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Beth Stackpole
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The millennial issue
Beth Stackpole   10/21/2011 8:36:32 AM
Great article, Chuck. I am one of those who scratch their head as to why we need all this electronics in cars and am guilty of having a vehicle that has all of the fancy bells whistles, most of which I don't use.

That said, the point about millennials expecting all of this gadgetry in their cars is absolutely on target and one I never really considered. Obviously, the automotive manufacturers have to anticipate the needs of their next audience. The more pressing question is will this upcoming generation get the jobs and make the big bucks so they can afford all these fancy cars!

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Re: The millennial issue
Amclaussen   10/21/2011 11:28:30 AM
How many car accidents promoted by people using phones, tablets or LapTops while driving, how many car owners will have to pay stratospheric sums for correcting problems that evade 99% of the available technicians?  What will do us, the people of the DIY camp, when we are facing automobiles that are completely 'repair-unfriendly'...  What can we expect when a manufacturer (Ford) is selling a SUV with "autopark-assist" (I certainly remember that I had to pass my first driving license exam at 18 by having to park a large patrol car inside a quite tight space -it was possible, but certainly not easy-) so that young people won't have to even know hot to park a car, and they will be free to cruise at high speed while playing a computerized device NOT intended to be used while driving!  This is madness...

Get me back to my reliable, easy to maintain, well designed car of the 90's. Just limit designers to correct their few defects and keep on improving their basi design, nobody really needs a super computer complex on wheels.

Send all these Monkey minded "car designers" to another planet, so that THIS planet return to sanity!  amclaussen.

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The elephant.
failureindesign   10/21/2011 2:32:50 PM
There already exists two classes of vehicles designed specifically for the inattentive who prefer to chat, text and/or Facebook instead of paying attention to the road: cabs and limos.

We moan and groan and create endless road-side memorials [a further distraction no less] to the "victims" of driver inattentiveness. We spend countless hours and taxpayer dollars investigating these accidents and ways to prevent them; the result being numerous reports, recommendations, bills, laws, etc. etc. etc.. Some ban the use of cell phones. Some ban texting. That 7" DVD screen in the dashboard is supposed to be disabled when the vehicle is in motion; except any half decent installer can enable it full time for a nice tip. In fact some design several semi-critical interfaces using an Atari-like joystick and expect the driver to take his eyes off the road at 80 MPH to change radio stations, select another CD or change from defrost to cabin. Chevy bragged in a recent Facebook ad that their new trucks will have a built-in router so the driver can run his whole office from the cab of the truck (presumably at 80 MPH again while balancing his coffee in one hand and typing on the laptop with the other). Apparently they expect the knees to come into play for steering and acceleration/braking. I'm all kinds of excited at the prospect of this fellow sharing the road with my children (who now drive).

Let's cut the crap. If you want drive, drive. If you want to play or chat or Facebook, call a cab or the limo service.

The car companies are equally to blame here and I am amazed no ambulance chaser has thought of this yet. By including systems specifically designed to distract the driver from his primary purpose (safely negotiating the roadways from point A to point B), the car company has implicitly made itself liable for distracted-driver accidents. If an adult serves alcohol to a minor and allows them to drive away, that adult can (and should) be held liable for any and all events that ensue. I don't see why we should cut the car manufacturer's any less slack.

And the solution is oh so simple. And I'm not talking about systems that automatically interface with your cell phone so you can keep yakking with your stock broker or yelling at your girlfriend while you're driving. If you need to use the phone, pull over or wait until you get there. If your life is so complicated that 60 seconds is going to be a deal-breaker, you need a new life.

The solution is to line the roof and glass with a wifi / cell - proof material that renders all of these gadgets mute. Oooh. You might miss the latest Gaga tweet or what IBM stock did in the last two minutes. Big freaking deal. Nobody died while you were distracted either. Less time spent investigating accidents and explaining to Mom that her daughter is in pieces in the morgue. Less time making endless studies and reports and legislative wrangling to pass bills restricting the use of distractions (ie, cell phones, etc.) that most will ignore anyhow.

If you think you are so valuable that you can't be away from the phone for a few minutes, tell the boss you want a limo. It might be a valuable lesson in perception. LoL

Don't fret. I realize this opinion is very unpopular in the current "Only I, me and myself count!" culture. In fact I suspect more than a few are already headed for their elephant guns. So, ta ta.


