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The Self-Driving Car: Is It Safe?

Ralph gets the real story about the efficacy of autonomous vehicles from auto safety expert Joan Claybrook. And Harvey Wasserman joins us to talk about his new history book “The People’s Spiral of American History: From Deganawidah to Solartopia,” as well as giving us the key to beating Donald Trump in 2020.

Joan Claybrook is one of the public interest champions of the modern consumer movement. She is one of the co-founders and president emeritus of Public Citizen. During the Carter Administration, Ms. Claybrook headed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Ms. Claybrook has testified frequently before congressional committees on many public interest issues but with a particular focus on auto and highway safety.

“The other thing that no one is even talking about is the fact that these vehicles cannot operate without major investments in new highways. Highways that have all the white lines completely in place, all the signage completely in place, so that the vehicle can read and see the signage and the white lines or yellow lines, whatever it may be. Without that, these vehicles are going to be willy-nilly. They’re not going to be able to do their job. Even if they worked terrific[ly], they couldn’t do it. No one’s even discussing the humongous cost, billions and billions and billions of dollars that are required to make it secure for these vehicles to drive.”
Joan Claybrook, auto safety expert on autonomous vehicles

Harvey Wasserman is a life-long activist who speaks, writes and organizes widely on energy, the environment, history, drug war, election protection and grassroots politics. He teaches history and cultural & ethnic diversity at two central Ohio college. He hosts the Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show (and is the author of many books, including his latest, The People’s Spiral of American History.

“The 2020 election will be decided by one thing, which is how many millennials will come out to vote.”
Harvey Wasserman, author of The People’s Spiral of American History

RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EP 303 TRANSCRIPT (Right click to download)


  1. Afdal Shahanshah says:

    Thorium reactors aren’t “completely unproven”, they were literally constructed and proven to work in the ’60s. Look up the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Wasserman’s was another disappointing hand-wavy response devoid of the details anti-nuclear activists NEED TO BE CAPABLE OF CONVEYING. This time with a simple falsehood included. How can anti-nuclear activists be so willing to shoot themselves in the foot with weak rebuttals like this? Every time molten salt thorium reactor designs are dismissed with replies like these, the anti-nuclear position loses credibility. Is this what activists want? To be considered ideological cranks unwilling to weigh in on empirical evidence? Every criticism Ralph and Wasserman brought up about uranium water reactors after the thorium question is vastly reduced or even completely mitigated with molten salt reactor designs. No pressurized water and steam to worry about facilitating explosions, vastly reduced mining footprint because molten salt reactors use fuel much more efficiently, no extremely expensive pellet refinement industry, a small fraction of the nuclear waste with a much shorter half-life, no spent fuel rods to worry about, and NO MELTDOWNS.

    This was otherwise a great show this week, really pleased to hear more about two topics that are utterly underground in the media, car cyberinsecurity and serial computer-facilitated election theft. Listeners who would like some sobering info on the dangers of computers in cars with wi-fi access should look up car hacks on Youtube and learn more about the suspicious death of journalist Michael Hastings. The CIA has been developing tools to fake car accidents for stealthy assassinations for some time now and we finally confirmed it with the Vault7 leaks in 2017. Closed-source proprietary software with network access has absolutely no business being in such deadly machines. On the topic of election theft, I do wish Wasserman would have spent a bit of time talking about the massive election fraud in both the 2016 Democratic Primary election (in Clinton’s favor) and the General election (mostly in Trump’s favor). Election theft didn’t end after 2004, it became serial and systemic.

    • Skro35 says:

      Afdal, the point by Wasserman and Ralph, as well as David Freeman and Peter Bradford in previous programs is that the nuclear industry has been given billions upon billions of dollars of subsidies and gone through a couple of different “renaissances.” We have been hearing about thorium technology and molten salt reactors for decades now. If this were an economically viable alternative, it would be here by now. It obviously isn’t. Nuclear power even as it is has never been economically viable, propped up by government loan guarantees. We didn’t marry these two subjects on the program on purpose, but it seems nuclear power and autonomous cars suffer from the same malady. They are both outrageously expensive high risk, low reward technologies that crowd out more practical solutions. I appreciate all of your thoughtful comments to our programs, but on this one subject, I just disagree. Steve

      • Afdal Shahanshah says:

        Steve, how can you be sure that economic factors are the only reason for the relative unpopularity of these types of reactors compared to light-water uranium reactors? Couldn’t politics also be a factor? Do you think the fact that it is very difficult to make nuclear weapons from the thorium fuel cycle may play a role?

