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New Jaguar XJ Suffers Blue Screen of Death

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the i-meant-to-do-that dept.

Transportation 301

An anonymous reader writes "CNET UK is reporting that it crashed a £90,000 Jaguar XJ Super Sport — one of the most technologically advanced cars on the planet today. It's not the sort of crash you'd imagine, however — An unforseen glitch somewhere within the car's dozens of separate onboard computers, hundreds of millions of lines of code, or its internal vehicular network, led to the dramatic BSOD, which had to be resolved with the use of a web-connected laptop."

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Not a BSOD (5, Informative)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250566)

If you RTFA, there' no mention of Windows. The Car just wouldn't start. They disconnected the battery, and reconnected it.

Re:Not a BSOD (5, Informative)

davmoo (63521) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250588)

Not only is there no mention of Windows, there was apparently no actual "blue screen". The car simply didn't spring to life and the displays were blank.

Somebody obviously needed to sensationalize by using "blue screen of death" even where it wasn't.

Re:Not a BSOD (5, Insightful)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250648)

Exactly. A less sensational headline could have been "XJ Power button kinda flakey". This kinda stuff is what drives technical support people nuts. The technically ignorant public comandeers a technical term, such as BSOD, with a very specific meaning, then generalizes it until it's no more useful than the word "Crash". Less useful, actually, since it makes people familliar with the original meaning infer information that the ludide doesn't mean to imply. For people of this level of technical sophisticaiton (Toughbooks, OBD2 interfaces, etc) to do this is shameful.

While I'm on this rant, can we please, please, stop using the word "Literally" as an intensity modifier for metaphorical descriptions? I swear, the next person who tells me they're "Literally on fire" gets sprayed with a fire-extinguisher as an object lesson. Power or CO2, I haven't decided yet. We'll just see what feels right at the time.

Re:Not a BSOD (5, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250720)

calling a 'power button' problem is a bit surface-level, wouldn't you say?

we all can be pretty sure it was NOT the button but the cpu systems and networks behind it.

if you are going to be pedantic, get it right, at least. literally.

But from a Use Case perspective ... (1)

crovira (10242) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250788)

regardless of the complexity it encapsulates, since the only visible piece is the button, it constitutes the sole point of contact for the entire power train..

THAT is why use cases are pointless. :-)

Re:But from a Use Case perspective ... (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251056)

all we know is that the system was not responding to the press of a UI element (the button). something gets an interrupt when the button is pressed or some polling routine scans it periodically. and then that info goes to something else and something else further down until it leaves the computer domain and enters real-world (some relay or solenoid or some phys-level thing).

SOMEWHERE along that chain, something didn't work. but to say 'the power button' is just surface-level, like I said. its most likely NOT the button. not on a new car. contacts wear out but NOT on so new a car. as someone who does both hw and fw, my guess is that it was not the power button but a hung system from 'just after it' up until the phys-level that it exits at.

Doesn't it bother you that ... (1)

crovira (10242) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251128)

... software is often designed from Use Cases?

They are the most singularly unhelpful and woefully incomplete design documents ever created.

They should be generated from the design, not the other way around.

Re:Not a BSOD (3, Informative)

richie2000 (159732) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250742)

I swear, the next person who tells me they're "Literally on fire" gets sprayed with a fire-extinguisher as an object lesson. Power or CO2, I haven't decided yet. We'll just see what feels right at the time.

Much too lenient. Halon gas.

Re:Not a BSOD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33251080)

I've once (many, many moons ago) been unlucky enough to be caught in a test of the Halon system. No actual dump, but just the alarm going off and the operators going berzerk. That was a truly scary experience...

Can't imagine the panic when the system does what it is designed for: protect the equipment, to hell with the people in the room...

Re:Not a BSOD (1)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250842)

Mod parent up, if only for the "literally" reference. I'm frustrated by this too!

Re:Not a BSOD (4, Informative)

md65536 (670240) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250984)

Unfortunately, "literally" can literally mean "metaphorically." It's in the dictionary.

I believe this is a little trick linguists have snuck in, almost as if to say "Language is not mathematics (and this will really piss off the slashdot crowd, who like both and will go nuts trying to reconcile the two!)"

"Literal" meaning "metaphorical" is also a literal irony, which is another thing that excites linguists. I think once you get the joke, it won't be so bothersome.

Re:Not a BSOD (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250868)

Exactly. A less sensational headline could have been "XJ Power button kinda flakey". This kinda stuff is what drives technical support people nuts. The technically ignorant public comandeers a technical term, such as BSOD, with a very specific meaning, then generalizes it until it's no more useful than the word "Crash". Less useful, actually, since it makes people familliar with the original meaning infer information that the ludide doesn't mean to imply. For people of this level of technical sophisticaiton (Toughbooks, OBD2 interfaces, etc) to do this is shameful.

