Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Joke becomes fact in autos

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 be driving twenty-five dollar cars that got 1000 miles to the gallon."

In response to Bill's comments, GM issued a press release stating (by Mr. Welch himself):

If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would be driving cars with the following characteristics:

1. For no reason whatsoever your car would crash twice a day.
2. Every time they repainted the lines on the road you would have to buy a new car.
3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason, and you would just accept this, restart and drive on.
4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.
5. Only one person at a time could use the car, unless you bought "Car95" or "CarNT." But then you have would have to buy more seats.
6. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, reliable, five times as fast, and twice as easy to drive, but would only run on five percent of the roads.
7. The oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single "general car default" warning light.
8. New seats would force everyone to have the same size butt.
9. The airbag system would say "Are you sure?" before going off.
10. Occasionally for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key, and grab hold of the radio antenna.
11. GM would require all car buyers to also purchase a deluxe set of Rand McNally road maps (now a GM subsidiary), even though they neither need them nor want them. Attempting to delete this option would immediately cause the car's performance to diminish by 50% or more. Moreover, GM would become a target for investigation by the Justice Department.
12. Every time GM introduced a new model car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.
13. You'd press the "start" button to shut off the engine.
--A 1990s e-mail forward that was in fact never written by GM. But wait, #13 is true now for some cars! And as for #1...


When Toyota Prius owners take their cars to the dealer under the company's latest recall, they'll likely be out of the shop in about 30 minutes. Even though the recall has to do with a problem with the Prius' brakes, mechanics won't have to do much to fix the cars—they don't have to remove the wheels, poke around under the hood, or get near the brakes at all. That's because the flaw in the Prius is not mechanical. It's a software glitch. ...

In some versions of the 2010 Prius, the code that runs the braking system is buggy. It sometimes lags before applying full stopping power. To fix the error, the dealer simply downloads and installs a new version of the software—pretty much the same routine you'd go through to fix a security flaw in Microsoft Windows.
--Farhad Manjoo, Slate, on a 21st century car crash

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