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  • Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?


    Drivers With Hands Full Get a Backup: The Car



    By JOHN MARKOFFand SOMINI SENGUPTA

    PALO ALTO, Calif. — Driving around a college campus can be treacherous. Bikes and scooters zip out of nowhere, distracted students wander into traffic, and stopped cars and speed bumps suddenly appear. It takes a vigilant driver to avoid catastrophe.

    Jesse Levinson does not much worry about this when he drives his prototype Volkswagen Touareg around the Stanford University campus here. A computer vision system he helped design keeps an unblinking eye out for pedestrians and cyclists, and automatically slows and stops the car when they enter his path.

    Someday soon, few drivers will have to worry about car crashes and collisions, whether on congested roads or on empty highways, technology companies and car manufacturers are betting. But even now, drivers are benefiting from a suite of safety systems, and many more are in development to transform driving from a manual task to something more akin to that of a conductor overseeing an orchestra.

    An array of optical and radar sensors now monitor the surroundings of a growing number of cars traveling the nation’s highways, and in some cases even track the driver’s physical state. Pedestrian detection systems, like the one that Mr. Levinson, a research scientist at Stanford’s Center for Automotive Research, has helped design, are already available in luxury cars and are being built into some midrange models.

    The systems offer auditory, visual and mechanical warnings if a collision is imminent — and increasingly, if needed, take evasive actions automatically. By the middle of this decade, under certain conditions, they will take over the task of driving completely at both high and low speeds.

    But the new systems are poised to refashion the nature of driving fundamentally long before completely autonomous vehicles arrive.

    “This is really a bridge,” said Ragunathan Rajkumar, a computer science professor who is leading a Carnegie Mellon University automated driving research project partly financed by General Motors. “The driver is still in control. But if the driver is not doing the right thing, the technology takes over.”


    Carnegie Mellon's Autonomous Cadillac SRX can drive itself on public roads, detect and stop for pedestrians, and communicate with traffic signals--among other things--all while looking very normal.

    Although drivers — at least for now — remain responsible for their vehicles, a host of related legal and insurance issues have already arisen, and researchers are opening a new line of study about how humans interact with the automatic systems.

    What the changes will mean to the century-old American romance with the car remains to be seen. But the safety systems, the result of rapid advances in computer algorithms and the drastically falling cost of sensors, are a practical reaction to the modern reality of drivers who would rather talk on the phone and send text messages than concentrate on the road ahead and drive.

    Four manufacturers — Volvo, BMW, Audi and Mercedes — have announced that as soon as this year they will begin offering models that will come with sensors and software to allow the car to drive itself in heavy traffic at speeds up to 37 miles per hour. The systems, known as Traffic Jam Assist, will follow the car ahead and automatically slow down and speed up as needed, handling both braking and steering.

    At faster speeds, Cadillac’s Super Cruise system is intended to automate freeway driving by keeping the car within a lane and adjusting speed to other traffic. The company has not said when it will add the system to its cars.

    Already actions like steering, braking and accelerating are increasingly handled by computer software rather than the driver.
    “People don’t realize that when you step on antilock brakes it’s simply a suggestion for the car to stop,” said Clifford Nass, a director at the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford. How and when the car stops is left to the system.

    The automobile industry has been motivated to innovate by growing evidence that existing technologies like the antilocking braking systems and electronic stability control have saved tens of thousands of lives.

    In November, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all new cars be equipped with collision avoidance technologies, including adaptive cruise control and automatic braking. Two states — California and Nevada — have passed laws making it legal to operate self-driving cars as long as a human being is inside, able to take over.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently reported that one system, electronic stability control, or E.S.C., which digitally detects the loss of traction and compensates automatically, saved 2,202 lives from 2008 to 2010. Federal safety regulations began phasing in electronic stability control on small trucks and passenger vehicles in 2007.

    “I think E.S.C. is an amazing piece of technology,” said David L. Strickland, the National Highway Traffic Safety administrator. “And I do think there are a number of new technologies that the agency is looking at right now that have tremendous promise.”

