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Software Glitches Stall Toyota Prius

timothy posted more than 8 years ago | from the cool-story-to-tell-saint-peter dept.

Bug 560

t35t0r writes "CNN/Money/Tech reports that 2004 and early 2005 Toyota Prius models have software bugs that cause them to stall while traveling at highway speeds. While no accidents were reported to have been caused by the software glitch, could we be heading into an era where our automobiles will require software updates and fixes to keep them from literally 'crashing'?"

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560 comments

Shouldn't have stolen that code... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548312)

...from Ford.

Re:Shouldn't have stolen that code... (3, Informative)

Blkdeath (530393) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548501)

...from Ford.

Actually in this case Ford is paying Toyota royalties to use their Synergy Drive System (the gas/electric hybrid technology at the core of the Escape Hybrid)

Re:Shouldn't have stolen that code... (-1, Troll)

AstroDrabb (534369) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548579)

And what does that have to do with the Toyota Prius software crashing? Was this article about a Ford car having hardware problems?

Crashing? I can see it now. (1, Funny)

srlunsford (697271) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548318)

Toyota: The next Microsoft.

Re:Crashing? I can see it now. (1)

Sv-Manowar (772313) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548390)

Some software programs cause companies to be the 'next microsoft' now? Minardi had a software glitch take out both their F1 cars at last weekend's grand prix, are they the next Microsoft?

I'd be more happy to see more work being done on the prius, and alternative fuel vehicles like it.

Re:Crashing? I can see it now. (2, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548460)

Minardi had a software glitch take out both their F1 cars at last weekend's grand prix, are they the next Microsoft?

Well no, Minardi cars can start without an activation key.

Failover (5, Insightful)

Nos. (179609) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548326)

Like planes, and other vehicles, any software problem should failover to a tested, less automated system. If my car stalls on the highway and I lose power steering and/or brakes, there's a big problem. Instead of stalling the engine, it should just shut down and let the engine take over, maybe flashing some warning lights.

Re:Failover (3, Insightful)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548400)

Can't always do that though.

IIRC, some of the stealth bombers will fall apart in less than a second if the computers go.

If the fuel injection is gone because of the computer crash, what do you fail over to?

Re:Failover (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548445)

A car that isn't electronically controlled. :)

Reminds me of the old clip in Fallout of the car advertisement: All analog! No electronics!

(Or some such thing, been years since I played it. :)

Re:Failover (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548468)

stealth bombers are a totally different case they are military hardware and that changes the rules somewhat (risks from tech can seem much less significant when you consider the alternative may be increased risk of being shot down)

Re:Failover (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548433)

Without the ECU (which controls most aspects of modern cars), there is no way to run the engine. Injectors and sparkplugs are directly controlled by the computer.

We'de have to go back to distributors and carburators... and don't fool yourself.. those can fail too causing a stall.

Re:Failover (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548458)

"If my car stalls on the highway and I lose power steering and/or brakes, there's a big problem"

How is this a big problem? Have you never had a car stall and these things fail on you before? It's no big deal. You push the pedal a little harder and you put a little more effort into steering.

It Finally came true..... (5, Funny)

kbeech (660054) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548474)

If OS's Were Cars If operating systems ran your car, and you needed to go to the shops... MS-DOS: You get in the car and try to remember where you put the keys. Windows: You get in the car and drive to the shops very slowly, because attached to the back of the car is a freight train. Macintosh System 7: You get in the car to drive to the shops and the car drives you to church. Unix: You get in the car and type 'grep store'. After reaching speeds of 200 mph en route, you arrive at the barbershop. Windows NT: You get in the car and write a letter that says "go to the shops". Then you get out of the car and nail the letter to the dashboard. Taligent/Pink: You walk to the store with Ricardo Montalban who tells you how wonderful it will be when he can fly you to the store in his LearJet. OS/2: After fuelling up with 6000 gallons of fuel, you get in the car and drive to the shops with a motorcycle escort and a marching band in procession. Halfway there, the car blows up, killing everyone. S/36 SSP: You get in the car and drive to the shops. Halfway there you run out of fuel. While walking the rest of the way, you are run over by kids with mopeds. AS/400: An attendant kicks you into the car and then drives you to the shops where you get to watch everyone else buying filets mignon.

