Ralph Nader, where are you when we really need you?
Its all very well when our tech-friendly giant Google says that their self-drive cars are safe, and the only accidents happened when human beings are behind the wheel.
However, I happen to know more than the average person about how the electronic packages; which control the braking, the parking and, most importantly, the steering; are actually manufactured, tested and supplied to car manufacturers around the world.
Imagine, if you would, a production line staffed by people who have educational achievements equal to, or more usually much less than, basic pass results at a Secondary school. Imagine also the fact that they are paid the minimum wage, with the prospect of doing a mind-numbingly boring job for the rest of their miserable working days; and then examine the following. What motivation is there to excel at their jobs? None! Where is the urge to help your employer grow, and avoid mistakes? Nowhere to be found.
So your minimum wage worker, who not only doesn’t know, but also doesn’t care; occasionally inserts, for example, a diode, a small electronic component, the wrong way round on a circuit board, without either thinking or noticing. Because of the need for speed on the product line, very few components are actually tested before your component, and probably hundreds if not thousands more like it, are sent out to major car manufacturers the world over, from Germany to China. The manufacturers’ production staff then fit these ‘safety-enhancing’ components onto their vehicles during assembly, and, again partly because of the need for speed, and partly because if the component is activated prematurely, many of the components needs to be renewed; nothing is ever tested correctly. Thousands of cars, all over the world, are then driven to dealerships and customers, all with a basic flaw already built-in to the ‘safety-enhanced’ vehicle.
And then ponder on what you get. Do you, like the GM executives, wonder if the reports coming back to General Motors about an ignition switch defect are correct, and if so; do you hide those same reports from top management? Do you hurriedly recall 2.6 million vehicles and accept total responsibility; or do you fight these lawsuits through court action until the full extent of your criminal conspiracy is unveiled? Do you, like the Japanese airbag maker Takata, which crows on its logo of ‘Love & Safety’ wait until six deaths and more than 100 injuries force the largest recall in automotive history? Or in the case of which I write, do you wait until at least ten people die because they relied on lane-following sensors, for example, to work correctly before recalling ten thousand cars fitted with components which do not work?