    Innovation and deployment of the crash-resistance technologies accelerated after 2010, with news that Google had a secret program to design self-driving cars. Google has not said whether it intends to sell its vehicles. However, the search engine company has actively lobbied for laws in several states legalizing autonomous automobiles.

    Ten automakers have advanced research laboratories based in Silicon Valley. The most recent one was established by Ford Motors in Mountain View, Calif., in June.

    Also playing a role in the speed with which safety changes are being made are component suppliers like Bosch and Mobileye, an Israeli company that specializes in cameras mounted to look forward from the car’s rearview mirror, and elsewhere on advanced vehicles.

    Adaptive cruise control, known as A.C.C., and self driving are now aided by costly radar-based systems, but that will change with the next generation of low-cost video camera technology, said Amnon Shashua, co-founder, chairman and chief technology officer of Mobileye.




    Stanford's Autonomous Car Gets A Workout

    “No radar is needed,” said Dr. Shashua, who is also a professor of computer science at Hebrew University. “This could bring A.C.C. to the masses.”

    An emerging communications technology that will give vehicles a much more elaborate and instantaneous view of their surroundings is being tested in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Europe and elsewhere. Called “connected vehicle technology” by Dr. Rajkumar — and nicknamed V2X by the auto industry — it allows a vehicle to detect cars around corners that a human driver would be unable to see.

    “V2X offers tremendous opportunities to make for a more efficient and safer driving experience,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer at Ford Motor’s Research Division.

    The actions of drivers, too, are being rethought. When drivers are no longer required to maintain a constant vigil on the road ahead at all times, it will still be necessary to reclaim their attention in emergencies. Dr. Nass is establishing an automotive industry consortium to develop new computerized systems that make it safer to switch back and forth from human to computer control.

    Dr. Rajkumar said he suspected that most Americans were not quite ready for a fully autonomous car.

    But, he said, “In time, as society becomes more comfortable and legal concerns are ironed out, full autonomy will become practical, inevitable and necessary.”

    He, for one, would welcome an automated car for his 30-minute commute home. If the car could drive itself, he said, he would happily take a short nap.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/12/sc...gewanted=print


  • #2
    Re: Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?

    Originally posted by don View Post
    ...Someday soon, few drivers will have to worry about car crashes and collisions, whether on congested roads or on empty highways, technology companies and car manufacturers are betting. But even now, drivers are benefiting from a suite of safety systems, and many more are in development to transform driving from a manual task to something more akin to that of a conductor overseeing an orchestra...

    ...Although drivers — at least for now — remain responsible for their vehicles, a host of related legal and insurance issues have already arisen, and researchers are opening a new line of study about how humans interact with the automatic systems...

    ...The actions of drivers, too, are being rethought. When drivers are no longer required to maintain a constant vigil on the road ahead at all times, it will still be necessary to reclaim their attention in emergencies. Dr. Nass is establishing an automotive industry consortium to develop new computerized systems that make it safer to switch back and forth from human to computer control...

    This is analogous to what has been happening for decades in the aviation industry, especially the commercial and business aircraft sectors. "Fly-by-wire" side-stick controllers, synthetic vision, zero-visibility landing systems and so many other phenomenal safety and performance advances have turned pilots into "systems managers".

    Unfortunately when these systems fail in unexpected ways there's a need to revert immediately to "stick-and-rudder" abilities...and occasionally the intensively trained systems managers produce results that are...um...not exactly as desired.



    Originally posted by don View Post
    ...The systems offer auditory, visual and mechanical warnings if a collision is imminent — and increasingly, if needed, take evasive actions automatically. By the middle of this decade, under certain conditions, they will take over the task of driving completely at both high and low speeds...

    ...An emerging communications technology that will give vehicles a much more elaborate and instantaneous view of their surroundings is being tested in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Europe and elsewhere. Called “connected vehicle technology” by Dr. Rajkumar — and nicknamed V2X by the auto industry — it allows a vehicle to detect cars around corners that a human driver would be unable to see.

