens, "by turns sympathetic and unsympathetic," to a prelate; the prelate's church, he adds, is "both familiar and unfamiliar." A few pages later, he's contemplating a moment in his life "that could have been any moment in my life or any other." In one of his most remarkable hedges, he writes: "One of the ideas I want to argue against is a sense of Los Angeles' exceptionalism, that this city is fundamentally different than any other, although in many ways it is." He calls Park La Brea "a nonlandmark landmark." He fancies a photo montage that "reflects back to us both what we notice and what we don't." Observing another work of art, he writes: "If a piece of me can't help but be cynical, another piece is equally compelled." In Los Angeles, he declares, "order is a function of disorder, and clarity and chaos go hand in hand." Near the book's finale he poses a question that reveals nobody could have edited this book in a linear read: "Can I indulge in some Keatsian negative capability, holding two opposing ideas in my head?" As if that's the first time. Ulin's persistent endorsement of both thesis and antithesis spills off the page. Promoting his book on a Los Angeles Review of Books podcast, he tells his hosts that "I've been thinking a lot about the fact that all the clichés of Los Angeles are absolutely true. But their inverse is also absolutely true." Discussing a moderately Disneyfied shopping mall called The Grove, Ulin tells the interviewer that it "feels both like a mall and not like a mall." He concludes, "I should hate the mall, but I don't." Even sexuality is wrung through Ulin's ambivalence ringer. In the same podcast, he talks about L.A.'s flashiest cotton candy sexpot, a personality known to the locals as Angelyne. "When I first moved here, I couldn't stand her, because of her shallowness," Ulin says. "Then I kind of fell in love with her, because of her shallowness. Now I'm totally ambivalent about her." So whose shallowness is this, anyway? If there is a firm thesis to Sidewalking, it is that Los Angeles is vague and undecipherable and inspires ambivalent attitudes we are to understand as interesting because they are not interesting. The book documents how a man first dislikes where he is and later evolves into a state of nearly perfect ennui regarding it. For Ulin, what's essential to L.A. is a shrug: "Is that all there is?" Ulin's deep New York roots—which dominate the early part of the book more than Los Angeles itself does—nurture him for a mature adult life as a conflicted L.A. pedestrian. He expresses uncertainty not just about whether this trolley or that Metro line might be a good idea, but even about whether tunnels are good or bad places to be in the event of earthquakes. (They are good places, case closed.) He encounters himself on the street, the café, the sidewalk exactly as he encounters himself elsewhere: entirely irresolute. Trying to tidy it all up, he will permit himself little more than a pop-psychobabble resolution, then finally assert: "This is where I am." Yet this slim book of padded sentences has been received rapturously. The Chicago Tribune found it "thoughtful and poetic." Los Angeles Magazine named it one of "seven books you need to read." Kirkus pronounced it full of "thoughtful personal views." The Paris Review made it a staff pick, claiming in the process that Los Angeles "is the youngest of our great American cities." (L.A. was founded in 1781, 42 years before Chicago.) The Los Angeles Review of Books called it an "always[...]

EPA Putting Red Light on Amateur Car Racing

Sun, 20 Mar 2016 10:00:00 -0400

A "power grab" by the Environmental Protection Agency threatens to crash America's amateur car-racing industry without putting so much as a dent in climate change, warns the chairman of the House Space, Science and Technology Committee.

The EPA's move to regulate emissions on non-road racing vehicles contradicted agency administrator Gina McCarthy's earlier testimony that the EPA did not have authority over non-road race cars and motorcycles.

EPA officials said they are "clarifying" emissions law, yet the Clean Air Act has long exempted non-road vehicles used in competition. The agency has not made a similar move against NASCAR or other professional race circuits.

"The EPA cannot assume powers that Congress hasn't given," Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said at an Oversight Subcommittee hearing Tuesday. Smith accused the agency of "unlawful regulation (conducted) without proper notice."

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), introduced a bipartisan bill, HR 4715, to block the EPA's action. Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar is among the co-sponsors.

"The federal government has no place testing emissions at private tracks," McHenry told the subcommittee.

Smith said the "unlawful" regulations "do nothing for health, climate change or the economy" and "could result in billions of dollars in enforcement penalties and significant job losses."