Yeah. They should have said that they bricked the car instead.

Re:Not a BSOD (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250886)

The one that has been throwing me lately is the new use of the term "drop" for a product. Just a short while ago, when a company said they were going to "drop a product", it meant that they were no longer going to sell or support it. It has been dropped from their inventory. Recently, I have been seeing new articles, press releases and as of last thursday, billboards that use the term drop to mean release. I suspect that the term started getting used this new way because someone heard that a product was being 'drop shipped', and then shortened that to 'dropped'. This wouldn't be so bad if 'dropping a product' didn't already have a very specific meaning already.

Re:Not a BSOD (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33251030)

Or perhaps it's dropped as in:

I just dropped a deuce. You may not want to go in there for a while

That would fit a lot of products that come out these days. Insert your favorite Iphone4/PopularVideoGame/TechnologyProduct reference here...

Re:Not a BSOD (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251082)

The word drop has had several meanings before that. There was a time that the only way to "drop" a product was by letting gravity take hold. And long before then, the product would also have had to be a liquid.

But I see too many words and phrases that the public has picked up and use them in very contrasting ways to what those who actually understand the phrase use them. A drift in meaning is one thing, but to change the meaning completely is just plain wrong. In most of these cases, once the misconception catches on with the unwashed part of the population, the best thing to do is to avoid using the word or phrase altogether, to avoid confusion. Because idiots have ruined perfectly good phrases.

Oh, a few examples in addition to your "drop":

Terrific (Why should it mean the opposite of horrific? The answer is that it doesn't. Or didn't, at any rate.)
Push the envelope
Drop the ball
Decimate
Evacuate
Nauseous (Whenever someone tells me they're nauseous, I move quickly away so I won't get nauseated)

Re:Not a BSOD (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251010)

1: So... you would like to see tech journals write less sensational headlines?
2: And either Slashdot or CNET should lead this revolution of non-sensationalism and technical accuracy?
3: And this sounds plausible?

Re:Not a BSOD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250712)

And the only OS they actually name is Linux, and also note the interface is proprietary.

Re:Not a BSOD (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250906)

/. suffers tacky tabloid spread of hype.

Re:Not a BSOD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250630)

I wonder if drivers ever see the "Windows will be restarting in 3 minutes" countdown light up on their dash, and the shot of adrenaline when they notice that the "Remind Me Later" button has been grayed out.

Windows did stop working (2, Funny)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250862)

Well, I *assume* the power windows did not respond to user input.

Unsafe at *almost* any speed? (0)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250568)

Fortunately it was going at 0 kph when it crashed.

Still, it would be nice if fail-safes kicked in when the computer crashes with the car running.

"Fail-safes? We don't need no sticking fail-sa*SOUNDOFCARCRASH*"

Re:Unsafe at *almost* any speed? (4, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250704)

It did fail safe. It didn't let the car even start. "Parked" is about as safe as you can get, for a car.

Re:Unsafe at *almost* any speed? (2, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250828)

Depends on where you park it, or where the car parks itself if its computer crashes and the fail-safes cause it to park itself.

Driver Dies After Officers Crash Into Stalled Vehicle [nbcdfw.com]

Re:Unsafe at *almost* any speed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250836)

Unless you are on train tracks.

Yay! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250570)

I see that Jaguar is another satisfied Microsoft customer.

Re:Yay! (3, Informative)

Fwipp (1473271) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250592)

They're not, though. The car didn't BSOD, and TFA makes no mention of them running any Microsoft software. They did, however, mention Linux.

Re:Yay! (0, Troll)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250678)

They're not, though. The car didn't BSOD, and TFA makes no mention of them running any Microsoft software. They did, however, mention Linux.

Your ability to detect humor is the stuff of legends.

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33251100)

I'm not sure why you think he missed it or didn't address it. Should he have preceded his response with "AHAHAHAHA, that's a hilarious jest my good chum; but on a serious note,"

Not that surprising. (3, Insightful)

blankinthefill (665181) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250576)

FTFA: "Over the minutes that followed, the software analysed every one of the car's digital systems in search of a problem. The culprit could have been any number of things -- the Bosch-supplied, Linux-based infotainment system, the Visteon-supplied virtual instrument display, a heat-ravaged processor, an errant mouse somewhere in one of the car's hundreds of miles of wiring, or the dodgy contents of a CNET UK memory key in one of the XJ's two USB ports."

Lots of systems running together, in a very rugged environment (for a computer, anyways)... I don't think it's terribly surprising that this could happen. In fact, the only surprising fact here is that it doesn't happen MORE often than it does.