    “V2X offers tremendous opportunities to make for a more efficient and safer driving experience,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer at Ford Motor’s Research Division...

    The US Federal Aviation Administration has mandated that by 2020 all aircraft operating in the US National Airspace System must have automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast (ADS-B) equipment installed...which means that every airplane can "see" every other airplane in the vicinity. It will remove much of the dependence on an air traffic controller using ground based radar to maintain separation, and should allow closer spacing and greater density of aircraft in controlled airspace.

    But it's going to involve an enormous education and training effort to ensure pilots understand how these systems work and how to keep track of everything going on in the cockpit on the screen.

    The same thing is going to have to happen with automobiles if we want to increase the traffic flow on already congested highways without creating a giant bumper car ride...
    Last edited by GRG55; 01-13-13, 12:50 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?

      I saw these cars driving around when I was on the Google campus last spring - very bizarre & cool. Supposedly they have a perfect driving record. Anyone have thoughts re: trutouch implications?

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?

        Like most things, driverless cars have their pros and cons.

        The pros are reduced accidents, reduced insurance rates and huge fuel savings (stop and start driving with long delays as cars start to move will be eliminated). Safe transport of drunk drivers, freeing underage or elderly people from dependence on others for a ride. The cars could be networked for ride-sharing and day rentals. It wouldn't be necessary to even own a car, just sign up with a loaner/taxi service.

        The cons are as GRG55 said: people will not learn good driving skills, and lacking those skills they'll be in a lot of trouble should the computers fail. Imagine the roads filled with computerized cars when malicious hackers attack, or a big solar flare fries computers everywhere.

        Still, I'd love to have one. I really dislike driving... this would be the closest thing to having a chauffeur. Like everyone who has lost a loved one to inattentive or incompetent drivers, I wish both the drivers that killed my husband had been driving auto-cars.

        Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?

          Originally posted by GRG55 View Post

          This is analogous to what has been happening for decades in the aviation industry, especially the commercial and business aircraft sectors. "Fly-by-wire" side-stick controllers, synthetic vision, zero-visibility landing systems and so many other phenomenal safety and performance advances have turned pilots into "systems managers".

          Unfortunately when these systems fail in unexpected ways there's a need to revert immediately to "stick-and-rudder" abilities...and occasionally the intensively trained systems managers produce results that are...um...not exactly as desired.

          The US Federal Aviation Administration has mandated that by 2020 all aircraft operating in the US National Airspace System must have automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast (ADS-B) equipment installed...which means that every airplane can "see" every other airplane in the vicinity. It will remove much of the dependence on an air traffic controller using ground based radar to maintain separation, and should allow closer spacing and greater density of aircraft in controlled airspace.

          But it's going to involve an enormous education and training effort to ensure pilots understand how these systems work and how to keep track of everything going on in the cockpit on the screen.

          The same thing is going to have to happen with automobiles if we want to increase the traffic flow on already congested highways without creating a giant bumper car ride...
          note you never see them on the highway.

          hmmmm. why is that?

          a computer controlled car @ 30mph is a whole diff ballgame @ 60MPH.

          KE=1/2*m*V^2

          if it takes 30ft to stop @ 30mph it takes 120 @ 60.

          if you wreck the force of the crash is 4x @ 60mph va 30mph.

          can't wait to drive into a pack of these google cars in rush hour traffic... all going 20MPG... all 20ft apart... perfectly spaced.... until...



          watch 'em spread out like roaches as i split lanes @ 40mph my 1993 crown vic...

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?

            Originally posted by metalman View Post
            watch 'em spread out like roaches as i split lanes @ 40mph my 1993 crown vic...
            Except google will be 'authorized' by your local police force to record your speed, GPS location, upload the video to their servers, issue you a ticket and automatically debit your bank account.

            If you think you've got Big Brother now in the USA ... wait until an army of 'google driving narc' cars are unleashed upon your highways.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?