"EPA's actions show that the agency acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner, in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act because the agency failed to give proper notice to the stakeholders that would be affected by this provision," he charged.

Smith said the agency's "backdoor power grab (was) buried in medium- and heavy-duty truck regulations."

Amateur racing interests complained they were ambushed.

"In the table of contents for the 629-page rule, there was no reference to 'Competition Use Engines/Vehicles' or any similar heading," said Christopher Kersting, president and CEO of the Specialty Equipment Market Association.

A petition drive in opposition to the EPA rule collected 100,000 signatures within 24 hours.

The amateur racing industry employs an estimated 1 million people, with direct and indirect sales surpassing $6 billion annually.

This article originally appeared at

FBI Warns About Car Hacking. Encryption Security Helps Prevent That.

Fri, 18 Mar 2016 16:00:00 -0400

(image) While FBI prepares for a court hearing next week to try to force Apple to help it break into the work phone of San Bernardino, California, terrorist Syed Farook, the agency also wants you to pay attention to your cybersecurity to protect yourself from hackers attempting to commandeer your car.

This somewhat schizophrenic argument (all tech experts seem to agree that what the FBI is asking for in San Bernardino would weaken everybody's data security) is a result of increasing concerns that our highly computerized automobiles are susceptible to hackers. As we approach a future of self-driving automobiles, it is obviously a risk that cannot be ignored. Wired last year famously had a couple of guys hack into and shut down the transmission of a vehicle while it was traveling down the highway.

So the FBI, the Department of Transportation, and the National Highway Transportation and Security Association have put out a press release and resource page warning consumers about how important cybersecurity is for your vehicles.

Wired takes note of the irony of the FBI calling for careful protection on security and access to digital tools on the one hand while going to the courts to mandate the opposite:

The announcement also notes that drivers should be careful about offering physical access to their vehicles to strangers. "In much the same way as you would not leave your personal computer or smartphone unlocked, in an unsecure location, or with someone you don't trust, it is important that you maintain awareness of those who may have access to your vehicle," the announcement reads. (If only the FBI felt quite so strongly about keeping intruders out of your iPhone.) [Emphasis added]

Mind you, the government is insisting on arguing that ordering that Apple help make a single phone more vulnerable to hacking is an isolated request that cannot possibly get out of hand. But that seems to be an argument presented solely by government representatives. Everybody in the tech industry seems to be lining up behind Apple.

Read more about car hacking here.

Who's Afraid of Self-Driving Cars? 75 Percent of Americans, Says Poll

Mon, 07 Mar 2016 12:31:00 -0500

(image) A recent projection by Business Insider predicts that as many 10 million self-driving vehicles will be on the highways by 2020. I personally think that that estimate is too low. However, a recent poll by the American Automobile Association finds that most Americans are leery of autonomous vehicles. The AAA polled 1,800 Americans about their attitudes toward self-driving cars and found that 75 percent are not yet ready to trust the driving to robots. On the other hand, most drivers did say that they would like their next cars to be equipped with semi-autonomous features such as lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and self-parking technology. Interestingly, more women (81 percent) than men (67 percent) were afraid of allowing an autonomous vehicle to drive itself with them in it. Baby boomers (82 percent) were more afraid of self-driving vehicles than younger generations (69 percent).

The results of this poll were released during the same week that Google reported that one of its self-driving vehicles was partially at fault in a run-in with a public transit bus. This was the first accident in six years in which one of the company's robot cars was at fault. The car's computer evidently believed that the bus would yield the right-of-way as it negotiated its way around some sandbags in the roadway. The Google car was going all of 2 mph and the bus at 15 mph; no one was hurt in the accident. The company says that it will treat the accident as a learning experience and train future cars to realize that bus drivers can be jerks. Actually what the company said was: "From now on, our cars will more deeply understand that buses (and other large vehicles) are less likely to yield to us."

I predict that the acceptance of self-driving vehicles by the public will be one of the fastest technology uptakes in history. At first, they will be used as long-haul highway freight trucks and Uberesque taxi services in cities and expand rapidly from there.  As for me, I can't wait to be chauffeured around by self-driving vehicles while watching a video and sipping Caol Ila.

Question: Are you among the timorous or will you enthusiastically embrace the hands-free future of driving?