Re:Failover (5, Insightful)

TopSpin (753) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548495)

...should failover to a tested, less automated system...

It did. At least based on the anecdotes posted at edmunds.com by the drivers. The engine shut off, the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree and the battery continued to power the car. Not surprising that you might conclude total failure from the /. posting and its exceptionally lame, MSM-like allusions to 'crashing'...

Guess what folks; you are expected to be capable of coping with vehicle problems while traveling at the phenomenal rate of "highway speed". Tires blow, people fuck up, things fly off randomly; deal with it.

See, it's that 'should' (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548567)

Reminds me of driving with my mother in a Hyundai Excel.
Going down the road, using only a change of the accelerator position: the lawn-mower-esque throttle comes apart.
It accelerates to about 90 mph (fortunately, this is a straight country road starting to climb a hill).
I'm a little agitated. Mother reminds me that, ultimately, turning the key to off within the ignition will stop any car.
Sort of a three-finger salute[1], if you will.

[1]ctrl-alt-del

But officer..... (5, Funny)

ad0le (684017) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548329)

I was only trying to install the latest windshield wiper drivers....

Great Excuse for Drunken Drivers (1)

what_the_frell (690581) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548515)

*hic* ...But Officer, sorry I was driving like a drunk, I just upgraded to the latest version of Windows Vehicles Edition 2005! My car's supposed to run faster!

old school (0, Redundant)

Nikademus (631739) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548331)

This may be the saddest thing of all, but it was a little bit forecast. I think car makers should more rely on "old school" things to make sure cars just work.

Re:old school (1)

natron 2.0 (615149) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548370)

I agree, what ever happened to the plain ol' combustion engine, rack and pinion steering, pnuematic brakes and a throttle cable? Now you need a CS degree just to change your oil.

Re:old school (1)

Kiryat Malachi (177258) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548575)

In order: Fuel efficiency standards, increased desire for comfort and increasing vehicle sizes, increased safety and better/more efficient stopping, and increased (believe it or not) reliability are what happened to all of those.

(Disclaimer: I work for a major automotive electronics supplier. That said, all of the above is true.)

Re:old school (1)

Monkeman (827301) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548420)

"Don't try it because it could do very bad things like [insert one single event here] and then soon it'll be everywhere and ahmygod" is the same attitude toward robots, cloning and pretty much every other potentially revolutionary thing that has a very small potential to go wrong when done incorrectly. Keep doing new stuff, important tech people with money, just don't screw it up and test it enough. People will support you then.

There will be no crashing (3, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548343)

for my flying car. There will be a plumet, followed by a very sudden stop at the end.

Re:There will be no crashing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548422)

A what? A plumet? That's French, right?

Possibly French for plummet?

Espèce de merde...

I can see it now... (1, Funny)

Herkum01 (592704) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548344)

Yes officer, I was trying to figure out how fast I was going but the speedometer was not refreshing and when I looked up "WHAM!"

If Microsoft designed cars... (5, Funny)

mcc (14761) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548347)

...then... uh... i guess things would be just like they are now

Blue screen of death... (2)

CaVp (746780) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548354)

I guess blue is going to be the dreadest color for a production line....

sloppy work (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548355)

Just another example of the sloppiness that is starting to pervade everything. It's better to make it cheaper and faster than it is to make it better as a product. And apparently it's not just the US anymore.

Sad, isn't it?

BMW?? (5, Informative)

NETHED (258016) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548356)

Sounds very Familiar [roadfly.org]

More to the point. How does everyone feel giving up full control of thier car? What about the Mercedes digital brakes? There is no physical link between the pedal and the wheels.

We were promised self driving cars, and we're on the way to it.

Re:BMW?? (4, Interesting)

kin_korn_karn (466864) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548397)

I hate it.

My car (2004 Mazda 3) has a fully electronic throttle body. It's all servo-driven, no linkage between the throttle and the gas pedal at all. If I had thought to check stuff like that I wouldn't have bought it.

It hasn't given me any trouble yet (it's a 2004, it had better not), but just wait until the sensor shorts out and tells the engine that I want to floor it, or vice versa.

Re:BMW?? (5, Interesting)

Xzzy (111297) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548491)

Buy a classic auto while you still can.. before 1975 or so (depends on your state) so you can skirt around smog regulations as well. Especially if most of your daily driving is on local streets.

