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Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Swapping out the electronics
Rob Spiegel   11/7/2011 11:08:24 AM
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Good points, TJ. You're right about the Made for Monkeys postings. Nearly all of the complaints with new white-box appliances are with the electronics. It's the control boards that are always getting fried, usually within the first two or three years. This does not bode well for cars as automakers keep packing in more and more electronics.

Lauren Muskett
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Platinum
When Mechanicals Outlast the Electronics
Lauren Muskett   11/7/2011 11:14:33 AM
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I like the idea of having universal support to swap out your own electronics. With all of the new electronics being integrated into cars you would think a plan would have been in place to replace the worn out touch screen/entertainment components.

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Planned obsolescence
Charles Murray   11/7/2011 11:45:05 AM
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I absolutely believe the story about the touch screen maker who quietly admitted that their screens are made to last just four years. I believe, but can't prove, that there is a matter of planned obsolescence involed in this. I am typing this comment into a 2005 model Compaq Presario computer. When I recently took it in for repairs, the tech asked me, "Why are you bothering? You could get a new machine for just a little bit more." Therein lies the problem. Why should electronics manufacturers build devices that can last 20 years when people are tossing their computers after five years to buy the latest and greatest? I could give many reasons for keeping computers for ten years or more (the main one being I don't like to reinstall software and copy data onto a new machine), but I don't think most consumers of electronic products would agree with me.

Beth Stackpole
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Blogger
Re: Planned obsolescence
Beth Stackpole   11/7/2011 1:40:55 PM
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I think you're right about the market strategy being around planned obsolescence when it comes to the electronics in our vehicles, but there is a need to keep up with modern software advances and look at how furiously fast they come at us. Five or so years ago, most people didn't have GPS and only the buyers of high-end luxury cars were talking about syncing up devices (that's because most people didn't have smart phones or tablets).

My point is the pace of this kind of technology is so rapid fire, that these systems will seem antiquated unless they are updated to keep up with the times. I think TJ's suggestion about a platform that lets you plug in your own electronics makes far more sense than having to replace something that's such an integrated part of your vehicle every few years when you're likely not upgrading or replacing your car.

 

 

 

etmax
User Rank
Gold
Re: Planned obsolescence
etmax   11/8/2011 9:39:17 AM
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Charles, I too hate reinstalling SW. It takes me 2 weeks of 8 hours a day to get a new computer and install all of the SW I have. That's with using the same OS. If I upgraded to Vista from XP I would have also had to buy a new printer and scanner. It's ridiculous. I've been driving cars for about 37 years, and have liked the fact that the accelerator brake and clutch (when present) are always in the same place. What is it with computer SW designers that they want to change everything on the UI every other day.

philipp10
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Gold
Re: Planned obsolescence
philipp10   11/8/2011 9:46:03 AM
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There is no such thing as planned obsolescence.  Companies that supposedly plan for an item to go obsolete are really just designing for a target market using cost verses benefit to the consumer. I’m sure  a touch screen can be made to last longer than 4 years, but, would it be price competitive.  Any company purposely designing with the thought of planned obsolescence would go broke in this world very quickly.  Of course, there is GM.

Ratsky
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Platinum
Not a new problem!!
Ratsky   11/7/2011 12:16:07 PM
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Way back in the very early 1990's, Buick had the Reata.  That was a "sporty" largish car with an electronic touch screen display (7 or 8 inch as I recall).  My boss at that time had one; it seemed it was in the shop quite often for various malfunctions, and one time he had to replace it (out of warranty) for >$1500!  When it went out, hardly ANYTHING in the car worked (except you could start the engine and drive to the dealer).  No HVAC, none of the "high-end "features," no entertainment stuff (basically radio/cassete), etc.  High "coolness" factor, but ZERO usability!  He soon dumped it at a huge loss despite having bought it used (but only a few months old!) at a substantial discount. 

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!



vimalkumarp
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Gold
change. moore's law and electronics
vimalkumarp   11/8/2011 5:02:31 AM
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as they say change is the only permanent thing in the world and electronics really depict this aspect more than any other domain. moore's law and portrays this aspect and this is the market driver for electronic products. This is not the case with mechanical products and hence mechanicals outlast electronics.

