Rich Merritt's definition of "transoptimal engineering" is a classic. "Things that are so advanced and have so many features, that they don't work anymore." But maybe we should just let the term speak for itself and really not offer a definition, just to see the reaction.
I believe many products today are the result of overzealous Marketing Depts. which collectively see an obscure article about a technological breakthrough certainly NOT ready for prime time, yet they convince upper mgmt about its merits, and the next thing you know, it's in the R&D lab w/ engineers furiously at work building a prototype. And, once the prototype is functional the Sales Dept is accepting orders for said item. It's NOT "putting the cart BEFORE the horse" syndrome, it's putting "the cart before the horse is conceived" syndrome.
This morning's (NPR) news included a short article about researchers who have created a SINGLE-ATOM transistor on a silicon substrate, using a phosphorous atom. Of course, this was done at -400º or so, BUT in complete fairness, the reporter did acknowledge that the consuming public shouldn't start looking for devices w/ this new transistor on the store shelves anytime soon.
And, finally, in a sister UBM newsletter there is this entry:
Online Engineering Corp. manufactures products for the Water & Wastewater Industry and many of the products have been around for many years but the key is they work well. We manufacture using stainless steel and the products have a proven track record of working well with little maintainence. As designers we love to come up with new products, but we need to service our customers first. I find that a simple but proven product is many times the right thing to provide to your customer.
@WA4DOU (and in other threads, Mr Wolfe), as a Prius owner who experienced sudden acceleration not once but twice, operator error may be involved, but it was a very real phenomenon for me. Both experiences were prior to the recall service, so that may have been a solution, but I am not convinced that the offered solution is a complete explanation. I am still driving the car, by the way, and if it should happen again, I do not plan on panicking that time, either.
Umm, some of the Toyota throttle-by-wire failures have been definitively shown to be due to tin whiskers to the nightmare of RoHS visited upon us by our European friends. (With friends like these....). See, for example:
The runaway proliferation of features, and in convolution of standards, is indeed a reason to be concerned. A standard subject to a realm of interpretations is of marginal value, and more likely a source of grief.
Unfortunately there are a whole lot of folks who promote the opposite approach, claiming that products, at least, should "do everything imagined, and much more", which leads to difficulty of use and reduced reliability. For standards, it means that a difinitive standard would be revised a few times, leading to a proliferation of products claiming to meet the standard but not to work with eachother. The video entertainment toys interconnects are an example of that.
So we have two areas where complexity is bound to cause problems of various degrees. Who is pushing for this complexity, and why? Can anybody respond ??
Slopulse, I certainly do not discount your experience with your Prius. Off topic though it may be, it certainly speaks to one of the huge design differences between today and earlier times. Namely, even when one is trying to adhere to principles of simple design, there is no way to 100% verify software. There are academic and developmental models which can in a meta way get you close to that, at least on paper. But even if those are rigidly followed, you never get 100%. Add to that the fact that we all know they AREN'T followed. (The only places that come close are aerospace and NASA.)
My personal take on the Prius, and this is speculative, is that there was/is a real problem but it was blown out of proportion because there were indeed many driver error incidents. Unfortunately, those driver error cases obscured the real problem and offered an easy route for the existence of a real issue -- intermittent and hard to duplicate though it may be -- to be denied. I wonder whether Toyota has been able to identify and fix the intrinsic problem. I don't think we know the answer to that. Has your Prius been recalled for a software update and what was your experience with that?
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