Brave new automotive world


I’ve just attended a debate organised by CLEPA, the European Association of Automotive suppliers, and I’ve seen the brave new world to which we seem to be heading.  The event took place in the Representation of the Free State of Bavaria, a rather fine building just across from the Brussels parliament.  The German lande mostly have representation offices – in effect, minor embassies – here in Brussels.

There is a plethora of automotive systems with impressive names, from ESC (electronic stability control ) widely available at the moment, to intelligent speed adaptation; advanced emergency braking; lane support; highway piloting; and electronic collision avoidance.  Your 2020 vehicle may not just have parking sensors.  It will be looking forward, backward and sideways, and its systems will be watching like a hawk to take over control of your vehicle in a millisecond if they detect danger (or think they do).

We read a lot about fully automated driving, where the driver can go to sleep or watch a movie during the journey.  And maybe we think of it as a big bang technology, that arrives all in one go.  The industry sees it rather differently – as a series of new technologies phased in over time, each taking over a little more of the driving function, each allowing the driver less engagement and less autonomy, until at last fully automated driving arrives as the last stage of an evolutionary process, rather than a big bang.

So far so good.  They say that this could save thousands of lives every year in Europe, and significantly reduce the frequency and severity of collisions, so I suppose we should all welcome it.  Yes but…..

For those of us who still regard driving as a skill and a pleasure, we see the prison doors closing around us.  In these new connected, interactive vehicles, information is potentially available to manufacturers, to insurers, to the police.  Privacy is lost.

The industry insists that data protection will apply, so you’ll be able to control who gets this information – but for how long?  Already some cars are coming with systems capable of communicating with manufacturers.  You don’t have to agree to the information being passed on – but some manufacturers’ services will be limited in the case of owners who don’t agree.

But insurance is the big problem.  Of course you’ll be able to deny your insurer the information about your driving (and some of us brake harder, accelerate harder and corner harder than many insurers would like).  But how long before the insurers start denying cover to those who choose not to share the information?  Or demand exorbitant premiums from those who exercise their right to privacy?

I’m afraid I see no stopping this process.  In this brave new world of surveillance, Big Brother will be watching you all the time.

On another subject, I think someone needs to mention to the Free State of Bavaria that you can’t be a Free State while you’re also a German land.  Nor can you be a Free State within the European Union – a point which someone might also mention to Alex Salmond.

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42 Responses to Brave new automotive world

  1. Peter Palmer says:

    And then, of course, somebody will hack the systems – not just the data but, as a form of terrorism, control of the vehicles themselves.
    Surely a better solution to road safety problems lies with licencing and educating drivers properly.
    If we controlled our borders and, thus, our population, we would be limiting the growth in numbers on the road. Perhaps immigration controls would become a road safety boost?

  2. David H. Walker says:

    On the west side of the pond our driving population has become a mass of absolute idiots, so in some ways this could be a good thing. Frankly I’m tired of not being able to assume the clowns in front, beside or behind me has a semblance of how to drive. They don’t give a damn, and they demonstrate their contempt with every moment and movement.

    However, I do enjoy driving for pleasure on the old backroads, and a car that even partially removes me from the process seems odd. These new numb machines aren’t nearly as much fun as my ’25 T hot rod, or ’20 T Rajo racer. There’s nothing quite like bouncing down a pug road in a hundred year-old car.

  3. patriot says:

    Of course these vehicles will be mostly made in Germany and France.
    Of course the `safety features` will be added in stages, ie buy a new car if you want the latest feature.
    Of course they will most likely be electric, powered by lithium iron batteries waiting to catch fire or explode at the first opportunity.
    It`s like climate change, a big earner for foreign manufacturers. certainly not British ones.

    • George Morley says:

      Hi patriot,
      You have said what I was going to say and of course bring these new goodies in on the drip making last years model old hat. So Mr Jones puts his hand in his pocket again and Mr Smith just has to copy. All about cash of course but I must say that there are great new features in modern cars and I especially like the rear camera idea for reversing but let’s not do away with driving Eh ?

    • catalanbrian says:

      Yes they are all foreign, but that is because we sold most of our motor industry to those foreigners. The rest just made crappy cars so could not sell them and went bust. The the big problem with British industry generally has been and continues to be a lack of vision and a lack of investment.

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        Ford/Vauxhall that rusted faster than you could get to a scrap yard. Workmanship crap, unions crap and management somewhere else? So instead of turning it around Rover screws off BMW. Halewood deserved what it got according to my scouse mates.The rest is in Rust Moth History.