Re:Not that surprising. (2, Interesting)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250632)

What _is_ surprising to me is that a linux based infotainment system would _ever_ hamper any system outside itself. Why would my audio system glitching cause my car to not start? Ok, if it somehow drains the battery, I get that, but otherwise it should be an offering on the "LAN" and simply not used if not accessible. I mean, are these systems so horridly setup that one specific glitch in the DVD playback software can do _anything_ to the basic functions of the car (brakes, engine, etc)? Or was that just sensationalism in the article merely to illustrate how much software really is "under the hood"?

Re:Not that surprising. (4, Interesting)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250682)

Nobody said it was the Linux system. It could have been whatever ECM monitored the Power Button. Normally, you hit the button, and it sends out a message across a bus, typically CAN (or FlexRay in the most modern systems) which tells the other systems to "wake up", and typically also energizes the ignition wire for non-connected systems. If that one ECM was locked up, the car is pretty much hosed until you can reset it. Could well have been a $5 microcontroller imbedded in the dash, and running a fore-ground/background loop, and no real OS.

Re:Not that surprising. (1)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250702)

Interesting, thank you. I actually didn't mean to say it _was_ the linux system but the correlation of the two in TFA made me wonder just how poorly these things are setup in reality.

Re:Not that surprising. (4, Informative)

TJamieson (218336) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250706)

Three words -- Body Control Module. I don't know a damned thing about Jaguars, but with GM vehicles in general they all have a Body Control Module installed. Anything that isn't directly related to the powertrain is controlled by the BCM (incidentally, the powertrain is controlled by the Powertrain Control Module). In many GM vehicles, the BCM can be communicated with via the radio; this is to set certain user options like how long the headlamps will remain illuminated after exiting the vehicle. In the event that something goes wrong with the BCM, the radio will lock because it gets put into an anti-theft state, and typically the car will not start. All because a single capacitor on a shitty little Motorola board got cooked, for example.

Then, even if you get a used BCM with the same option codes as the one you're replacing, the radio will remain in an anti-theft state because the thinking of the designers (I guess) was that people would start swapping BCMs just to steal radios -- dumb.

GM, of course, has a tool to reprogram BCMs, but even they say there's a 50/50 shot their programming will render the BCM unusable. From my limited research of the boards they use, it seems there is little if any CRC done in any shape or form, so it sounds like the board will happily write bad or invalid data to the PROM.

Again, I don't know how a Jaguar design works, but there are vehicles where the radio does indeed affect other parts of the vehicle, much to the dismay of owners and dealers alike.

Re:Not that surprising. (2, Interesting)

zwede (1478355) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251118)

You can't use a used BCM as that is exactly what GM was trying to prevent (for anti-theft reasons). What you do is you get a brand new, never powered up BCM (they are not especially expensive). The first time it is powered up, it will accept the ignition key and unlock everything. That first key is then permanently stored in the BCM.

Again, it's supposed to work this way and it really did help drastically reduce theft of both radios and entire cars. For instance, before GM had the Passkey system the Camaro was the most stolen car year after year. Once Passkey was introduced it completely dropped off the list.

Re:Not that surprising. (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250718)

What _is_ surprising to me is that a linux based infotainment system would _ever_ hamper any system outside itself. Why would my audio system glitching cause my car to not start? Ok, if it somehow drains the battery, I get that, but otherwise it should be an offering on the "LAN" and simply not used if not accessible.

I mean, are these systems so horridly setup that one specific glitch in the DVD playback software can do _anything_ to the basic functions of the car (brakes, engine, etc)? Or was that just sensationalism in the article merely to illustrate how much software really is "under the hood"?

I certainly hope the latter. Especially given the car this is about is not exactly a cheap one, so they should be able to afford to do it right. As you say, the only connection (apart from the battery) it should have to the rest of the system is a common data bus, and I'd add that this data bus should be separate from the data bus for essential car functions, so that even if it congests the network due to a bug, it cannot block any important internal data communication.

Re:Not that surprising. (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250726)

Perhaps it could've been DOSing the other, more critical systems.

Re:Not that surprising. (1)

arashi no garou (699761) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250760)

I'm betting on sensationalism. Then again, on the 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee I once owned, when I installed an aftermarket stereo I had to short the now unused CAN-BUS connector to get the car to start. That blew my mind.

Re:Not that surprising. (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250880)

The thing just came out and this happened pretty much the first time someone tested one. How much is often enough?

Anonymous (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250580)

Next step -> Airplanes. It's the best timing to start a parachute business.

Re:Anonymous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250832)

Have you ever driven a Jaguar? I say forget airplanes, start your parachute-breaking business right now!

