Episode 120: Driver Disenfranchisement in the EU

The EU thinks that some lines of code, probably shoddily written, should take precedence over how the actual driver wants to control their vehicle on the road. It’s an idiotic idea and it says a lot about the people passing these laws.

In this episode of The Private Citizen, I look at some laws that come into effect next months that mandate driving assistance systems in the EU and what these requirements say about the people writing them into law.

Please excuse the fact that I haven’t been able to release episodes as I had planned. Preparations for several trips, lots of work and the death of my grandmother have left me with no free time and an unmanageable workload in the past weeks. This is also why I didn’t record this episode live. I’m planning to release another episode before I leave on a trip and I should be back to normal weekly releases of the show in August. Thanks for the many understanding and sympathetic messages many of you have sent me in the last few weeks. They mean a lot!

Treating Car Owners Like Obstinate Kids

In episode 53 of the podcast, I previously talked about eCall, a system mandated by the EU to put a microphone in every single new car sold and connect it to a mobile data modem. I discussed what it means for privacy in your own car and how it think it us unlikely to achieve what the EU wants to achieve.

Not satisfied with greatly impacting people’s privacy in their cars, the EU has now also mandated two other systems to be put into people’s cars to treat them even less like adults. Both systems must be built into all newly designed car models that are being sold in the EU from 6 July 2022 and must be included in all new cars sold in the EU from 7 July 2024.

Black Box

The first of these systems is a black box, similar to the one used in commercial airliners, which continuously records data from many sensors in the car (like speed, acceleration, attitude and the status of all the safety systems) and saves it in case of an accident. It is meant to be used by authorities like the police in order to reconstruct accidents and charge drivers in case of serious negligence. But it is also accessible to car makers and it is conceivable that insurance companies and banks that finance car loans will also get access to this data in the future.

ISA

More egregious is the Intelligent Speed Assistant (ISA) is connected to a lot of the same sensors as the black box, but takes an active role in operating the car. It uses cameras and GPS data from the navigation system to make sure that the driver does not exceed the speed limit. If they do, ISA engages. What this system does differs with many manufacturers. With some, there is an acoustic warning, with others, there is force feedback on the wheel or the accelerator pedal. Some cars actually decrease the speed by themselves so that the driver will have to push the acceleration pedal down harder to hold the car’s speed. The only thing ISA is not allowed to do is to engage the brakes.

I see several issues with this. First of all, this EU-mandated system basically treats drivers like kids, instead of responsible adults. Secondly, the system might simply be wrong about the speed limit. That this happens quite a lot is obvious when you pay attention while driving a car with one of these systems. And that’s without even encountering the biggest danger in this context: that someone might be messing with the image recognition algorithms. And finally, mandating these kinds of systems legally in every car means that you simply can’t choose to buy a car that doesn’t have them, even if you wanted to.

All of this, in my opinion, shows that EU lawmakers don’t trust the people who vote for them to safely operate a car. Even though all of them that want to have to get a license to do so already. To me, these measures are less about what they are supposedly meant to achieve and more about establishing more control about people. Not in an evil, conspiracy theory way, but precisely because the politicians deciding these things don’t see their voters as adults. They see them as dumb kids who need to be protected for their own good.

Producer Feedback

nekr0z said on the forum, in reply to episode 118:

Looks like a separate copyright likbez episode is also needed.

Some things you’ve said while discussing the place of the copyright in the digital world reminded me of a phrase I heard once, and I feel the need to share with TPC community. The phrase was by Zakhar (“Zack”) May, Soviet/Russian/Ukrainian rock music performer (he was born in Kharkiv back when Ukraine was Soviet, emigrated to the USA during the fall of the USSR, and remained a noticeable figure in Russian rock music scene), an engineer by education, who put up one of the first web sites in Russian back when the Web was young. He was once asked in an interview why he put up all his music on his website to be downloaded for free, and whether he believed in copyright, paying for digital downloads and such. His answer was, as close as I can remember and translate: “You see, creating a copy of a file with a song requires basically no expenses. Charging money for it is thus a violation of the laws of conservation, which is much more problematic than any of the rights-copyrights stuff.”

From which we also learned what “likbez” means in Russian:

In modern Russian, “likbez on smth” is basically equivalent to “smth-101”: a short course, a booklet, or a single lecture covering the most basic things on the topic.

Historically, it was an educational programme for peasants who were supposed to join the Party, be elected into the local Soviets, and start governing their own Kolkhozs, but were mostly illiterate, thus requiring a lot of rather complex contemporary topics of economy, communist ideology, management, technics, and such to be explained to them in most simple terms. Single educational acts of the said programme (single lectures, brochures, etc.) inherited, naturally, the name “likbez”, hence the modern meaning.

What you did in TPC118 can be called (somewhat ironically, too) a likbez on NFTs. Same goes for your earlier likbez episodes (on blockchain, justice, science, etc.)

c.f.: Wikipedia article on likbez

I would also like to thank everyone for the nice feedback I got on forum when I announced that I wasn’t able to record episodes as previously planned.

If you have any thoughts on the things discussed in this or previous episodes, please join our forum and compare notes with other producers. You can also contact me in several other, more private ways.

If you are writing in from Russia, you might want to use my whistleblower contact form.

Toss a Coin to Your Podcaster

I am a freelance journalist and writer, volunteering my free time because I love digging into stories and because I love podcasting. If you want to help keep The Private Citizen on the air, consider becoming one of my Patreon supporters.

You can also support the show by sending money to via PayPal, if you prefer.

This is entirely optional. This show operates under the value-for-value model, meaning I want you to give back only what you feel this show is worth to you. If that comes down to nothing, that’s OK with me. But if you help out, it’s more likely that I’ll be able to keep doing this indefinitely.

Thanks and Credits

I’d like to credit everyone who’s helped with any aspect of this production and thus became a part of the show. I am thankful to the following people, who have supported this episode through Patreon and PayPal and thus keep this show on the air:

Georges, Steve Hoos, Rhodane the Insane, Butterbeans, Michael Small, 1i11g, Jonathan M. Hethey, Michael Mullan-Jensen, Dave, Jaroslav Lichtblau, Jackie Plage, Philip Klostermann, ikn, Sandman616, Bennett Piater, Vlad, Rizele, avis, Joe Poser, Kai Siers, Dirk Dede, Fadi Mansour, David Potter, Mika, Cam, MrAmish, Dave Umrysh, RikyM, RJ Tracey, Barry Williams, Jonathan, Rick Bragg, Captain Egghead, astralc, Robert Forster, Superuser, D, Noreply, krunkle and Florian Pigorsch.

Many thanks to my Twitch subscribers: Mike_TheDane, jonathanmh_com, redeemerf, BaconThePork, jonathane4747 and centurioapertus.

I am also thankful to Bytemark, who are providing the hosting for this episode’s audio file.

Podcast Music

The show’s theme song is Acoustic Routes by Raúl Cabezalí. It is licensed via Jamendo Music. Other music and some sound effects are licensed via Epidemic Sound. This episode’s ending song is Backseat Rider by Lupus Nocte.