        It was Dr Demming (USA) who taught the Japanese about quality, only for them to loose the whole plot having well succeed on everything. Sony for one is a mess! Japanese Nukes ain’t too good either?

        British industry survives well around Birmingham in the shape of small firms in support of anybody. Thats people who know what they are doing. However, the Chinese have to starve their nation to take over world trade. Not necessarily quality either.

        I think VW USA has just met the american unions….Tallahassee. That must be a real put down for VW.

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        If you had watched Top Gear on Dave at 17:00 today where Clarkson paraded everything made in UK (near Buck Palace) as regards vehicles you would have been fairly astonished. So the dross is made everywhere else largely….for the plebs.

    • patriot says:

      There has just been a news report that a childs Superman costume which contains a battery as part of the effects , probably a lithium ion one, which has exploded! I don`t fancy sitting on a bomb in my all electric car!

  4. Jane Davies says:

    Soon it will be the human race who will be the automatons, unable to think or do anything ourselves. Then the masses can really blame something else for any mis-hap that befalls them. “Wasn’t my fault officer, I am not in control of the vehicle!” Future generations will be saying “You mean you actually DROVE the car Grandma? And you had to avoid crashing into things yourself?”
    Move over Deptford wives there are masses of future men and women who are going to join you!

    • Jane Davies says:

      Of course I meant Stepford wives….or maybe I really meant the London version!

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        Deptford was a place I wouldn’t go in the 50s…nor would I now or in between. I have a bolt hole on the Greenwich/Kent border where I occasionally stay and… polish my Buntlines. Thats polish in the context of clean.

  5. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Yes well…I’ll just watch while I build a replica AC Cobra with twin 50 Cal.

    Just watch for the indeterminism to kick in and a car ahead to stop dead in front…please sir I saw nothing in advance to give me a clue? The proximity of all this stuff is too close, unless its on single walled lanes or rails. And those dodgy cats/dogs/squirrels doing a sudden leap from the front/side.

    So when one of these things suddenly stops you’d expect every other car to stop in time….. or not? Loads of uploading/downloading and mass inspection of Controller logs and somebodies insurance gets a big hit. Ah but!

    You can propose/implement these things but at the User interface watch out. The nut at the end of the wheel might get replaced, and for what..a battery and some software/firmware.

    The subject also moves into the area of Safety Critical software…not too unlike aircraft. Cost = Large. I’m just wondering if thats already in drive by wire? Perhaps not yet.

    They were good at software (NOT) for those with prestigious cars. Keyless stuff suddenly became open systems. Thats a standard actually but not in this context.

    And then there’s the spendy/rare earth battery technology that it all hinges on.

  6. Mike Stallard says:

    Do you know what? I welcome this.
    Last Wednesday evening I was in a taxi. The driver – a professional, experienced driver – only just missed a serious collision on a roundabout. It would be so nice if I could depend on not hitting someone when changing lanes. It was lovely to use the cruise control in USA.
    I welcome change.

    • Jane Davies says:

      And we all know we can’t use cruise control when the road is wet….don’t we?

    • catalanbrian says:

      I agree with you. This is a move forward, and if the data collection software records driving infractions thereby ensuring that those who break the law are punished all the better. Clearly Mr Helmer is quite happy with breaking the law by driving dangerously and clearly he is content with people lying to their insurers but this is not the way to behave in a civilised society.

      • Brin Jenkins says:

        Clearly? explain yourself on this please. I see a big jump in between cruise control and Roger being happy with law breaking?

      • Roger Helmer MEP says:

        Dear Brian,

        I have been driving for 50+ years and have driven an estimated million miles, in many countries. I have never had a significant accident, or one involving personal injury (touch wood). Tell me I break the speed limit — OK. Tell me I’m dangerous, and you’re wrong. Just plain wrong. I believe the average driver has an accident every 12,000 miles.

    • Alan Wheatley says:

      Mike, “professional” may mean a certain standard of driving was demonstrated in limited circumstances once upon a time.

      “Experienced” can mean bad habits and technique are well entrenched. Some can learn and improve from experience, others don’t even know an “experience” has happened!

  7. Ian Terry says:

    There is nothing like the Black Dog Syndrome to sell an idea and the product.

    If you have a black one I have a bigger bas***d

    Taken to the limit I can just imagine a F1 race with no drivers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    What will be left for the population?

    Sit and watch the turbines twirl?

    How sad is that?

  8. Alan Wheatley says:

    I agree with the approach where by new technology is progressively phased in. I agree that eventually fully automated driving will become a practical reality, but my prediction is that this will not happen in my lifetime – I am 67.