              Originally posted by Fiat Currency View Post

              If you think you've got Big Brother now in the USA ... wait until an army of 'google driving narc' cars are unleashed upon your highways.
              Thanks for associating technological progress with dread!

              I'm pretty much with you, but I think humans are incredibly adaptable. What I mean is that humans retain their humanity in dystopian situations. cf Infinite Jest.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?

                Originally posted by shiny! View Post
                The cons are as GRG55 said: people will not learn good driving skills, and lacking those skills they'll be in a lot of trouble should the computers fail. Imagine the roads filled with computerized cars when malicious hackers attack, or a big solar flare fries computers everywhere.
                Almost all of us have really crappy hunter gathering skills now but I'd rather not have to wonder where my next meal is coming from even if hackers might go after my local market. Computers perform many mundane to complex tasks much better than humans. We should probably get used to it and improve our skills to stay ahead of the curve. I'm reminded of Bill Joy's article in Wired. If you've not come across it before, it provides the basis for a good thought experiment if you lean toward that sort of thing.

                http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.html

                And 60 Minutes had a segment tonight that made some of the same points. Although they were more gentle and a bit more elegant, the point of the story is that low skill level humans won't matter economically in the future. There are deeper and darker implications but on it's surface the 60 Minutes story briefly let the MSM say what has been discussed for a long while. What's to become of the under skilled when robots replace them. I don't think this is an issue humanity has faced before the 21st Century.

                http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50138922n

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?

                  Until every car on the road is being guided by computers and "driverless" this won't work.

                  Besides PCO will clamp down on the congestion and overall car market 10x more than this.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?

                    Originally posted by santafe2 View Post
                    Almost all of us have really crappy hunter gathering skills now but I'd rather not have to wonder where my next meal is coming from even if hackers might go after my local market.
                    That's why I'd still like to have one of these cars, even if something catastrophic "might" happen down the road. Pardon the pun.

                    Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?

                      Originally posted by santafe2 View Post
                      Almost all of us have really crappy hunter gathering skills now but I'd rather not have to wonder where my next meal is coming from even if hackers might go after my local market. Computers perform many mundane to complex tasks much better than humans. We should probably get used to it and improve our skills to stay ahead of the curve. I'm reminded of Bill Joy's article in Wired. If you've not come across it before, it provides the basis for a good thought experiment if you lean toward that sort of thing.

                      http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.html

                      And 60 Minutes had a segment tonight that made some of the same points. Although they were more gentle and a bit more elegant, the point of the story is that low skill level humans won't matter economically in the future. There are deeper and darker implications but on it's surface the 60 Minutes story briefly let the MSM say what has been discussed for a long while. What's to become of the under skilled when robots replace them. I don't think this is an issue humanity has faced before the 21st Century.

                      http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50138922n
                      You are absolutely correct santafe. For sure we ain't ever going back!

                      Some folks seem to have misinterpreted my posting as some sort of "scare tactic" against technology. Not at all. As I said in my post "...phenomenal safety and performance advances...".

                      The crash of Air France 447 didn't reverse the introduction of technology into cockpits, nor will it prevent more complex systems and advanced avionics and controls to be introduced in the future. It simply offered the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons about software programming assumptions (don't assume that triple redundant pitot systems means that total loss of airspeed measurement can't happen) and the human/machine interface (the airplane was in a nose-up climb attitude, the engines were at full throttle developing maximum thrust and the airplane was descending at 10,000 feet per minute for 3.5 terrifying minutes before it hit the surface of the Atlantic Ocean...with all their sophisticated glass cockpit technology and the loss of only the airspeed indication why couldn't the pilots recognize the plane was at an angle of attack greater than the stall angle of attack?).

                      As more technology is introduced to millions of automobiles our lives are going to get a bit more complicated...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?

                        As more technology is introduced to millions of automobiles our lives are going to get a bit more complicated...
                        Will we be able to text, eat and watch YouTube while "driving"?

                        Like now

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?

                          Originally posted by GRG55 View Post
                          You are absolutely correct santafe. For sure we ain't ever going back!

