By on June 2, 2011

AutoNation boss Mike Jackson has long been the front runner to inherit Bob Lutz’s mantle as the most opinionated guy in the car business, and recently he’s been moving to lock up the distinction. Jackson recently gave the world the concept of the gas price “freak-out point” as well as delivering memorable quips on “green car” demand (while calling for higher gas prices), and has been outspoken about the industry’s struggles with “push” production, oversupply, fleet dependence and more. And now he’s laid out what may very well be the basis for a solid “car guy consensus” for political progress on safety issues. Autoobserver reports:

The main points of Jackson’s outline to improve road safety: 1) Make text-messaging illegal – and since that’s unlikely to make much difference, install technology to block text messages in moving vehicles; 2) Raise the gasoline tax to fund safety-enhancing and congestion-reducing traffic-management technology, including intelligent road signals and total automation of toll collection; 3) Get serious about lane discipline by restricting trucks to right-hand lanes and passing only in the left lane.

Can I get an “Amen”? Politics are one of the most divisive issues in American life, and TTAC struggles with the inevitable polarization caused by political topics every day… so hats off to Jackson for solidifying a non-partisan agenda that all (or at least most) car guys can get behind.

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43 Comments on “The Politics Of Car: Has Mike Jackson Defined The Car Guy Consensus?...”


  • avatar
    Syke

    Step one toward lessening (admittedly, not completely eliminating) texting and other forms of distracted driving: Make automatic transmission illegal, and crush all cars currently equipped with them. With everybody forced to drive (or for that matter, learn to drive) a manual, the amount of effort needed to actually drive a car will make sure the driver doesn’t have much time to text, eat, play games, etc.

    While you’re at it, make cup holders illegal, too.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Yep, I never made a phone call from my Formula Firebird with its manual transmission. It was so complicated, I couldn’t even use the radio while driving.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      Ummm, I think you should work on increasing your driving skills.

      Do you really think people can’t text or call while driving a manual?

  • avatar
    Syke

    Jackson’s point #1 is easy to implement: An RF jammer under the hood with a range of, say, 15 meters; that comes one as soon as the ignition is started. Want to use your phone? Pull over and turn the engine off. Simple.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Does a lot for the passengers in the car at the same time as well.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      That would also affect the passengers. And people who need to call 911.

      And as much as everyone here hates this fact, the knowledge of how to use a manual transmission is all but dead in the US. The writing is on the wall: the real “solution” to distracted driving is going to be having GLaDOS just drive the damn car for you.

  • avatar
    Jedchev

    I have the utmost respect for you, Edward, but why is it considered “good” to raise gas prices? Unless you want to return the love and care for automobiles back to the rich, as it was in the late 1800′s, gas should be cheap and flow plentifully.

    Maybe I’m too much of a libertarian populist, but I don’t like any of the ends in point 2. I don’t want to enhance safety (unless it’s in the form of a more exacting road test) and I certainly don’t want to reduce congestion. Look at Detroit, and you can (sadly) see that there’s very little congestion. I opt for a messy, congested, society with lots of freedoms.

    If someone wants to build a car in their garage and sell it for $2000, excluding airbags, traction control and other electronic nannies, I say let them. The DOT should be abolished, a point made relentlessly by the actions of Mr. LaHood. The buyer should have to beware and not be able to sue.

    • 0 avatar
      Sundowner

      You’re not a libertarian populist, you’re an aspiring freeloader, as are all who preach lower gas tax. Gas tax pays to maintain and upgrade your entire infastructure system. You just want bright shiny roads without paying for them. A freking Prius pays about $0.01 PER MILE to use a road. Is that fair?

      A true libertarian would say no, jack the gas tax, becuase it’s one of the precious few taxes that you have the liberty to not pay (or pay less of) by using a more fuel efficient vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        “A freking Prius pays about $0.01 PER MILE to use a road. Is that fair?”

        Probably. A Prius weighs, what, 3000 lbs? An Expedition is 5600 or so. Road wear goes up with the fourth power of axle weight; a heavier 2-axle vehicle will cause significantly more costs in road maintenance than a lighter one.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        You don’t even know what a libertarian is, you think you know but you don’t. A true libertarian is against regressive taxes and the gas tax is one of th emost regressive htere is.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        A true libertarian would own a horse (or at least a dune buggy) and eschew collectivist nonsense like roads and so forth.