Simple and functional, and after a while you'll even look forward to spending a weekend maintaining it.

I drive a 40 year old vehicle, and wouldn't give it up for anything. As vehicles become more and more drive-by-wire, I only see it as validating my decision. ;)

Re:BMW?? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548558)

just wait until the sensor shorts out and tells the engine that I want to floor it, or vice versa.

Yeah, there's nothing worse than your engine shorting out and telling the sensor that you want to floor it.

Re:BMW?? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548416)

The 1985 BMW M6 in the post you linked to is hardly a good example of computer driven car failures. Pretty much every modern car has that level of technology.

Re:BMW?? (4, Insightful)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548443)

Doesnt seem to bother people when they get on fly by wire planes.

Re:BMW?? (3, Insightful)

BackInIraq (862952) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548573)

Doesnt seem to bother people when they get on fly by wire planes.

But most of us assume that part of the extremely large cost of those planes is in both more reliable technology and increased redundancy. I think the systems of a Boeing 777 are probably held to a higher standard than a Mazda or even a BMW...mostly due to the more catastrophic nature of a failure.

Doesn't mean we're right...maybe the systems on a BMW are every bit as reliable as on a plane. But it would still explain this reaction.

Re:BMW?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548449)

What about the Mercedes digital brakes?

My big question is what happens when the alternator dies and your battery eventually goes with it?

Re:BMW?? (5, Interesting)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548452)

Depends. A lot of traffic accidents and general traffic problems are caused by individuals acting separate from the "herd" of cars that are obeying traffic laws.

Imagine if in 10 years, when there's a minor fender-bender, once the accident is off to the shoulder, traffic picks back up at a regular pace. Now, everyone gawks and traffic stays backed up for miles thanks to that.

Or even better, when someone misses an exit, they don't slam on the brakes in the middle of the expressway and back up to the exit.

There was an 8 car pileup with numerous fatalities last year on the Baltimore beltway thanks to someone in the middle lane cutting across 2 lanes of traffic at top speed to turn into those "Emergency turnaround" digouts between expressway lanes. If he literally was prevented from doing something that stupid thanks to his car, those people would still be alive. Sure, he'd be 5 minutes later to where he was going...

Bring on cars that don't let people be idiots. The rest of us who do a good job of obeying traffic laws will be that much safer thanks to it.

As far as software controlling much of our cars, we're already mostly there. Power locks lock you out of your car if they fail. Power steering makes your car nearly unturnable if that fails. Power breaks provide so much extra breaking power that if they fail, your car is basically going to be nearly brake-less anyway.

Re:BMW?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548601)

Quote:
As far as software controlling much of our cars, we're already mostly there. Power locks lock you out of your car if they fail. Power steering makes your car nearly unturnable if that fails. Power breaks provide so much extra breaking power that if they fail, your car is basically going to be nearly brake-less anyway.

You're kidding right? Everything you said in this last paragraph is blatantly untrue. Get a clue.

I can just imagine it... (5, Funny)

Kesh (65890) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548360)

"You have shifted gears. You must restart your car for these changes to take effect."

Re:I can just imagine it... (1)

KillerDeathRobot (818062) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548476)

Obviously you were joking, but as I understand it, the Prius has an interesting transmission that doesn't really use gears. I'm not entirely clear on how it works, but I guess it's a smooth continuum rather than the distinct steps of gears.

Re:I can just imagine it... (0, Redundant)

merdaccia (695940) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548585)

It's called a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), and uses a belt and cone instead of discrete gears. This allows the engine to get the optimal power (or efficiency) for whatever travelling speed you want.

More info here: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/cvt.htm [howstuffworks.com]

Re:I can just imagine it... (2, Informative)

Blkdeath (530393) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548607)

as I understand it, the Prius has an interesting transmission that doesn't really use gears. I'm not entirely clear on how it works, but I guess it's a smooth continuum rather than the distinct steps of gears.

It's called a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) [com.sapo.pt] and is the same technology as used in your friendly, every-day snowmobile.