                          Some folks seem to have misinterpreted my posting as some sort of "scare tactic" against technology. Not at all. As I said in my post "...phenomenal safety and performance advances...".

                          The crash of Air France 447 didn't reverse the introduction of technology into cockpits, nor will it prevent more complex systems and advanced avionics and controls to be introduced in the future. It simply offered the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons about software programming assumptions (don't assume that triple redundant pitot systems means that total loss of airspeed measurement can't happen) and the human/machine interface (the airplane was in a nose-up climb attitude, the engines were at full throttle developing maximum thrust and the airplane was descending at 10,000 feet per minute for 3.5 terrifying minutes before it hit the surface of the Atlantic Ocean...with all their sophisticated glass cockpit technology and the loss of only the airspeed indication why couldn't the pilots recognize the plane was at an angle of attack greater than the stall angle of attack?).

                          As more technology is introduced to millions of automobiles our lives are going to get a bit more complicated...
                          I'll take a quick break from my article writing to comment on this fascinating topic. The difficulty of a comparison between fly-by-wire and drive-by-wire technology is that flying a plane is dangerous only when you get close enough to the ground or another aircraft to make contact. Generally that means on landing; even I can take a plane up into the air and have: "When we get to 90MPH, pull on this." In a car your opportunity to crash arrives every millisecond that you are in motion, and automating one is like landing a plane by wire continuously.

                          The challenge is well described in a favorite comment on the following Metafilter topic: Which is the more dangerous sport, flying a plane or riding a motorcycle? The comment is written by an experienced motorcycle rider and small craft pilot.

                          I'm going to take a shot at answering this, hard as it is to do so, simply because I've dipped into thousands of sweeping turns on two wheels, and remember, quite well, my heart in my throat, shooting practice landings in a Cessna 172 at Briscoe Field.

                          The big difference between motorcycles and fixed wing aircraft is the third dimension, and a sense, from the very beginning, that in aircraft it is vital to avoid becoming stupid, later. There are so many ways to become stupid, later, in the air. And whenever you get stupid enough in the air to bend metal, or cause other people enough fright, the FAA will convene a panel of experts to explain to posterity, as far as they can reconstruct from available data, just how stupid you became, minute by minute, right up until you died, if that's how stupid you got. But the fear of stupidity in airplanes starts from Day One. When you show up for your first lesson, with your physical examination paper in your sweaty hand, and a skeptical instructor who is going to have to go up with you, looks you over, and decides whether it is worth risking life and limb for $30 an hour instructor money.

                          First of all, in aircraft, at a very minimum, if you are really sharp, and very, very talented, you are going to have to convince, through demonstration, to at least two experienced people (your instructor and an FAA check ride examiner), over an minimum of 40 hours (for a regular private license) that you are competent to operate an airplane. But frankly, most people wind up training with 3 or 4 people, and getting criticized a lot, and building up 50 or 60 hours of observed instructor time in fixed wing aircraft, before they check ride with the FAA guy (or gal, although I've never met an FAA gal, except my mother).

                          During flight training, you also spend a fair amount of time personally investigating many (but not all) of the ways aircraft quit flying. You do a lot of stalls, to practice stall recovery. I hated stalls. I hated the shaking yoke, the sense that the prop was becoming dangerously unloaded, the fight the airplane was making in the air to fly, and being so hateful as to force the nose still higher, beyond what the engine could possibly pull, until the yoke quivered with trying, and the stall horn cried, and it was time, past time, to push the nose down, and hope.

                          You practice emergency landings, when your instructor reaches over, slams the throttle closed, dumping your engine to idle, and tells you that you have just smelled smoke, and have an airborne fire. You have 90 seconds to put your airplane on the ground, or die aloft, burning, in your mutual imagination. And he is watching you do your best, hoping you won't panic, hoping, still, you smell the imaginary smoke, against some future day, when you'll need to remember, and do, not think. So you take in the world in 10 seconds, make a mental plan you start communicating as you make it, push the nose hard down, harder than it wants by far, pull your flaps, and look, oh please, please look, for open grass, and no trees.