      • Bruce K. says:

        > the nuclear industry has been given billions upon billions of dollars of subsidies
        And so what? Every major industry in the US is stabilized and helped by the government, including solar. Can you do some objective reporting on what we’ve gotten for our money – and not compared to unobtainable perfection; compared to other energy sources? I think there is a different way to look at nuclear, where the 20% of carbon free energy that goes on for decades with almost no pollution, and no endless feedstock or pollution outputs like coal ash.

        > We have been hearing about thorium technology and molten salt reactors for decades now.
        Again, so what. We have been hearing about them before for some reason because of the political climate of fear around nuclear and the way the issue is framed nothing is actually done. We can spin this in different ways, the environmentalists or the oil companies want to discourage the industry? I don’t know, but it would be nice to find out.

        > If this were an economically viable alternative, it would be here by now.
        That is a totally illogical statement. You and Ralph know as well as anyone that the best alternatives are not always chosen by the market, it’s your whole spiel.

        > Nuclear power even as it is has never been economically viable, propped up by government loan guarantees.
        I’ve heard this and bought it for decades, but any infant industry needs supporting. Read “The Bad Samaritans” by Ha-Joon Chang and pay attention to the evolution of South Korea, or go back and look at how the US industrial economy evolved. Have Ha-Joon Chang on your show sometime. But, there is no reason nuclear power should be not able to be viable. There are very little inputs, no pipelines, or trains carrying endless millions of tons of fuel, and very few outputs though they need to be managed carefully. Operation for some new plants can be completely or almost completely automated, in fact some of designed to be buried so no terrorists can get at them or fly planes into them.

        I am as skeptical as anyone about nuclear, but it does bear a close scrutiny compared to what we have no and where it has gotten us. Without storage solar and wind are not as good as they seem to be, and with storage, batteries for instance put a lot of toxic elements into the environment.

        The thing about the anti-nuclear people is that there is enough information about them to know that some of their kitchen sinking complaints are based purely on emotion. The other side is that when things are based on science we get a “don’t worry about it” from the scientists and the people who productize all this technology.

        There must be developed, a way to find a reasonable middle ground where technology that looks like it can work has come investment made it in with oversight and reporting so that we the public are not herded around like cattle by the media emotion machine.

        In “Energy For Future Presidents” Richard A. Muller the author describes some of the nuclear alternatives and some of the facts around nuclear. The reason this doesn’t happen is … why? Because of masses of people who have been traumatized to fear nuclear power, or how about the fear of socialism, or the flip side of undeserved positivity, how we have been programmed by TV to fear crime, and the brown people who always seem to be the cause of it, or how we are never supposed to question capitalism. What are these arguments based on and does no one question them, or better yet do what it takes to nurture people to not be dependent on others for their reality, but help them to be able to question and think for themselves.

        It is all part of the same thinking process, but each side makes use of the same foibles to manipulate people and make money. Civilization ought to know better and to have progressed beyond this, but everyone serves their chunk of the powers that be, and god help you if you question authority, or have someone question your authority.

        • Bruce C. says:

          Bruce K…..
          Read “The Bad Samaritans” by Ha-Joon Chang and pay attention to the evolution of South Korea, or go back and look at how the US industrial economy evolved.

          I’ll read that, if you promise to read “Toxic Sludge is Good for you.”

          • Bruce K. says:

            Bruce C., it makes no difference to me what you read. If you want to be exposed to a new different take from the jingoistic capitalism tropes we hear and are programmed with, that it your choice. Read it or not as you like.

            I read a lot, almost exclusively non-fiction, and you cannot always tell by a title, but “Toxic Sludge is Good for you” sounds trite to me and not something I’d be interested in. Sorry. I have limited time and even so half the books I get in Kindle/Audible format I end up returning because they are not what their titles say, or they are full of the same stuff in every other book.

            Publishing is yet another scam way they take our money and return the minimum possible. Everything is a scam, so Ha-Joon Chang is very relevant to that.