Did i get it right? (-1, Flamebait)

drolli (522659) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250594)

They don't separate critical from non-critical systems? *AND* run some systems under windows? wow.

I would have hoped that the reason for "motor does not turn on" can not be "entertainment system crashed", but what do i know.....

Re:Did i get it right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250638)

You got it wrong... No windows.

Re:Did i get it right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250730)

A car without Windows? Hard to "see" that one coming, unless we got "railroaded", somehow.

Well, isn't that "punny"?

Hehe, I guess this is one car that doesn't run on Linux, huh?

(bows) Thank you, I'll be here all night.

No, you didn't. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250658)

The critical systems - brakes and steering aren't drive-by-wire and I doubt very much that the ECU is connected in any significant way to the ICE bits.

Oh, and Windows wasn't involved either. Besides, failing by not starting the engine when the car is parked seems pretty fail-safe to me...

Re:No, you didn't. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250722)

The critical systems - brakes and steering aren't drive-by-wire

Brakes absolutely are drive-by-wire these days. That's how stability control works. It's an advancement on ABS where a central computer can modulate the brakes for all 4 wheels. It's not exclusively electrical, it's still electrical control on a hydraulic system, but the ECU very much has the ability to screw up your breaking. We had a case on our SUV where the stability control system got confused, the skid light started blinking on the dash, and the car started jerking as the ECU tried to correct a skid or spin that wasn't occuring. All this on dry pavement at 50mph.

Jaguar? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250608)

Nobody wanted to buy British junk. That's why all they ended with Indians and the Chinese.

Re:Jaguar? (0, Troll)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250910)

Nobody wanted to buy British junk. That's why all they ended with Indians and the Chinese.

Jaguar is Indian these days. So if they've farmed out the in-car electronics development to Indian programmers that could explain a lot.

Re:Jaguar? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250956)

Fuckin' moron, there are thousands of technical glitches reported in various stuff worldwide, and you have to insinuate that it's all the fault of the Indians in this case. Motherfucker, when glitches are found in American or other "Western" products it is just a 'technical issue' but in this case it's all because the programmers are Indian, eh? Retard.

Re:Jaguar? (1, Troll)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250980)

LOL. I've never seen any good programming come out of India, and there's no way I'd buy a car if I knew they'd outsourced the programming there.

After all, if you were a good Indian programmer you'd be in America on an H1B.

Re:Jaguar? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33251028)

No, sonofabitch, I'm an Indian programmer and I stay in Bangalore. I've seen plenty of American retards who call themselves 'programmers', and I'm better than most of them. So stop talking out of your ass - just because your fuckin' excellency hasn't seen any good code coming out of India does not mean there is none at all. The project that I'm currently working on has an asshole American who does not know the basics of database design, and he's making life hell for me, since I have to bloody double check everything he does. And he has '6 years experience in database programming'. Yeah, right - that's why he creates tables where all the fields are varchar2(500), irrespective of whether the incoming data is numeric, string, or date. And tables with no integrity constraints too.

I conclude therefore, that all American programmers are shitty, and I wouldn't buy a car if I knew that the programming has been done in the USA. Fair enough?

Re:Jaguar? (-1, Troll)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251102)

I conclude therefore, that all American programmers are shitty, and I wouldn't buy a car if I knew that the programming has been done in the USA. Fair enough?

Don't worry, I wouldn't buy an American car either.

Re:Jaguar? (0, Troll)

Bangalorean (1846492) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251060)

Hmm.. if Indian programmers are sooooo bad and shitty, wonder why you guys are sooooo worried about losing your jobs, Indians getting all the code jobs, and so on? After all, sooner or later, the quality (or lack thereof) will be noticeable to all, and corporations would drop India like a hot potato, isn't it? Or, are you perhaps stating that everyone in the USA apart from your esteemed self, is a moron who can't see the obvious?

Re:Jaguar? (0, Troll)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251090)

Hmm.. if Indian programmers are sooooo bad and shitty, wonder why you guys are sooooo worried about losing your jobs, Indians getting all the code jobs, and so on?

Because managers get a bonus for 'saving money' by sending work to India, and will have moved on to another job by the time their successor discovers that the code is late, over-budget, unsupportable and full of bugs.

Can you name any good programs that have come out of India? Because every occasion I know of when work has been sent there has been a disaster.

Re:Jaguar? (2, Interesting)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251048)

That is NOT a Troll, as any (old and experienced) mechanic can tell you!

The British car and motorcycle industries tried manfully to commit suicide. They built pretty, beautifully finished, delicate unreliable junk.