In a nutshell, it's a chain-driven set of pulleys that resemble a pair of cones that move together and apart to give you a near infinite number of ratio combinations. This maintains a constant RPM level in the engine for better fuel economy as well as less strain on the mechanics and better performance because your engine doesn't have to torque up, shift gears, then torque back into a power band again - you're always in a power band.

If you don't have a Toyota dealership in your area that has a Prius on the lot, check out the Ford Five Hundred or Freestyle and see what it's like to drive without gears. :)

"Crashing" (1)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548363)

I hate that pun every time we talk about software and some kind of vehicle. Next, of course, comes the Microsoft jabs - even when MS isn't involved. *sigh*

More on-topic, Slashdot recently ran an article about some guys trying to infect a Prius via Bluetooth, and were able to accomplish a system crash repeatedly. Turned out to be low on battery power.

Microsoft anyone? (1)

JoaoPinheiro (749991) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548368)

Didn't Microsoft team up with general motors recently? *snickers*

Re:Microsoft anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548496)

No, they teamed up with Ford. And this car was a Toyota anyways.

Software fixes are already part of auto recalls (5, Informative)

silentbozo (542534) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548371)

The 2001/2002 Ford Escapes have to have the EEPROM flashed as part of a transmission recall. The days of software fixes for cars have been with us for a while.

Re:Software fixes are already part of auto recalls (2, Interesting)

Incadenza (560402) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548591)

Among us for some time indeed. A friend of mine had a similar problem two or three years ago with a Peugeot. I do not rememember the model, but it was one of the first batches out of the factory.

She had problems with the engine shutting down sporadically while driving (at any speed). This happened one or twice. She went with her car to the garage, and the mechanic told her, blank face, "Known problem. Needs a software upgrade. Come back in two weeks time, we have place in our schedule by then".

Of course she told the guy to give her a replacement car for two weeks - you must be mental to take a car like that into the Dutch rush hour traffic.

Critical Error (0, Troll)

puiahappy (855662) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548374)

It was probably software developed by Microsoft. :)
Next time when you want to buy a car ask what OS is running and if is Linux compatible :))

Prius Driver (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548375)

I drive a Prius and while the gas engine does stall out at times, even at highway speeds, it's never caused a problem. After the first few times of it happening in the city, you tend to ignore the switch over to solely electric power.

Isn't the engine designed to turn off? (5, Funny)

winkydink (650484) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548377)

Oh. At red lights. Not at highway speeds. Never mind.

if speed 0 (1)

jabber01 (225154) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548546)

See what happens when you outsource your implementation to people who can barely speak, and read, the English specs?

And... As I'm an inqual opportunity hatemonger...

See what happens when you give CS degrees to people who learn to code on VB?

what i'm waiting for (3, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548384)

video of the car-to-car worm via bluetooth/ wifi that stalls cars

you would watch it move like a wave through traffic: on one end, normal moving traffic, on the other, fender benders and honking horns and frozen cars

it would move under overpasses and propagate upward and spread in either direction, like dominoes

awesome and frightening and completely plausible in the next 10-20 years

hour long software upgrade (5, Funny)

trb (8509) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548388)

They said:

sent owners a service notice advising them to bring the cars into dealers for an hour-long software upgrade.

They meant:

It's a five minute software upgrade, but if we told you that, you'd be upset when the service dept made you wait for an hour.

Oh Jesus. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548391)

And now, for your reading pleasure, a litany of BSOD and crashing Windows jokes.

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of crashing Toyota Priuses...

Speed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548394)

What highway speeds ?

Re:Speed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548423)

102MPH or greater...

Wait till they start using software rental model (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548407)

I fear a day would come when we have to pay yearly software license renewal fee to keep our cars running.

"Your vehicle OS license is due to expire in (insert date.) After which you may no longer able to operate your vehicle. Please contact (insert brand name) for OS license renewal."

Or for that matter, receiving the following message on the dash board LCD *AFTER* installing an upgrade...

"Your vehicle is incompatble with this version of OS, please upgrade your vehicle."

Not all that dangerous.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548409)

Stalling while going fast just means you'll start slowing down instead of having power. It would be dangerous if you were, say, passing a semi, with another semi coming head on... but you could probably slam on the brakes and pull back into your lane.

Unfortunately, if we're talking an automatic, or you were to depress the clutch, all your fancy power steering and power brakes might be gone... every try to use power steering without the engine running.. NOT EASY.