        The truth is that a true libertarian is as nonsensical a notion as a true communist. Both ideals utterly fail to take into account things like “human nature” and “the real world”.

        I’d be fine with eliminating gas taxes if it also meant eliminating the subsidies for and re-internalizing the costs of energy extraction and production.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Horses (and riders) benefit from paved – or at least graded – roads. Fields and unimproved areas contain holes or uneven terrain that can, at best, make the ride very bumpy, or, at worst, cause a horse to break a leg. That is why there was a push to build roads even in colonial America.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Ok, sounds fair to me if you agree to end all government spending on anything other than defense and drill for oil here wherever it is found.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Ok, fine. But “defense” in this case means no expeditionary forces. Militia only, not regulars.

      • 0 avatar
        Acubra

        Second MikeAR.

        Also, why would anyone consider raising taxes before scrutinizing how effectively they are spent?! The way government spends now, it’s like suggesting to lend more to a gambling addict.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I wonder what Mr. Jackson thinks about Chrysler’s Motor Village L.A…

    Anyway, I’ll just point out some potential speed bumps in his outline, while taking exception to the notion that it’s “non-partisan” –

    1. It’s all well and good to propose “installing technology to block text messages in moving vehicles”, but that is a political and practical can of worms on a slippery slope, and I haven’t seen any realistic methods for making it happen, how it would affect the booming cartainment industry led by SYNC; who if anyone would be exempt (e.g., emergency vehicle drivers), etc.

    I’m all for drastic increases in fines for texting, as well as sending repeat offenders back to driver’s ed for mandatory remedial training, and/or tearing up their licenses if they still don’t get the point. This is far more doable than the electronic route.

    2. Raising the gasoline tax would be, in effect, raising taxes, which is a non-starter for a good chunk of American voters. If it proves unpopular, politians won’t press it.

    3. Funding “safety-enhancing and congestion-reducing traffic-management technology” will be difficult without those taxes, but as there’s hardly any state or local cash to maintain existing, deteriorating infrastructure, adding hi-tech bells and whistles won’t be a priority even if there was cash.

    4. Getting rid of human toll collectors is also, I’m afraid, a partisan issue. Those humans aren’t going anywhere as long as they have a union in a state where unions have power. They fought long and hard for their wages and benefits, and won’t simply step aside for the sake of efficiency/progress.

    5. One thing I think we can all agree on (unless there are truck drivers or slowpokes present) is keeping those hulking, freight-hauling, half-blind beasts as far to the right as possible, and keeping slowpokes out of the left lane, on pain of severe fines or the previously-discussed mandatory remedial driver training.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      those hulking, freight-hauling, half-blind beasts are what the interstate is for. Cars are just free loaders on it (thought it is their tax dollars that pay for it)

  • avatar
    sco

    Amen and hallelujah Ed! But (sigh) jamming texting will never fly with libertarians, teenagers, busy moms and sales people and dont think they wont figure out how to remove the blocking mechanism. Raise the gasoline tax – dead dead dead on arrival. And Americans for the life of me cannot figure out how to stay in the right lane until passing, they will line up for miles in the left hand lane to make a reservation to pass. Driving in the right lane is almost unamerican. But I’m with you Mike Jackson, dead on.

  • avatar
    M 1

    No amens from this corner.

    “install technology to block text messages in moving vehicles”

    Spoken like somebody who doesn’t have the slightest idea how this actually works. My business partner and I drive to lunch together daily. The passenger is often conducting business by phone, text, and e-mail.

    “raise the gasoline tax”

    “Intelligent” road signals and automated toll collection are already available. Welcome to the future!

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    I like everything but the trucks rule; on the open road rigs have better lane discipline than anyone else. Maybe change that bit to ensure trucks can move at the same speed limit as the rest of traffic. Most left lane trouble is some oblivious soul using their cruise control to inch past a line of trucks.

  • avatar
    MikeAR

    Interesting ideas from a man who is driven most everywhere he goes, who has a company vehicle and who doesn’t buy his own gas. I’m guessing on these things but I bet I’m right. Again I don’t know what he makes but a sharp increase in the gas tax won’t hurt him at all. He is a pig at the trough who doesn’t respect his customers. I would never buy from AutoNation after reading this.