    I am confident in my prediction because I know a lot about computers AND I know a lot about driving, not just “how” to drive but about the large number of complex and interrelated issues that arise in the driving process. What I see is the technology being driven by people who know a lot about technology but little about the driving process. The associated legislation we can expect to see are run by people who know little about both!

    I am sad to say I expect there will be many injuries and deaths as we travel along this evolutionary process. This should not and need not happen, but in all that I have heard and read I have come across nothing to give me any confidence that all will be well.

  9. Richard111 says:

    I’m not impressed with the future of motoring. Blasted computer in my car is constantly giving alarms. Luckily most don’t bring the car to a stop as has happened twice already. Goes into the shop at least twice a year for computer checks. I’ll be making a booking today. 😦

  10. Maureen Gannon says:

    Not being a driver the first part of the post held little interest for me . however , when I reached the last paragraph I gave an ironic smile . quote Free state of Bavaria , that you can’t be a free state while your also German land , Does this also apply to England ? it’s pretty obvious why England has been refused parity with the other nations of the UK , and why the gulliable are now being told that the best course for the English, is for the EU to hand people back the power by having regions . failing to say that in effect England will be wiped off the map and we will become European Regions , Hitler must be rubbing his hands in has even been decided that South east of ENGLAND will become a region joined with a region of France and Calais will be it’s Capital city,

  11. Maureen Gannon says:

    I should add WHY has NO party explained this to the English people come on UKIP we need to have it made known..

    • catalanbrian says:

      UKIP won’t do anything. Most of their MEPs don’t even bother to turn up and the rest are too busy making their expenses claims and as we know now some of them are busy fiddling those expenses.

      • Brin Jenkins says:

        Please tell us your political preferences for the next five years. We can consider all the pros and cons then regarding our destruction by this Marxist experiment called the EU?

      • Brian — why keep on with the same old lie that “UKIP MEPs don’t bother to turn up”, when you must know it’s just not true? Last time I checked, UKIP MEPs had a better attendance rate than other UK MEPs. And fiddling expenses? We’ve had one MEP’s staffer accused of attempting to fiddle expenses, and the MEP concerned was immediately suspended pending a disciplinary hearing.

  12. Maureen Gannon says:

    Well at least she has been suspended while investigation takes place more than can be said about the mainstream parties where they didn’t even get the sack they still collect their pay and expences , and pontificate to the plebs on tv .on our values.

    • Jane Davies says:

      Well said Maureen…and who was that low life who tried to wriggle out of a driving infraction by saying his wife was driving at the time? I know it wasn’t a UKIP politician. He rightly ended up in clink.

      • Maureen Gannon says:

        Jane this will interest you,
        Roger and all on here just recieved in a mail , this must be exposed .

        The EU is interfering in the British general election
        Does the EU have the right to interfere in the British general election, let alone try to influence the outcome? Right now that’s a very good question because that is what it is doing.

        The EU was responsible for much of the funding of three programmes recently broadcast on two British television channels. All three attempted to demean anti-EU opinion in the UK. Two also set out specifically to undermine support for UKIP. Not their business at any time, you might think, let alone in the run-up to a general election.

        But the bureaucrats in Brussels clearly don’t care a fig about what is right and acceptable, and what is not.

        Anyone who saw the two programmes broadcast on Channel 4 earlier this month (March 2015) mocking UKIP, or the one on the BBC a week later claiming that leaving the EU would be a disaster for the UK, will know the viciousness of the scorn poured over British anti-EU opinion on prime-time television.

        Only in the small print of the closing credits was there any indication that the EU was directly behind such outrageous interference in Britain’s internal affairs at a crucial time in our democratic process.

        Channel Four’s UKIP: The First 100 Days was funded by Culture, and EU funding agency which is, and always has been, an integral part of the European Commission’s long-term financial programme to gain public support.

        As recently as last December Culture was openly advertising the provision of up to 500,000 Euros each from the EU’s bottomless pit of taxpayers’ funds to any “creative and cultural organisations” needing to fund the “co-development, co-production and programming” of new ventures.

        Of course, funding of the BBC via the EU’s Investment Bank has been known for many years. In my memoirs as an MEP (A Mote in Brussels’ Eye) I reported the admission by Margot Wallstrom, the Swedish Commissioner for Communications, finally prised out of her after years of obfuscation, that the BBC had received over 100 million Euros from the EU up to 2009.