TJ McDermott
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Blogger
Re: change. moore's law and electronics
TJ McDermott   11/8/2011 6:06:48 AM
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Change and Moore's law are reasons for upgrading the electronics, but does not explain why the life expectancy of the electronics is so much less.  They're flat-out less durable than mechanical equipment.

vimalkumarp
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Gold
life expectancy of electronics
vimalkumarp   11/8/2011 6:31:47 AM
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it is not alwyas true that life expectancy of electronics is always less compared to mechanical systems. there are electronic timers and switches which are more reliable and durable than mechanical systems. Many a times there are no equivalent systems to compare life expectancy. i agree with your comment that in general mechanical systems are more durable, but then we have to consider many other aspects

 

Sinklar
User Rank
Iron
Electronics board failure
Sinklar   11/8/2011 9:55:45 AM
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I have a 2002 Tahoe and the BMC (Body Control Module) died. The unit requires a dealership to reprogram. GM was out of stock for 6 weeks. Bottom line I lost use of the car for 6 weeks. The car would not not start because the BMC thought there was an alarm condition and cut off the fuel injectors and it cost me over $400.00 to replace the unit. Plus I had to have the car towed to the dealship, there is no limp mode or reset for this condition. I think there should be standard computer hardware in cars much like PCs are a standard today. The software should be yours to reload for the life of the car. At the very least the programming and hardware specification should be made available for third parties to make the products after set period of time. Once GM stops making the parts or goes out of business the cars become scrap.

TJ McDermott
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Blogger
Re: Electronics board failure
TJ McDermott   11/8/2011 10:09:41 AM
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Sinklar:

In a different article message cycle, I was educated as to why you will never get the software or firmware for your car; the auto manufacturers do not want the liability.

I agree with your point, but without revamping the US legal system I do not see it happening.

btwolfe
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Gold
So what is the right interface?
btwolfe   11/8/2011 11:19:23 AM
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Even if we decide to go the route of having a universal interface, what would it be? You may suggest USB, but even that interface is changing faster than the life expectancy of a vehicle. At least USB has managed to remain backwards compatible, but I don't think there are any panaceas for this problem long term.

Walt
User Rank
Gold
Re: So what is the right interface?
Walt   11/8/2011 11:52:23 AM
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Very good point.  My newest car is a 1998 Toyota with 160K miles on it.  Still runs great.  Other than the usual wear on tires, brakes, etc., I've only had one ignition coil fail.  I'll probably try to get 300K miles out of it and will likely keep it until it is over 20 years old.

Will USB 2.0 still be here in 20 years?  Will much of any of the technology of today be here in 20 years?  Or even 10 years?

I think it is laughable that a certain auto manufacturer is pushing advertisements of gadgets in their newest cars so hard, which might not even interface with anything in 5 years.  The young lady in the commercial might need to use another device in a few years to find her shoe stores when her car no longer works with the new data and communication protocols of that year.  If this advertising is realy effective, I would find it a sad commentary on today's consumer.

averagejoe72677
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Gold
Electronic Gizmos in Cars
averagejoe72677   11/8/2011 11:32:06 AM
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I have always had the belief that the more unnecessary gadgets you add to the basic automobile, the more opportunities you have for failures. Time has proven this therory right. When I option up a new car I am very selective on what I check off on the option list. I buy only what I feel would serve me well and avoid paying for gadgets I don't really need whenever possible. Touch Screens of any kind are simply a failure waiting to happen. My $89,00 stand alone GPS is the only touch screen device I own.

Tool_maker
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Electronic Gizmos in Cars
Tool_maker   11/9/2011 1:06:37 PM
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Your's is a wise attitude. What I would give for a crank window when the motor has gone to the big junkyard in the sky and I do not want to pony up $200 for a new one. Same for the auto door locks and remote control mirrors. They are all cool and useful when they work, but royal pains when they do not.

dhenz
User Rank
Iron
Re: Electronic Gizmos in Cars
dhenz   7/4/2012 3:01:59 AM
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Integration of ev could also upgrade wear items and car accessories. For me, I purchase automotive accessories jcwhitney if necessary and to avoid too much expenses for unimportant stuff.

Thinking_J
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Platinum
good points .... solutions-limited
Thinking_J   11/8/2011 4:22:54 PM
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Beth nailed it .. electronics technology changes at much faster rate than simple mechanics.