That worked until Japan and Germany ate their lunch by producing tough, reliable vehicles you didn't have to be a skilled mechanic to keep on the road. I grew up working on both the cars and bikes, and have no desire to go back. They were fine vehicles by 1940s reliability standards, but that was a long time ago even in the 1960s when the decline began.

Here's the classic on the Britbike implosion, the car story is similar:

http://www.amazon.com/Whatever-Happened-British-Motorcycle-Industry/dp/1859604277 [amazon.com]

Yo Slashdot, (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250610)

I heard you like car analogies, so we put a computer in your car so you can crash when you crash.

Wait, that's not actually an analogy.

Resiliency (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250618)

I recognize the advances electronic components have created in vehicles but there has to be a sweet spot between efficiency/safety and reliability. I wonder how computer system on cars fair against those on planes.

Re:Resiliency (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251018)

Computers on planes fare better because they use backups.

Not a BSOD - No Microsoft here (4, Insightful)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250646)

In fairness, the title is misleading: Blue Screen of Death implies Microsoft Windows, and there is no Microsoft Windows involved in this story (at least, not in the car). Indeed, the only OS mentioned in the story is Linux.

I despise Microsoft and Windows, but I do so for REAL reasons, which this story IS NOT. The summary should be fixed to note this wasn't a BSOD, that Windows was not at fault, etc., just to be fair and consistent.

As it stands, the summary is just prejudiced and misleading.

(oh, sorry. forgot where I was for a moment.)

Re:Not a BSOD - No Microsoft here (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250942)

Yes but, if it were Microsoft Windows, we could say:

They are giving us a choice between a car that can't be driven without crashing, and a car with no Windows!

Re:Not a BSOD - No Microsoft here (1)

RMS Eats Toejam (1693864) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251026)

I despise Microsoft and Windows, but I do so for REAL reasons, which this story IS NOT.

Still, this reason alone makes you a dick licker. You shouldn't despise an operating system, just don't use it. Grow up a little bit and quit being such a faggot.

Why? (3, Interesting)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250654)

I still don't get it - why cars need so much software? Older cars worked quite well with just mechanical controls, so why there are so many computers in new cars?

Non-essential systems do not count - if the radio/usb player fails, I'll be annoyed (and I can replace the player with a simpler tape deck if I want to), if the steering or brakes fail, I'll be injured or dead.

So, why the millions of lines of code? Are they really necessary for the system to do the job what simpler (and more reliable) mechanical linkages did in the past (steering, brakes, throttle, clutch, gear selector)? Mechanical devices fail, but they usually give "notice" before doing so - you can see the rusty rod or the cracked link before it fails. Oh, and you still need the mechanical device (the wheels somehow have to turn in the direction that the user turned the steering wheel). Also, people seem to be able to design mechanical devices that work as intended, while software is almost always buggy.

My 28 year old car somehow seems to be able to work and get me from point A to point B even though the tape deck has more complex electronics (well, it has a RDS decoder, Dolby B and C NR, logic controls, LCD display, ability to control CD and MD changers etc) and the electronics of the car itself consist of a few relays.

Re:Why? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250724)

Diagnostics is the first reason. The amount of information you can get on any car the past 10-15 years is absolutely amazing. Acceleration levels, fuel usage levels, break levels, even tire pressure levels, and logs of many of these functions. It dramatically reduces the cost and time to check a car for problems and unusual behaviour when you have very small very simple computers monitoring all the essential systems on your car. The software also usually permits altering a lot of parameters - useful when finetuning the car in question. The logs in particular are frequently used to assess crashes - which is for example how we have discovered that vast majority of crashes the driver either does not brake at all, or only applied a small amount of braking force. This information is why a lot of manufacturers are now looking at into installing systems into cars that will automatically apply the brakes if a crash is inevitable (to get down the speed and reduce the damage and danger of the crash).

Re:Why? (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250892)

"Acceleration levels, fuel usage levels, break levels, even tire pressure levels, and logs of many of these functions. It dramatically reduces the cost and time to check a car for problems and unusual behaviour when you have very small very simple computers monitoring all the essential systems on your car."

BS What it does is provide the manufacturer more data they can use to prove you voided you warranty.

Re:Why? (3, Insightful)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251044)

It dramatically reduces the cost and time to check a car for problems and unusual behaviour when you have very small very simple computers monitoring all the essential systems on your car.

And yet repair shops still charge you $85 to plug a machine into the OBD port and tell you that you can pay them to fix it.... hmmmm.....

Re:Why? (3, Interesting)

KwKSilver (857599) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250738)

I still don't get it - why cars need so much software?

To drive up the price and profit margins. Silly goose.

Re:Why? (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250990)

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the reason why people think that companies need an excuse to drive up their prices. Why would they over-engineer their cars at their personal expense, when they can just write a new number on the price sticker?

