No. 881
January 25, 2017

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Revenge of the Spineless PR Weasels!

Loved your skewering of the legion of Spineless PR Weasels in this week's column. Unfortunately, they have you outnumbered. I'm afraid they'll kidnap you, lock you away in the automotive catacombs under the city, and force you to write syrupy press releases extolling the virtues of Hack Daddy executives for the rest of your dying days.

Oh well, it was a good run while it lasted.

Detroit, Michigan


Thanks, Major Tom.

Thanks for the incredible article by Tom Bartkiewicz. No political leanings, just facts and thoughts about over automation and the dangers that lurk because of it. Is our time so limited and precious that we can't put down our devices for the time it takes to get from here to there safely? Can we not put as much money into not allowing drunk or high folks from starting their vehicles as we are putting into autonomous driving? I see some limited appeal for autonomous driving like for taxi services (including Uber etc.), but for the rest of it I see many of the dangers that Tom talks about in his piece. Have “they” thought about who will service these vehicles to make sure the autonomous part is working right when they get 5-years old and older? Can't trust the owners, look at the state of the current fleet of vehicles in this country. Many people put nothing or as little as possible into maintaining their vehicles. I don't know about others but this whole thing scares the crap out of me.

Elliott G.
Budd lake, New Jersey

The End of Progress.

So I'm not the only one wondering if where we're going with electronic nannies and autonomous driving is taking us to a place where cars are so safe they're more dangerous than ever.

Charlie Mitchell
Burgettstown, Pennsylvania

Train the drivers first.

I recall an interview after the “Miracle on the Hudson” on which the movie Sully is based. The pilot being interviewed said, airplanes can fly themselves. The only reason there are still pilots is that every possible emergency situation cannot be programmed into the computers. Clearly, pilots are much better trained than drivers. Perhaps improved driver training and some type of ongoing driver testing is in order. Costly, yes. But I think it will be cheaper than spending billions on automating cars.

Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Gimmicks 'R Us.

NASCAR sets sports record by “jumping the shark” for the third time in 15 years.

Kevin Kelly
St. Louis, Missouri

Autonomous Nirvana? Be careful what you wish for.

I concur with the previous comments about the great article by Tom Bartkiewicz and the fact that having autonomous cars on the road is scary as hell. I ride a motorcycle and if a Tesla in so called self-driving mode couldn't detect a semi turning in front of it what chance do we bikers have. Scary indeed!

As far as losing masters like Mau Piailug and entering Jane Jacobs' dark age of great forgetting with its loss of skills and understanding, a great read is Kurt Vonenegut's 1952 novel Player Piano. It is summarized on Wikipedia which says “it depicts a dystopia of automation, describing the worsening it can cause to quality of life”. Pretty much like today. Vonnegut had a remarkable crystal ball.

John Davis
Novato, California

Major Tom, Part II.

With all due respect and acknowledgement of the excellent missives Peter & Co. have presented over the years, I have to say that Mr. Bartkiewicz’ submission is one of the best articles I’ve read on this site. What a fantastic and necessary exploration of things I suspect many of us know and feel but can’t quite summarize so well.

Tony Lucio
Frankfort, Kentucky

The NASCAR Follies.

NASCAR tweaks the series with Saturday night style heats! In theory, it sounds good. But this convoluted points reward system? The average fan will not give one shit how it works. The problem is a crap product on the track, too many races and boring cars. Fucking with the points system AGAIN and creating heats is just going to further alienate the racing supporters that are left. To see Jeff Gordon, Dale (I am not my father) Earnhardt Jr., Brad Kesolowski and Denny Hamlin along with Jeff Burton, shill this absolute crap in a media event last night was enough to make me throw out every autographed piece of memorabilia, die cast and anything associated with this bullshit series. Bill France is rolling in his grave. So is his father. Brian is a fucking moron. Amen.

Peter B.
Pembroke, Massachusetts

Same as it ever was, No. 417.

So NASCAR has invented “heat racing” for the 21st century snowflake generation, where no one is truly eliminated and everyone gets a 2nd or even 3rd chance! If they held honest-to-God heat races, it would generate tons of renewed interest, but creates problems that NASCAR cannot accept:

1. Drivers and cars would only be on the track for their qualifying heat and the final heat if they make it.

2. Too many drivers and cars would not be on the track at the end of the race. It's all about getting as much camera and commentator exposure for the sponsors, ya know.

Sunbury, Ohio

Another great week of AE.

Outstanding column about PR!!!!! History lesson much appreciated. And The End of Progress, by Major Tom - what an eye opener. I just wish all the people in AR-VR and UR (unreal reality) would read the article. That's if they could take the shoe box off their heads that is taking the place of their brains. Thanks again for all your effort in reporting different stuff that matters to true auto enthusiasts.

Dan C.
Cleveland, Ohio