        I have no reason today to think anything much has changed. Indeed, the EU made no attempt to hide its funding of the BBC’s The Great European Disaster Movie. The producer Annalisa Piras, a left-wing Italian journalist based in London, advises both the BBC and The Guardian on European affairs. She has worked closely with Bill Emmott, formerly editor of The Economist, on other films produced by Emmott’s Springshot Productions, as indeed was this one.

        According to the credits, funding came from a least half-a-dozen public service broadcasters in Europe. The leading financial backer was Arte, the Franco-German Euro TV Channel founded in 1991 in Strasbourg (were else?) by Helmet Kohl, Francois Mitterrand and others. They have been busy ever since peddling pro-EU rhetoric all over the continent. The BBC’s programme was merely the latest.

        Then, even more recently, Channel 5 broadcast a supposed documentary, Farage Fans and UKIP Lovers. The credits appeared to suggest this was an internal production, but the content suggested an EU finger in the pie somewhere. The programme’s research team had gone to great lengths to find a handful of truly odd-ball nutters, including an overweight nurse into bondage and self-flagellation, an arrogant old bachelor with verbal diarrhoea, a lesbian couple with four children, and a heavily tattooed toy soldier fanatic of truly weird appearance. Yes, we also heard from a London cabbie, a blind ex-serviceman, a classics graduate, and two Asian businessmen – all in the name of what producers call ‘balance’.

        But Channel 5’s purpose was obvious. Most UKIP supporters are extremists and weird-dos. Only a trawler fisherman and his crew provided any serious – and valid – contribution to UKIP’s case for leaving the EU. And they did it well. More like that and the programme might have been worth watching. Instead it was a worthless lampoon.

        So was the EU involved? Could Channel 5’s producers have resisted the EU Culture fund’s offer of half-a-million Euros to help finance a programme ridiculing UKIP? No chance. Channel 5 is a commercial channel after all. Apart from anything else, lower costs equal higher profits.

        Three major UK television channels – Channel Four, the BBC and Channel 5 – all setting out to ridicule UKIP. And the EU openly funding at least two, and probably all three of them.

        The question stands. What business is it of the EU, either directly or via one of its many funding vehicles, to seek to interfere in, let alone influence, the outcome of a general election in a sovereign state?

        Answers on a postcard please, to : Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, Brussels.

        Don’t expect an answer – not even a lying denial. The EU regards itself as above criticism and answerable to no-one.


    • Jane Davies says:

      This if true is an outrage…of course the EU don’t want UKIP to have any power or for the British taxpayers and voters to get a say in whether the UK leaves the EU sinking ship, but surely this is unlawful. Have UKIP’s lawyers seen this Roger?

  13. catalanbrian says:

    Mr Helmer, I think that you may be wrong, unless in the past year there has been a considerable change in UKIP’s voting habits. This is a newspaper (well the Daily Mail) report from last year that indicates that UKIP are way behind other voters.

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      You’re quoting five years pre the last euro-elections. The new breed are full of enthusiasm (though the rate may dip a bit in March/April/May as many are standing for Westminster). By the way, last time I checked David cameron’s voting participation rate, I seem to remember it was about 17%.

  14. George Morley says:

    Whatever party catalanbrian supports they condone discrimination by denying just 4% ( about 560,000) pensioners their rightful paid up pensions, so get off your high horse Mr negative and tell us you do as well. Nothing to be proud of there ! I am at least honest and use my actual name, not hide behind a pseudonym like those that just come and snipe.

    • catalanbrian says:

      Just listen here Mr Morley. I am on record on this blog stating that I totally disagree with the discrimination against certain pensioners, so cut out the offensive nonsense.

  15. George Morley says:

    Oh so you are a real person ? So what do you call this then – your words :-UKIP won’t do anything. Most of their MEPs don’t even bother to turn up and the rest are too busy making their expenses claims and as we know now some of them are busy fiddling those expenses.

  16. George Morley says:

    You said it -n scroll up !

    • catalanbrian says:

      Perhaps you could explain what point you are making in English rather than babble.

      • George Morley says:

        Offensive nonsense about Ukip or does’nt it apply to you and your comment below ?
        “Most of their MEPs don’t even bother to turn up and the rest are too busy making their expenses claims and as we know now some of them are busy fiddling those expenses”
        Generalising by saying most without qualification.
        Guessing about expenses & fiddling, again unsubstantiated.
        And that is offensive to Roger and I take exception to it on his behalf.
        You don’t have to comment here, go and look at your own party or would that be embarrassing for you.

  17. catalanbrian says:

    But your original point was regarding the discrimination against some pensioners in case you had forgotten

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