Re:Why? (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250740)

Indeed.

I have a distant relative who bought a new Mercedes a couple of years ago. After purchasing the car, he had to attend several weekend classes. Rolling my eyes, I asked why in the World do you have to attend classes to use the car? The manual isn't god enough?

Apparently, the car has do much electronic shit: navigation, hands free "communications devices" and everything to operate anything has quite a bit of UIs and electronic shit.

The unfortunate thing is that all of that crap will trickle down into the "cheap" cars.

It's just gimmicks to increase margins and maintenance business down the road.

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

morari (1080535) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250750)

I wonder this as well. Of course, I drive a 1972 VW Super Beetle everyday. The most complex electronics in it is my aftermarket stereo! :P

Re:Why? (5, Insightful)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250752)

A 2010 Toyota Camry gets 268 hp from a V6 engine while still getting 20 mpg around town. Let's see a 1982 model do that.

Re:Why? (1)

arashi no garou (699761) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250786)

I'm with you. I remember when Honda went from a fully mechanical four-wheel-steering system on the 3rd gen Prelude to an electronically controlled system later in the generation. The electronic system was prone to failure, but the fully mechanical system was rock-solid.

Re:Why? (5, Informative)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250812)

Engine management is a lot more sophisticated than a mechanical carburettor can ever hope to be. Between environmental regulations (cleaner air), diagnostics (cutting down on repair time) and performance (getting more from a smaller, lighter engine without compromising reliability) it's gotten quite complicated. Then there's the chassis, with ABS, ESP and other electronic driver aids. Miles of wiring have been replaced by a lighter, more reliable bus system for all electric functions in the car.
Some of this is down to ever-tighter regulation (emissions, safety). Others are due to the competitive nature of car sales: ever more features get tacked on.
Thanks to electronics, cars have gotten a lot more reliable over time. The last few years, car companies have overstepped, though, offering new features before they were ready, and not doing enough testing for proper integration.

Re:Why? (1)

orange47 (1519059) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250982)

well you could ask the same question about airplanes. besides there is not such a big difference between 'mechanical' and 'electrical', they are all machines. and both can fail if designed wrong.

Rear-View Mirror: Automotive Electronics (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250986)

I still don't get it - why cars need so much software? Older cars worked quite well with just mechanical controls, so why there are so many computers in new cars?

From SAE's "Automotive Engineering International:"

Consumer radios and military communication devices were the mainstay of electronics usage prior to the late 1950s. When diodes, transistors, analog integrated circuits, and digital integrated circuits gained a vehicle applications foothold in the 1960s and 1970s, the initial development phase of automotive electronic products included the proliferation of electronic fuel ignition, a technology that was sparked by government regulations aimed at reducing exhaust emissions and improving fuel economy.

Engine controls, also an emissions and fuel economy-motivated pursuit, gained momentum in the late 1970s through the 1980s. For example, the 1975 Cadillac Seville used a 7 x 10 x 3 in (180 x 255 x 85 mm) analog engine control unit with 275 components. Its discrete components included 145 resistors, 38 capacitors, 41 transistors, and 36 diodes along with four linear integrated circuits (standard), custom components including five linear integrated circuits and one thick-film signal module, and five thick-film resistor modules.

As integrated circuit technology evolved, it became possible to design many of the functions into the integrated circuits, thus eliminating a lot of discreet components. Today's digital engine control unit has 90 or fewer components packaged in a box about 4 x 5 x 1 in (100 x 125 x 25 mm) {and] the downward trend in package size and number of components continues.

The second development wave added microprocessors and other enablers to the electronics bin, facilitating the addition of such vehicle features as anti-lock braking, electronic engine controls, and climate control during the 1980s. Electronic engine controls were representative of how the industry evolved vehicle subsystems.

With the addition of intelligent power, intelligent sensors, and large electrical erasable PROMs (essentially memory technology), integrated systems flourished in the 1990s. Integrated powertrain/traction control, integrated braking, steering and suspension, multiplexing, communication and navigation, as well as onboard diagnostics represent the broad array of smart systems.

The present development phase of automotive electronics includes such enablers as digital signal processing and 32-bit microprocessors. Computing power is now 40 times greater than what is was in 1975, and since that time the industry has experienced 300-fold growth in the number of transistors on a chip.