Because of

1) Because of safety standards for cars.. you will not get much traction for the idea of upgradeable dashboards. (crash testing?)

2) incentives to sell new cars (a variation on planned obsolescence) see history of GM's introduction of yearly models.

3) Electronic standards (USB) rarely last 15 years anymore.

Longest living electrical item in a car .. the cigarette lighter socket - now a aux power port... only because of new use.

4) Most computers.. are lucky to have a harddrive last more than 5 years. So, if you don't want to re-install software, better plan on mirroring your it on a daily basis to it's replacement HD.

I have a custom ECU on my car.. I can replace the entire dashboard functions via my laptop (plus so much more) .... But I don't think that will "fly" for most consumers.

and it isn't legal in CA....

We just have to face it... we live in "interesting" times.

 

 

 

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Blogger
Re: good points .... solutions-limited
TJ McDermott   11/8/2011 4:40:31 PM
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Thinking_J,

it is because electronics technology DOES change so fast is why I proposed a standard data bus such as USB.  As electronics standards go, it's the most ubiquitous and longest-lived for consumer electronics.  By bringing it into cars, we can replace failed devices or upgrade them to ones with newer features at a much lower cost.

I also wanted to highlight that, upgrade and evolution aspects aside, electronics do NOT last as long as mechanical devices.  They're not end-user-maintainable the way a car (mostly) is.

A catastrophic engine failure can be repaired, at worst, by replacing the engine by the end-user.  The end-user cannot replace the battery on an Apple product!

bsprouse
User Rank
Iron
Re: good points .... solutions-limited
bsprouse   11/8/2011 9:54:07 PM
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Electronics standards rarely last 15 years?? 

This is an absurd statement. The USB port started in 1995, it has already lasted more than 15 years and shows no sign of dying off soon.  Twisted pair ethernet was around in the mid 80's and is still the predominant networking technology at most every office today.  WiFi and SD cards have been around since the late 90's and have also only grown in popularity.  I could go on all day with electronic standards that are at or near the 15 year mark that are still going strong.  It is usually only the early standards in a given area that die off quickly as they are often there only until the cost of the better standard reaches the point that it becomes THE standard.

 

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Mechanicals outlast electronics
William K.   11/8/2011 9:56:59 PM
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Phillip10 is certainly detached from reality. The fact of a six-month product life cycle has been published repeatedly. And of course it is intentional, and it has nothing at all to do with technical advances in electronics. It has everything to do with profit. We all know this, it is not some deep hidden secret.

The auto companies do lament that cars are expected to have a longer product life cycle, although tthe "monkeys" columns do tend to say perhaps they have obtained the method. I recently disposed of my 1985 Dodge van because of a string of electrical failures, some of which were due to rust in modules.

The screens will fail, probably the backlight will go, and the replacement will not be available, or it will cost several hundred dollars for the replacement, and only the dealer will be allowed to install it for several hundred dollars more. 

The problemas I see it is not that "we" demand all of these dumb features, but that the marketing people make certain that cars are only offered with those features. After all, selling a $25 piece of hardware for $650 is a way to make a profit, it is a rational busniss plan, I suppose. 

But don't worry, folks. The next recession and depression will have cars returned to the bare basics, if you can afford one. Just wait another 2 or 3 ytears.

Alexander Wolfe
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Blogger
Not always
Alexander Wolfe   11/15/2011 7:45:24 AM
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The canonical case of the mechanicals NOT outlasting the electronics is the VCR. This is (was) due to the widespread use of plastic gears and actuaries. That's why it was a bad idea to buy a TV/VCR combo, cause after a year you just had a TV with a useless slot at the bottom.

Jack Rupert, PE
User Rank
Platinum
Disposable Interface
Jack Rupert, PE   11/22/2011 4:31:08 PM
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In answer to the first question raised in the article is no, I do not expect touch screens to be disposable any more than I would expect the steering wheel to be disposable, or for that matter the un-integrated radio of days gone by.  I would hope that if the manufacturers cannot create a long-lived interface, they will only only put the non-essentials functions as part of it.  I would not be pleased if my operator interface died on my car and I could no longer use the car until it was fixed.



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