  • avatar
    turbosaab

    No “amen” from me. More laws and more taxes are the last thing we gearheads need.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Agreed.

      It’s easy to agree with tax hikes when they’re sold as doing some good deed. Forget it. I don’t need more of a nanny state, I need less.

      Road taxes ought to – and already do in part – come from income taxes and/or tolls as part of the collective support for infrastructure. Taxing fuel is a moving target due to consumption changes and should be eliminated. For example, the Pennsylvania Turnpike has existed for 71 years on tolls alone – no taxes have paid for it.

  • avatar

    What if the FCC made it legal for citizens to build, install, and operate their own limited range RF broadcasting devices in their vehicles?

    Rather than another scarcely enforceable mandate, just introduce a sort of rogue agent to the mix. Now text messages and calls will randomly drop or not go through, making it not worth even trying.

    The trick, it seems, would be countering the initial increase in distracted driver “accidents,” as mindless vehicle operators try to deal with error messages while texting/talking and driving. There might also be issues in the city, where cars and pedestrians are in close proximity.

    Still, 50 times more people die each year because of distracted driving than we alleged in the whole Toyota thing. Shame more isn’t being done about it.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    This topic always brings out the politic wonks, left and right. Any postings about hybrids, electric cars, gas prices, bailouts ad nauseum seems to always degenerate into “he said she said” political diatribes. Occasionally amusing, usually boring.

  • avatar
    wsn

    From a technical perspective, it’s not that hard.

    1) Cell phones have (or can easily be fitted with) GPS. So the cell carrier does have data about a caller’s exact location at any time. Police should have authority to extract that to enforce traffic laws.

    2) It easy to identify those talking in a car. Such as the cell location moved more than 1/4 mile in the past minute (normally people don’t run that fast, especially while talking).

    3) With the GPS info, it’s easy to identify which highway the car is on.

    4) Possible to know which cell in which car, by doing a cell user name search in the DMV database.

    5) Station police at major highway/intersection. Pull over cars that:
    a – has a driver only
    b – been flagged to have a talking cell while moving (using the above process)

    See, it’s not rocket science. Just some smart programming. No extra hardware nanny needed.

    Of course, it won’t catch all the offenders. Those not on a major highway with police stationing can’t be caught. Those with at least a passenger won’t be caught. Still, if 50% are caught, it’s still a problem 50% solved.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      1) Cell phones fitted with GPS only actually use that GPS when requested, because the GPS radio consumes a significant amount of battery.

      2) The carrier only has access to the GPS data when the phone gives it to them. I’m sure you’d squawk if your car was fitted with a GPS tracker at all times, reporting your precise location to some external entity, yes? Perhaps you can assume that some of us might want to be able to use a phone without having our location tracked to some 1m accuracy at all times?

      3) You’re proposing an amount of coordination between private cellphone carriers and local law enforcement that is both impractical and not necessarily desirable.

      3.5) You’re also proposing a level of software integration that’s a bit higher than what the industry generally produces.

      4) State legislators generally do not want to ban cellphone use while driving, at least not in any enforceable way, because they generally do it themselves. In this case, they want to give the appearance of solving a problem without the actual fact of it. In Maryland, for instance, cellphone use while driving is a “secondary offense”, meaning you cannot be pulled over for doing it, they can only tack it on to a different traffic stop. The entire concept of a “secondary offense” doesn’t really make any sense to me, but whatever.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        1) Simple. No GPS polling in idle state. Poll once at call start, and then use a progressive predicting algorithm. Likely to pull no more than 3 times over the entire 20 minute call.

        2) I have stated “from a technical perspective”.

        3) See 2.

        3.5) Far feasible than the “jamming” solution.

        4) See 2.

        All I suggested is a solution that doesn’t require any additional hardware infrastructure, that doesn’t prevent any person from using a cell in a moving car, and that is totally transparent to the cell user. As for the politics side, it’s a separate debate.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    I’m against blocking devices for texting, but agree that there should be a uniform set of laws against texting while driving and harsher penalties.

    As for the gasoline tax, I believe we’re slitting our throats by keeping it so low. I’m an advocate of raising the gasoline tax WITHIN REASON and would gladly pay an additional $.15/gallon if that would help fix the craptastic roads in my area.