There is a reason VW Beetle (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548411)


is still the world most reliable car

it has nothing to do with electronics

Software language (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548412)

The problem is that the thing runs on Java and similar crap like that. That's just retarded.

How many medical devices use Java? How many flight control systems use Java? You think there is a reason for that?

Car Firmware Upgrades and Rebooting on the Road (2, Insightful)

billstewart (78916) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548413)

My 2001 PT Cruiser had a "recall" a couple of years ago - they gave it a firmware upgrade, and the acceleration got better.

Back in the 80s, I had an old beater 1971 Chevy Van with the usual Weird Chevy Electrical Problems. Every once in a while the engine would stop running while I was driving down the road (which is a problem for power steering...), so I'd put it in neutral and reboot, which would usually work. My current van is a 1987 Chevy, with a new engine installed about 5 years ago. The engine's not quite identical to the original, and every once in a while the monitoring system decides something's wrong and turns on the "Service Engine Soon" light, typically when I accelerate to pass somebody while going uphill on a freeway. There's no harm done, as long as that's the cause (as opposed to something actually being wrong with it), but to turn the light off you also have to reboot the car.

Re:Car Firmware Upgrades and Rebooting on the Road (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548527)

something's wrong and turns on the "Service Engine Soon" light, typically when I accelerate to pass somebody while going uphill on a freeway.

Uh, that's a classic sign of an air leak and one of the sensors is picking up either too much or too little pressure.

Could also be the knock sensor, O2 sensor, etc.

Read the code from the computer and see why it turned on the light, duh...

Updating software (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548419)

could we be heading into an era where our automobiles will require software updates and fixes to keep them from literally 'crashing'?"

Without putting too fine a point on it, yes! But there is no reason to go all chicken little. Standards of reliability for automotive software are generally much higher than for desktop PC software. No EULAs and auto manufacturers generally can not disclaim warranties. If a car breaks down due to crappy software, Consumer Reports will put out a report and people won't buy it. Additionally there are Lemon Laws and lots of eager lawyers to protect consumers. Unlike PCs where we have been trained to expect crashing software, people don't put up with that in cars, especially since there is the potential for physical harm when hurtling down the road at 80mph.

Kind of makes me glad my car's not all techy (2, Interesting)

ian rogers (760349) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548421)

I drive either a Jetta or a Fiero. Neither of them have power windows, ABS, etc. The Fiero doesn't even have power steering. Both have a 5 speed manual transmission. I've never had any problems repairing stuff, mainly because of having things like a 5 speed, crank windows, etc. People don't really need a computer to run their cars for them. If 90% of people are running unstable computers (Windows), do they really need things to make them drive worse? Sure, having a computer with a DVD Nav unit is nice and all, but computers shouldn't be driving cars when half the people on the road can't even do it well.

That "era" started long ago (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548424)

could we be heading into an era where our automobiles will require software updates and fixes to keep them from literally 'crashing'?

It's been well known for a long time that parking a computer-equipped car (that is, one with at least electronic ignition and/or electronic fuel injection) under a high-voltage powerline can very well "crash" the computer or scramble the computer's memory to the point that it's impossible to start.

I first heard of that problem when I was a kid, and I'm not all that young ;)

As for "software update", I've known rice-boys and other engine tuners program and replace the ROM chip containing the ignition timings in their cars to gain power, or remote the overrev safety, for the longuest time.

So, all in all, not exactly software, but still, cars without any kind of mecanical problem that won't start, or will stop because of buggy computers aren't new.

Aren't We Already There??? (1)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548439)

Didn't the 2003 BMW 745Li had a software error that would cause the engine to stall?

Do a search for "software" on this page [internetautoguide.com]

Industrial software testing (1)

denobug (753200) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548455)

In general the testing process of any industrial automated system requires it to demonstrate a "fail-safe" path. I.e, when the code or computer crash or behave abnormally it will either switch to a backup device or initiate the stop-sequence, and in this case, stop the car slowly so the driver will have enough time to steer the car to the side of the road.

Perhaps one way to ensure a more robust automation design a certification process should be formalized for more advanced vehicles. The process will not only make sure that the fail-safe path works, but also ensure the car manufactures did indeed test out all possible cause of failer and abnormal operation (under most circumstances, expect like someone pro intentionally rig their car to kill themselves).

