Friday, February 26, 2010

Driving Issues with software

This is an interesting piece, talking about some of the software issues with Toyota and how that might come to be a big problem in the future with cars. As we include more software in cars, we will have more issues, and I am worried.

I recently had an issue where the battery in the Prius died. The car was in our garage, and without power, you can’t

  • open the truck (where the battery is)
  • put the car in neutral

In the garage, jumper cables wouldn’t reach. I had only one option, get a portable jumper battery and use that. $40 later, the Prius was running.

I had a similar issue with an old Honda Odyssey as well when the battery died. However by calling the dealer I learned there was a release switch that allowed the car to move into neutral, where it could be pushed out of the garage and jump started.

As we embed more electronics, the reliability of those components becomes an issue. Already I think the lack of a mechanical way to get the Toyota into neutral is an issue. On top of that, having locks die and be locked without power is a possible safety issue. The door locks can be mechanically opened, but I worry that might change. Not being able to open the truck was an issue for me.

Software is even more scary than some of the drive by wire features. Those can be set in EEPROMs that can’t change. Software, however, yikes! Can you imagine some software update that had bugs in it?

I like more electronics and conveniences in our cars, but it’s getting a little scary as manufacturers look to cut costs and get our the “gee-whiz” features quicker into cars.

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