Electronics History Lesson [sae.org] [September 2002]

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

Fishead (658061) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250996)

After years of driving a 1990 Nissan Pathfinder powered by a 3.0L V6 outputting around 140HP we upgraded to a 2005 Nissan Xterra with a 4.0L V6 that has around 270 HP and consumes less fuel. What changed? Variable Valve Timing. The engine now has the ability to change the CAM on the fly. When I want power I get power. If I'm cruising on the highway and want efficiency I get efficiency. Sure it's immensely more complex then my '77 Chevy truck with the most high tech component being the AM radio, but my truck gets similar power to the Xterra with over twice the fuel consumption. When I assembled my engine I chose which CAM I wanted. I love that the Xterra can swap that up as necessary.

      What I don't understand is how the car manufacturer could let entertainment options potentially take down the entire system. Sure it's great that my vehicle has all these fantastic features, but how about we isolate them from the critical functions? What would happen if I was driving my Xterra in the winter time and the software failed while I was going around a corner in the snow at the precise moment that the TCS system applied the brakes to one of my wheels to control a small amount of slip? My reckless driving aside, a system that is able to apply the brakes on my vehicle should not be so unstable as to kill me just because a third party application locked up.

Re:Why? (1)

doesnothingwell (945891) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251074)

Older cars worked quite well with just mechanical controls

The pre '74 models had mechanical points, carburetors, and choke adjustments that changed with the seasons. It took me years to forget pumping the gas pedal on cold days. Older cars required tinkering at regular intervals to keep them running well. Computerized cars run for many years with almost no adjustments.

The engine management systems should never get "confused", thats just bad design.

Re:Why? (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251094)

Feature bloat gives buyers the idea they are getting more for their money.

Modern vehicle systems are well beyond the technical comprehension of most buyers, who merely want techno-bling bragging rights so they can "wave a penis they don't understand". Anyone who buys a Jag has infinite money to fix it, so reliability isn't much concern.

There is nothing like working at a used car lot to teach how car buyers really work. You will never go broke catering to their lust for what most mechanics consider to be Stupid Shit.

Well, apparently not Lucas fault (2, Interesting)

drerwk (695572) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250676)

Lucas went defunct in 1996. The lord of darkness went dark. But the spirit lives on. The story reminded me of a TR-6 I had in college. You never knew what would happen when you turned the key. Nine out of ten it would start.

Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250686)

I don't understand how everything is so misleading and full of shit here. What thebfuck is wrong with the editors here? I've been creeping slashdot since 2000, its never been perfect, but the editors are slacking a lot more recently.

I laugh at Jaguar owners (2, Interesting)

Reservoir Penguin (611789) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250772)

Whatever problem they are left stranded waiting for a certified Jaguar technician. On the other hand I can fix my 1985 Jimny with a hammer and a screwdriver and will survive an EMP blast! (I think the stereo is only thing that contains digital components)

Re:I laugh at Jaguar owners (1)

Fishead (658061) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251050)

*High-five for heavy metal w00t!*

My project is a '77 Chevy truck. I love working on that compared to any of the newer stuff. I'm pretty sure my stock AM radio could survive an EM blast, and if not, I can fix it with said hammer and screwdriver... and maybe a few twist ties.

Send it to India for tech support! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250810)

Forget about starting that Jaguar now. What I wonder is how well those modern cars choke full of electronics will work in 10 years.

My guess is that people will be shipping them to India to be diagnosed and repaired.

Re:Send it to India for tech support! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250894)

Jaguar and Land Rover are now Indian companies. So there is a good chance the software problems are going there.

Re:Send it to India for tech support! (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251178)

They depreciate dramatically, but people who like them can afford to trade them in before they die. They bring little at dealer auctions if anything major is wrong with them.

"hundreds of millions of lines of code" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250816)

Windows server 2003: 50Mloc
Recent Linux kernel (with most drivers, something you wouldn't do for embedded systems) 13Mloc

I call bullshit on that quote.
Also, the car not starting implies a non-functioning primary system (as oppossed to something non-important like hifi systems etc.), how comfortable should anyone be that life-and-death parts of consumer-oriented stuff are comprised of "hundreds of millions of lines of code" ?

Oh yeah, "crash"... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250822)

I got the context from the title instantly... and then it took me awhile to remember that the word "crash" can also refer to a vehicle colliding with something. ...I think I need to go outside more often.

Cars with the least amount of software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33250824)

This year both the number and the nature of the reports of car software problems indicate that the car industry is unable to produce functional fail-safe car software. I will not go into the reasons behind this, but it's obvious that there is no quick or easy fix for this.

So if you were to buy a new car, which one would you choose?

Which car has the least amount of car software / bloatware and is modern enough to be considered safe (enough)?

"hundreds of millions of lines of code"?! (2, Insightful)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250826)

What?!

"hundreds of millions of lines of code"

I don't believe that number

Just a bogoword from an illiterate.

.

