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December 10, 2004

Cars Vs. Software

There's a meme going around about "If Cars Were Like Microsoft Windows"...there's one version here and another one here. Basically they'd crash all the time, you'd get annual fees, etc.

The counterargument is that if cars had grown in functionality the way software had, they would get 500 miles to the gallon, cost $100, etc. (actually I think that may have been the original argument; the other stuff is the counterargument).

Both of these contain some truth. But I'll tell you one thing about "If Microsoft Made Cars" -- you would have a lot better control over accessory power. Sometimes I sit around and try to imagine automotive engineers who are thinking about the headlights on a car..."Hey Bob, if the customer leaves their lights on and turns the engine off, what do you think they want?" "Gee Joe, I bet they are trying to drain their battery so they get stranded" "I think you're right, Bob" "OK Joe, let's design it that way".

It really amazes me to see cars with all this fancy timed lighting, where the interior lights stay on for a minute after the engine is stopped, then gradually fade out...and they still will keep the headlights on until the battery dies.

Anyway, I was reading the Consumer Reports review of the Chrysler Bling-o-matic 300, and they showed a picture of a configuration screen, where it actually let you configure things like how long the accessory power stayed on after you turned the engine off. So maybe, just maybe, it does something intelligent with the lights. Hallelujah!!

Posted by AdamBa at December 10, 2004 09:51 PM

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The reality is that analogies just don't work. You can't compare complex entities in that way..

Posted by: DrNo!! at December 12, 2004 03:57 PM

This feature has been available in Australia for a while I believe. I own this car; [http://www.holden.com.au/www-holden/action/modeloverview?modelid=4000]
Which only cost AUD$34000 on road, and it provides an easy to use interface to program the behaviour of the headlights, the interior lights etc.. just about everything.

And it might just be me, but I think it looks a helluva lot better than that Chrysler behemoth.


Posted by: Steve at December 12, 2004 04:49 PM

DN: I actually think cars are a pretty good analogy for computers in some ways. Not as in "The steering wheel is like the UI...", but for explaning things like layers of software, what an API/interface is, how debugging works, and all that, a car may be the most accessible analogy for the average technoschmo.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at December 12, 2004 05:03 PM