Jack Rupert, PE
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Operator Assist vs. Entertainment
Jack Rupert, PE   10/21/2011 3:27:17 PM
The simple answer is no, we do not need all this stuff.  I think it breaks down to two simple directions: user-assist vs entertainment.  It's one thing to have the additional technology make driving easier or safer.  A GPS, for instance, tells you exactly where you are, where you want to go, and the street you just missed.  I can't count the number of times prior to GPS that I've seen someone driving with an unfolded map over the steering wheel.  I made sure they were either well ahead of me or well behind me.  Similarly, such technology as blind-spot annunciation or backup cameras help the driver see things they may not have been able to see and prevent accidents.  On the other hand, if half the companies out there ban Facebook from their work computers, I really don't see a driver needing it.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Operator Assist vs. Entertainment
TJ McDermott   10/22/2011 12:14:10 AM
Entertainment can be old school too, Jack.  It doesn't necessarily mean electronics.  I'm working a system installation in the field with two coworkers right now.  Coming back to our hotel Thursday night, we watched in amazement as the lady driving the car to our left dealt playing cards on a lap board as she drove.  This was at night, so she had her ceiling light on so as to see them.

In a previous article, I commented that the electronics lifetime will not match the life of the car.  I strongly feel the automakers need to step out of electronics and instead provide power bus access only.  5V USB, and maybe some 120V outlets, for the devices that assist (such as GPS).

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automotive electronics
vimalkumarp   10/22/2011 12:19:29 AM
Blind spot removal/ annunciation is definitely a boon. I think we should appreciate this aspect than to think about  banning  facebook from office.

Ban on facebook sounds too harsh..!

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Define "Car"
williamlweaver   10/22/2011 12:46:53 PM
Interesting and well-written article. But I have to ask how the readers and commenters define the concept of "car". The definition keeps evolving through time. I would suspect that back in the early Henry Ford days, "Car" was defined as "status" (and maybe that hasn't change too much today). "Car" soon changed into "freedom" -- that ability to travel between home, work, food, worship, family and vacations. Then "Car" changed into "power" -- more and more horsepower under the hood. Even though the average buyer didn't understand the technology behind a 350-hp engine, they were willing to pay for one. Then through the 1970's "Car" changed into "efficiency" -- smaller mass and larger mpg. Then through the 1980's and 1990's "Car" turned into "minivan" -- kids to soccer, ballet and baseball. 

In this century, "Car" is defined as living space -- at least for 2 - 3 hours each day during large commutes and traffic. Environmental control, Information and Entertainment are paramount. Those "car" companies that understand this will win -- and continue to find new and efficient ways to deliver these things in safe and inexpensive ways. For starters, in 2011 why are we still routing pounds of copper through the chassis? We have several great examples of spread-spectrum optical systems that distribute information along a thin fiber. Going back isn't going to happen. Designers need to find new and better ways to move forward.

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Re: Distracted Driving
JJPEngr   10/24/2011 9:47:36 AM
Good comment! I agree. My wife has been rear ended twice and I have been rear ended once this year by distracted idiots. Fotunately, there were no injuries, but the car repairs are aggravating.

Let's get them back to driving and not playing with all the irrelevant toys in the car. Somewhere we went wrong with having to constantly know who is doing what. Who cares?? We went for years without all this infotainment crap.

The safety features like lane warnings, rear vision and other aids are god and improve safety, but the office on wheels needs to be limited.


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Re: Do We Really Need All This Stuff?
averagejoe72677   10/24/2011 10:16:25 AM
I can answer the the question in one word, NO! As more and more electronic gismos are added, they increase the cost of the car and the complexity. As the costs of new cars continues to rise, people tend keep their cars longer. Electronics do not have an infinate lifespan and at some point they will fail. OEM replacement parts are generally outrageously priced and aftermarket suppliers generally shy away from producing complex electronic assemblies. therefore the cost of ownership rises as warranties expire

. To add to the issue is the distraction these items add to drivers that are shifting their attention from controlling their car to the function buttons or screens while driving. Personally, I would just like to have a basic car that is economical and reliable without all the whistles and bells for starters, then the option to add the gismos as I like (which would be few).



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endsofinvention   10/24/2011 10:54:38 AM
I agree and disagree to a certain extent. I agree that there is too much infotainment bubble gum but a lot of those microcontrollers are improving things like braking, energy usage, diagnostics, fuel efficiency. I think that is progress. But I think that we are really missing the boat. What we should be aiming for with much more zeal is removing the meatbag behind the steering wheel. Get rid of the driver and a whole mutitude of good things happen. Fuel consumption plunges because the need for traffic lights is greatly reduced therefore less start-stop driving. No more speedsters, drunk drivers, distracted mobile texters, no more guys putting their make-up on using the rear-view mirror or women shaving... It's really not that difficult but no control-freak politician is going to hand over his keys...

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