Re:"hundreds of millions of lines of code"?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33251022)

The hundreds of millions number has been quoted elsewhere, like here: http://yro.slashdot.org/story/10/02/23/2022204/NHTSA-Has-No-Software-Engineers-To-Analyze-Toyota

Re:"hundreds of millions of lines of code"?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33251076)

They simply add the OS in there... it have Linux and Windows Vista in there, Windows Vista is said to have 50+ millions lines of codes, Linux is even more, so that bring the total over 100 millions.

Too much eminem (4, Funny)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250834)

I was going to read the article, until I reached this line:
"Our first instinct was that we'd exhausted the car's battery by watching too much Eminem on its integrated DVD player"

Then I figured out their problem. The car simply could not take take it anymore and once it realized they were going to load an 8 mile DVD, committed suicide.

and to think... (3, Insightful)

WiglyWorm (1139035) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250898)

I got called crazy when I brought up this site's anti-MS pro-linux slant yesterday. The thing was running Linux and it's stillbeing blamed on Microsoft!

Re:and to think... (0)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250922)

The thing was running Linux and it's stillbeing blamed on Microsoft!

Perhaps you should try reading the article, where there's no indication at all that the problem is due to running Linux on the entertainment system.

And 'BSOD' is now a generic term meaning 'it just crashed for no good reason and I have no idea what to do'.

Should have used QNX. (4, Interesting)

LikwidCirkel (1542097) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250908)

It's a Bosch dash running Linux for the infotainment. I much prefer Harman dashes that run QNX like Audi, BMW, and a number of other car makers use... totally more reliable IMO. I've actually worked hands-on with some of this stuff, and I must admit, I trust QNX much more for mission-critical applications, like automobiles.

Re:Should have used QNX. (4, Interesting)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251024)

That is pretty much the realm of QNX, a real-time embedded mission critical operating system. I once met a guy who wrote software for QNX used on communications satellites. So yea its pretty damn reliable. They used to offer a free desktop OS (Neutrino RTOS) around the same time Be Inc released BeOS R5 PE. I still have a download kicking around too. Before that (1999 ish) they offered a single floppy image that booted your PC and even provided a few small and simple demo programs and even a game. Its amazing feature was a web browser and Ethernet card drivers. Pretty amazing stuff for its time.

car shopping (0, Troll)

Kennon (683628) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250912)

I was car shopping last year and I wanted to test drive a Ford Fusion hybrid. Besides the speedometer, all other gauges on the dash are LCD. The salesman was trying to show me some of the features and kept getting lost in the menu system and at one point the dash became completely unresponsive. The salesman looked at me kind of sheepishly and then said occasionally when this happens you just have to turn the car off and let it sit for 10 seconds then turn it back on. At that point I had pretty much made up my mind to NOT buy this car but I kind of felt obligated at that point to finish the test drive so after the "reboot" it worked like he expected it to so he showed me all these neato features. In the car's defense there are some pretty cool display options on that vehicle when it is working correctly. Then he let me get behind the wheel for the driving portion. I went to put the car into reverse to back out of the stall it was in and there was a good sized stainless steel plaque at the base of the shifter on the center console that said "Powered by Microsoft" I just sort of sat there for a second staring at it, and the salesguy asked me if everything was OK. I then just put the car back into park and thanked him for his time and left...true story.

Carl Sagan woud have said..... :=) (2, Funny)

spazekaat (991287) | more than 4 years ago | (#33250954)

"Millions of millions of lines of code"

How many of those lines were just comments????

Re:Carl Sagan woud have said..... :=) (1)

purpleraison (1042004) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251046)

LOL!! this should be modded up.. because it's funny (and true!). However, he was a bit more expansive in his discussions. He probably would have said:

"We look deep into the the brain of this car, that is known as 'computer'. Millions upon millions of lines of code, all searching for the answer to a question the driver has already discovered...."

I'll never understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33251138)

Why someone would pay Jaguar prices for a Ford Contour.

Not surprising at all for me (1)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 4 years ago | (#33251168)

really, this is not all that shocking to me.

I few years back when the Land rover LR3 (when Jag and LR were still with Ford) we took a brand new LR3 out into the desert with the LR team as part of a LR program that was offered.
Anyhow, at one particularly tricky bit (and I am an experienced off roader) the LR3's computer totally crashed to include engine management and suspension management.

What you may now know, is that the LR3 has a special off rood mode which raises the vehicle by several inches for better ground clearance. Well, one side went down, while the other stayed up. This happened to be the downhill off camber side and almost caused the LR3 to roll over.
Once we re-boot, ie. take out the key and restart the car it was fine though.
Still...lots of computers in the those rides and it's hard to catch everything.

Lesson Learned: (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33251170)

Keep your drivers up to date.

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