Design Con 2015

The Curmudgeon's Car

-July 30, 2013

I confess that I'm a bit of a Luddite, which is unusual for a techie, right? Or am I more of a curmudgeon? Well, anyway, my car is a 1998 model, so, to those of you designing or owning newer models: Are cars getting too smart for their own good?

I am inspired here by my colleague Rich Quinnell's blog Too Much Intelligence, Not Enough Sense, in which he describes how he came to be out $500 when faced with a non-starting car, only to discover the anti-theft "feature" had gone south due to a simple battery glitch. What exactly is one supposed to do when changing the battery? $500 each time? It certainly makes you wonder what sort of qualification testing the electronics were subjected to.

My olde-fashioned ways probably cost me a job once. I was interviewing at a local firm, and all I knew was that they were involved with automotive automation of some sort. The interview was going well. Finally, they described their product under development: A combination of HW & SW that let you listen to your emails while driving, and to reply using voice recognition. I was aghast, and it doubtless showed in my horrified expression. I suppose their thinking was that voice interaction was safer than trying to read and type while driving! My crazy thinking was that you should be driving while driving, not taking care of your email backlog. I didn't get the job. And I'm glad for that.

What do you think? Are cars getting too smart for their own good? Do you engage common-sense when testing a new design? And whom should you sue after a bum design sets you back $500?

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