    • afmal….please read the reply from skro35, which is right on target. the plummeting costs of the four forces of solartopia—wind, solar, batteries & LED/efficiency—have made any discussion of any kind of reactor completely moot. thorium, breeders, molten salt, fusion….their final manifestations are all theoretical, and none can begin to compete with renewables today, let alone after the decade or two it might take to bring these already obsolete dinosaurs.

      • Bruce K. says:

        > have made any discussion of any kind of reactor completely moot. thorium, breeders, molten salt, fusion….their final manifestations are all theoretical, and none can begin to compete with renewables today

        Such an absolutist comment, that the obviousness of its own nature should impeach its validity.

        If your focus is short term, narrow focus and idiosyncratic you might mistake this for the last word on the nuclear issue. Such a powerful ASSUMPTION that one need do no more thinking or deeper analysis. That alway appeals to our laziness.

        Renewables as such today seem fantastic, but wind and solar are still intermittent. What happens in a case of massive fires, a volcano eruption, nuclear war, asteroid impact, climate change, massive cloudiness, or just nighttime?

        It was just 100 years or so ago that we began to intercept water going to nature by redirecting massive amounts for industrialization and we never thought that it could actually affect anything in the ways we see today where rivers are drying up and whole areas of the planet are dying because we are extracting from nature enough to cripple and kill it.

        The same is true for solar. For every bit of solar energy we want to intercept and use for our own purposes that is energy that is removed from the natural environment. Meaning we have larger and larger areas of the world that do not get sunlight. No plants and animals can exist there including us. We can ignore it now, but we will be making the same mistakes we did 100 years ago. In other words, we are not learning a damn things as a species. To me that says we had better rethink our thinking process, and our self-image of how great and intelligent the wonderful human animal is. That is – we are not and we constantly make increasing mistakes that degrade the natural world – no matter what you rhetoric or intentions may be.

        A nuclear, even a conventional nuclear plant is very inexpensive to run – provided it runs like it is supposed to, which most do most of the time. Somehow it is only in nuclear where we have to imagine the worst costs and outcomes before we move ahead with it. This is a great way to manage technology, and we coulda-shoulda been doing it all along, but that is not where we are today. We have already gone ahead with all these other forms of planetary exploitation, and the way we come at nuclear is very irrational.

        So the challenge is to coldly and dispassionately look at what has gone wrong, and measure it against what has gone before. Even with what seem to be the disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima the damages and those costs to clean up measured against the cost of ending all life on Earth is a big win …. or the tragedy of transforming the human domain into creatures that cannot even survive on the world they evolved in and have to treat the world as a toxic environment.

        Informing us on the one hand – we have what we think is “the news” and then we have those who want to manipulate us with “fake news”, but we also have a basis of fake assumptions about the world that are programmed into us in ways that we absorb and are unaware of. Americans today, but most people in the world are not qualified to make the decisions that will affect the future, and yet we keep going ahead and making them. So their take on nuclear energy is probably wrong.

        The reason the market must be removed as the basis of mass human action is that we cannot afford the consequences any more of racing ahead at a warlike pace with technologies that are usually first utilized in war, that could be catastrophic, but that is the path we have chosen. The first idea that I ever was exposed to like this was in the book “The Andromeda Strain” where it was hypothesize there could exist or be invented microorganisms that could end life on the planet.

    • Bruce C. says:


      ‘disappointing hand-wavy response…’
      ‘ideological cranks unwilling to weigh in on empirical evidence?….’

      Sounds potty-mouth for nerds …not very convincing.

  2. Floris Freshman says:

    its worse than that- they work with the aerosols aka chemtrails docs from army….i was blinded by one in 2017 and theyve been invading arizona for 5 yrs i saw 10 models, got shocked, burned and blinded, aside from the secret lidar chip, lidar=laser and radar, they add strobe, sonar and video. i spoke here in city council 60 days before elaine herzberg’s death from a lidar uber not far from me. the man at the end of this video resigned in sept and his asst fired, she was there too. as well theres a 2016 video on the call to city about smartmeters.

  3. jocker12 says:

    Ralph, I know you want somebody to look into this self-driving cars scam.

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