If its software driven. (1)

stimpleton (732392) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548459)


"...could we be heading into an era where our automobiles will require software updates and fixes to keep them from literally 'crashing'?"

Yes.

Somewhat related... (1)

johndierks (784521) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548465)

I was reading the license agreement for OS 10.4 last week, and I stumbled upon this.

Section 2.c. The Apple software is not intended for use in the operation of nuclear facilities, aircraft navigation or communication systems, air traffic control systems, life support machines or other equipment in which the failure of the Apple software could lead to death, personal injury, or severe physical or environmental damage.

Maybe the Prius Kernel has the should have the same warning?

Irresponsible article! (1, Interesting)

marcushnk (90744) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548469)

13 unconfirmed reports from essentially anonymous forum postings.

Bloody ridiculous.
I have one of these cars and it performs flawlessly, as does most other peoples.
There are very VERY few issue's with this exceptional car.

Slashdot reporting (2, Informative)

krem81 (578167) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548471)

From the summary: While no accidents were reported to have been caused by the software glitch...

From the actual article: The report said no injuries or fatalities have been linked to the problem, but it did not say whether there had been accidents due to the problem.

Close enough for government work, eh?

Cars already need this.. (1, Interesting)

scrow (620374) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548475)

I have a 1999 Volvo S80. The car basically runs on a server/client basis with all the systems. The steering is even drive by wire. I have had two incedents where scheduled maintenance included software updates to the car's systems.

Great.. (1)

EiZei (848645) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548477)

So we now get the reliability of a piece of software and self-control and predictability of a human with the current technology? Just great.

Nothing new (1)

rsborg (111459) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548479)

I'm sure this issue [cnet.com] with BMW's have been discussed, not to mention the faked computer override problem (in France, don't have link). All I can say is, expect more issues as cars become more automated and software controlled. I mean, hell... my phone (T610... I love it, but it) has it's share of glitches (phone reboots when on call and camera button is invoked... sucks since the genius designers put the camera button too easily available.. I never use teh POS).

My friend has a Merc S500, and he mentions having to go into the shop for a "software update". Sometimes it takes days (tho he gets a loaner). I wonder why he has to... apparently his class of cars comes with a satellite modem to be able to apply patches remotely!

What OS are they running? (1)

bergeron76 (176351) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548500)

What RTOS are they using in the Prius?

I know that Steve "Woz" has several of them. Maybe he can talk to Steve J about putting OS X in it. ;)

Do not exceed 63mph.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548503)

or your 6 bit counter will roll over.

I've got one simple question to ask... (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548538)

When will car manufacturers stop toying with software and just do it all by native hardware?

Think about it, today's phones just *HAVE* to have all these neat features and software, but look how vulnerable they are. I still have my old Kyocera Phantom and older Nokia phones. No worries about viruses or worms hitting my phones, nope, and they respond and react faster than any of my friend's fancier phones. Come on, I can bet money someone out there can just handle this problem by making a hardware board with everything already done on the chip ROM, with as few features as possible, but enough to make it functional and WORK.

just reboot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548581)

they should provide alt-ctrl-del buttons just in case the computer crashes.

Hah (1)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548582)

As we all know mechnical cars are perfect and without any defect at all. You never see one of those reliable things by the side of the road!

Of course when a old-style mechanical car has a problem at least you can just connect it to a modem and get a redesigned fuel system dropped in without and cost or hassle! ...but on the other hand I do wish they would design their software with something like CSP so that they could use a formal model checker like FDR2. Something like that should resolve almost all of these annoying bugs and race conditions.

Totally predictable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12548583)

I live in SF Bay Area where these things have been THE status symbol ever since the revamped 2004 model came out. People pay ridiculous premiums to show how much they care about the environment.

That's fine, but I've always wondered if these Prius buyers really appreciate how much extra they are paying (even when you factor in gas savings). They are buying a new model of car (in relative terms) but also a new TYPE of car. That means there will be plenty of glitches like this one, and there will be parts failing earlier than expected. There will be maintenence headaches and once people start having to pay for the fixes they could be pricey.