  • avatar
    Bob12

    “install technology to block text messages in moving vehicles”

    Not unless it permits messages from emergency notification systems to get through.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Not only is there no real way for a jammer (in a vehicle or otherwise) to distinguish between emergency and non-emergency SMS messages, there’s also no real way for it to distinguish between SMS and phone calls.

      And I kinda like that idea that maybe somebody will call 911 if they see me wrecked on the side of the road.

      I love how any and all passengers of the car are just casually dismissed as collateral damage, too.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    One of the more laughable moments at Myrtle Beach is watching one guy riding on a scooter with no helmet, one hand holding the handle bars, and texting on his cell phone while weaving back and forth.

    Then the poor fellow tries to put his cell phone in his jacket which is flopping on the rear of the scooter. The cell phonesdrops out of the jacket, and as it does he gives the supposedly 50cc a nice burst of speed into 50+ mph.

    Looks like he did the age old 70 cc conversion on the little bike. Hopefully he won’t have a shorter life than the scooter’s engine. But given his current habits… I’m thinking Darwin may soon pay him a visit.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    Okay, look. It really doesn’t matter if you think that raising the gas tax would be a good idea or a bad idea. It ain’t gonna happen. The biggest thing that voters are upset about right now is high fuel prices. A politician who starts running on the platform of “hey, you know these gas prices? I’m gonna directly make them higher!” is not going to get votes. Really, that politician will probably get publicly pelted with rotten vegetables like Herbert Hoover was. Given the current political climate, I wouldn’t be too surprised if the federal fuel tax went away entirely within the next few years. (Quickly followed, of course, by everyone in Congress standing around asking each other “herp derp, where’d all the money for highway maintenance go?”) This is basically a non-debate on the political stage right now.

  • avatar
    jjf

    The editor of a site catering to car enthusiasts is cheering on yet more slippy slope regulation for drivers in the name of “safety?” I wonder what “The Newspaper” would have to say. What happens when our legislators figure out how to use photo ticket cameras to enforce theses texting laws?

    “Safety” is the call used to push everything from photo ticketing machines, more required obnoxious car seats, and whatever else the interests who bribe our legislatures are after.

    I appreciate seat-belts, helmets, anti-lock brakes, airbags, and safety as much as anyone, but I think many regulations are designed to pick our pockets in the name of “safety”, “the children”, etc.

    I’m tired of living in a society where monied interests manipulate partisan hacks and irresponsible people to further enrich themselves.

    GLaDOS can’t get here soon enough.

  • avatar

    Call me not convinced.

    At 1) Why not making Bluetooth mandatory? Both on the car and the mobile side?

    At 2) ROFL. In Germany, they have had top gas prices for decennials. Do you really believe that the government there has invested anything in smart traffic management? Dream on. They do have invested, however, in the infrastructure of automated toll collection, using it on trucks as an introductory measure on the Autobahn. Now that the ticketing infrastructure is there (and they are still out of money) they now feverishly try to expand this scheme to include all kind of traffic, not only at Autobahns. So, sooner or later you will have both: high gas prices plus mileage-dependent automatic toll collection.

    At 3) Lane discipline: As long, as there are no fully automatic means to enforce this discipline, government will stick to the proven, fully automatic technology of ticketing speeders.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Speed limits and passing lanes are diametrically opposed. Enjoy the neverending argument!

  • avatar
    manu06

    We should raise the tax on imported oil but lower the FICA to compensate.
    This would encourage conservation, put less wear and tear on the roads,
    and possibly put more money in a workers pocket.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    If we are putting techno-nannies in for texting and toll-collecting anyways, we might as well go pay-per-mile to raise the funds instead of a gas tax. I’d honestly just be happy with lane discipline, seeing a left-lane bandit get pulled-over would be the happiest day of my motoring life.

  • avatar
    Morea

    Raise the gasoline tax to fund safety-enhancing and congestion-reducing traffic-management technology, including intelligent road signals and total automation of toll collection

    This is naive to say the least. The money will quickly be siphoned off to pay for other wholly unrelated purposes. Just like bridge tolls are claimed to be for maintaining bridges, yet nine times out of ten the vary same bridge you are paying to go over clearly needs repairs.


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