                          There's nothing like that happening on two wheels. I recommend the MSF training course, but you don't stall a bike, and hope it doesn't devolve into a fatal spin, in the MSF course. And until you are faced on two wheels with awful, painful choices, you can't know the terror every trainee general aviation pilot comes to know in stall training, falling out of the sky, with pedals and yoke failing to answer, and hard physics your only hope to breathe again.

                          Still, it's amazing what a cushion 7,000 feet of vertical altitude can be, in an airframe that is designed to fly, wants to fly, well beyond it's inexperienced pilot's needs, to fly. Let go the yoke, let the nose fall finally, and a good airplane will fly to safety, if there is plenty of air beneath it, and its pilot is scared enough to let it.

                          Not so the master of his fate, borne on two wheels. The standard lane is 12 foot wide, there is no friendly cushion of invisible air beneath you, and you wrest your life from each second with far less approval of seasoned elders than any pilot. You can't quit thinking ever, on two wheels. And even if you do nothing wrong, you can die. Die, and be buried, and no one will convene an accident investigation board to see how stupid you were, for the edification of others, when you can no longer explain.


                          Dealing with so many obstacles so close to a moving vehicle is the challenge.

                          When some day the first google car crashes and kills its occupants the press will cover it for everything it's worth. Wired will run a cover story, Death of the Self-Driving Car.

                          But the American public, with the attention span of a carrot, will soon forget the incident as well they should as it will by then be statistically proven that a self-driving car is safer than a car driven by your average licensed human, which includes many a harried, texting soccer Mom and depressed, intoxicated middle aged man who's been out of work for three years. There will be gigabytes of telemetry data to pour over after the crash. The data will be used to improve the safety of the cars. Over time crashes will become far more rare than they are today.

                          We will lose skills in the process, no doubt. If you have become accustomed to relying on a navigation system, try living without it for a week. You'll be surprised how rusty your navigation skills have gotten.

                          This technology trend has been going on for decades. It won't stop.

                          I tried to use a slide rule the other day. Couldn't remember how. Will I ever be faced with a life or death situation that requires me to use a slide rule instead of a calculator? Not likely. Same with most technology improvements over the years.

                          It's all good except when the loss of skills might result in a life-or-death situation as in the case of the French Lawn Dart accident previously noted.

                          A self-driving car is one continuous life-or-death situation as long as the vehicle is moving more than 30 MPH or so. The risks won't come from loss of driving skills to correct for mistakes made by the computers.

                          Unlike in an airplane, if something is amiss at 60MPH in your little 12 foot wide world you won't have two or three minutes to figure out what's wrong and take corrective measures. You're a google data analysis problem at that point.

                          p.s. When I say "you" I don't mean you specifically GRG55 but all the you's who posted in this thread.
                          Last edited by EJ; 01-14-13, 04:32 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?

                            Originally posted by shiny! View Post
                            Like most things, driverless cars have their pros and cons.

                            ...reduced insurance rates...
                            If I'm still paying liability insurance to some downtown skyscraper insurance firm to cover the unlikely event of google's computer brain operating my car into a collision, I'll know that there is no hope left.

                            Seriously. If this ever takes off and they still make you cut an insurance check, send the bill to silicon valley.

                            Cause it won't be your fault any more.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Auto-Driving: What Are the Consequences?

                              Originally posted by dcarrigg View Post
                              If I'm still paying liability insurance to some downtown skyscraper insurance firm to cover the unlikely event of google's computer brain operating my car into a collision, I'll know that there is no hope left.

                              Seriously. If this ever takes off and they still make you cut an insurance check, send the bill to silicon valley.

                              Cause it won't be your fault any more.
                              dcarrigg, I suspect you know better.

                              FIRE will continue to get the revenue stream of premiums, while they reduce the expenses paid out for claims.

                              Most of us now do not think to ask for reduced car insurance premiums as our expensive brand-new auto ages into a cheap and well-worn used car.
                              We just keep paying the original amount and bracing for increases.

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