Toyota has earned a nice reputation for quality but there's only so much they can do in terms of quality with a brand new technology. Go ahead and buy your Prius but do so with both eyes open. And download the patches ;->

Yet one more reason (1)

IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548594)

I drive a 1976 TVR 2500M. No fancy black boxes, no computerized doodads, just one great big honkin' engine and a manual gearbox.

Wouldn't have it any other way.

If Microsoft made cars... (2, Funny)

daVinci1980 (73174) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548598)

I guess not everyone has seen this. I thought it was kinda funny.

(From Here [vbrad.com]

At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving twenty-five dollar cars that got 1000 miles to the gallon.

In response to Mr. Gates' comments, General Motors issued the following press release (by Mr. Welch himself, the GM CEO).
If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

1. Every time they repainted the lines on the road, you'd have to buy a new car.

2. Occasionally your car would just die on the motorway for no reason, and you'd have to restart it. For some strange reason, you'd just accept this, restart and drive on.

3. Occasionally, executing a manoeuvre would cause your car to stop and fail to restart and you'd have to re-install the engine. For some strange reason, you'd just accept this too.

4. You could only have one person in the car at a time, unless you bought a "Car 95" or a "Car NT". But then you'd have to buy more seats.

5. Amiga would make a car that was powered by the sun, was twice as reliable, five times as fast, twice as easy to drive - but it would only run on five percent of the roads.

6. Macintosh car owners would get expensive Microsoft upgrades to their cars which would make their cars go much slower.

7. The oil, engine, gas and alternator warning lights would be replaced with a single "General Car Fault" warning light.

8. People would get excited about the "new" features in Microsoft cars, forgetting completely that they had been available in other cars for many years.

9. We'd all have to switch to Microsoft gas and all auto fluids but the packaging would be superb.

10. New seats would force everyone to have the same size butt.

11. The airbag system would say "Are you sure?" before going off.

12. If you were involved in a crash, you would have no idea what happened.

13. They wouldn't build their own engines, but form a cartel with their engine suppliers. The latest engine would have 16 cylinders, multi-point fuel injection and 4 turbos, but it would be a side-valve design so you could use Model-T Ford parts on it.

14. There would be an "Engium Pro" with bigger turbos, but it would be slower on most existing roads.

15. Microsoft cars would have a special radio/cassette player which would only be able to listen to Microsoft FM, and play Microsoft Cassettes. Unless of course, you buy the upgrade to use existing stuff.

16. Microsoft would do so well, because even though they don't own any roads, all of the road manufacturers would give away Microsoft cars free, including IBM!

17. If you still ran old versions of car (ie. CarDOS 6.22/CarWIN 3.11), then you would be called old fashioned, but you would be able to drive much faster, and on more roads!

18. If you couldn't afford to buy a new car, then you could just borrow your friends, and then copy it.

19. Whenever you bought a car, you would have to reorganise the ignition for a few days before it worked.

20. You would need to buy an upgrade to run cars on a motorway next to each other.

Missing the point (1)

MikeJ9919 (48520) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548599)

The article summary misses the point. Software updates and fixes shouldn't be necessary for any software. Due primarily to companies like Microsoft teaching us that improperly tested software is OK, and using their paying customers as beta testers, we've now reached this point. Car manufacturers that do not properly test their software should be held accountable both civilly and criminally.

new era? (-1)

ClickWir (166927) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548602)

I don't know about you, but computers have been in cars for quite some time now.

Friend has a Chevy Colorado, has already have a few firmware upgrades done to it. I've seen plenty of ECU's go and have to be replaced. There's only one ECU in the car, if that goes while you are driving... bye bye.

Cars... (1)

dyfet (154716) | more than 8 years ago | (#12548605)

I recall pushing an old russian model car over the Macedonian border once. Now those were mechanically simple and generally realiable; any simpler and they would have had a hand crank! That particular one suffered from "cautastrofic vehicle impact failure", a common occurance in Bulgaria where there are few stop lights that work. While putting four westerners in such a car may cause it to overheat in just a few km and burn off the tires, they were otherwise generally reliable vehicles, even if my big American ride-on lawn mower has a similar horesepower rating.

I do prefer if cars were to remain mechanically simple. How much tech is really needed here? And what's the average NJ greese monkey to do once all cars require a geek to maintain?

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