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[P]
The computer in the car

By ContinuousPark in Technology
Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 08:40:08 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

As technology advances and the idea of ubiquitous computing becomes more of a reality, cars are being invaded by all sorts of electronic devices, some of which could make our driving safer, but some of them can be dangerous in some ways. And even if safety wasn't an issue, how useful these technologies really are, do we need all that stuff in our cars?


This article talks about the preliminary results of a government-funded study on information overload for drivers. They equipped a car simulator with the latest gadgets (car phone, internet access, driving directions, collision detectors) and triggered at different times to see how drivers reacted. When all activated (unlikely but possible), one out of six drivers misses an exit or has to turn off or ignore some of the devices; our multitasking abilities could have increased as we become familiar with computers but there's a limit it can be dangerous to bump into (no pun) while driving, not to mention some people haven't acquired this ability. Car companies have started their own tests.

Now, I think many problems could be solved with clever engineering and interface design. For instance, the devices could communicate with each other so that they don't ever activate at the same time; some, like the collision detector, could have a higher priority. Maybe the car can have its velocity reduced if the driver is voluntarily using two or more devices at the same time (tuning the radio while answering the phone while looking for the name of a street, for instance).

This other article talks precisely about these tech solutions; in this case, how car companies are divided in two camps: speech recognition vs dials/joysticks/buttons. Speech recognition is having trouble because of the noisy environment it has to deal with but it's less intrusive; it's also cheaper because a voice-enabled controller can fit in the slot used by stereos while a buttons/dials system needs more space and has to be taken into account very early in the design phase.

What other consequences besides safety concerns can computers in cars bring? I think for instance that there could be more people living in huge vans equipped with everything they need but a garden, but a more troubling one is the loss of privacy when your car is emitting GPS signals so that it can be located if it's stolen or if it breaks down in the middle of nowhere (not to mention interactive onboard navigation that tells you where is the closest restaurant or hotel), you just push a button and a GM operator contacts you or sends a mechanic. I think other companies offer similar services. Erik Davis has a somewhat spooky account on its encounter with this technology.

So I guess the poll puts it in simple terms: Are computers in cars really that necessary? How safety or privacy concerns should be addressed? Is it just a matter of drivers getting used to this? How are you probably coping with computerized cars already?

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Poll
Computers in cars:
o are a necessary evil 0%
o are dangerous and should be illegal 16%
o are the next best thing since automatic transmission 11%
o are good but should be made smarter before I use them 42%
o are good as they are but should be used with measure 29%

Votes: 68
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o article
o article [2]
o account
o Also by ContinuousPark


Display: Sort:
The computer in the car | 32 comments (29 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Safety? hah. (3.00 / 7) (#1)
by Seumas on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 05:22:37 PM EST

There are people who blab on their cell-phone, smoke, drink, eat, read, listen to the radio, put on their makeup, shave, brush their teeth, turn around and discipline their kids and do a lot of other stupid and dangerous things in cars. Having a computer isn't going to be any worse. Further, just because it is in your car doesn't mean it is to be used while in motion. And once most things in the car are handled by voice, it becomes even less of a problem.

I can't speak for other countries, but in America, looking cool with your gadgets and multi-tasking is more important than safety -- every time.
--
I just read K5 for the articles.

I disagree (none / 0) (#32)
by sl4ck0ff on Fri Feb 02, 2001 at 08:45:52 PM EST

Maybe on the surface it seems more important, but they know better instinctively.
/me has returned to slacking
[ Parent ]
A different perspective (4.27 / 11) (#2)
by trhurler on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 05:38:53 PM EST

Understand one thing: I'm a driver. I am not a commuter, I am not a taxi service, and I am not usually a roadtripper. I like to drive. My car has to have a manual transmission - preferably a nice one, rather than the cheap cable-actuated crap in common use today. I will never buy a car that doesn't have 4 wheel disc. I'd like to have ABS and traction control, but I'd also like to be able to turn them off. I'm one of those people who goes out away from traffic and does things most of you think are stupid on roads most of you consider to be dangerous. I hate traffic, but at least I know how to handle my damned car, unlike practically all other (US) drivers.

Now, with that said, I am all in favor of moderation in my car - but I don't think laws ought to require it. I want a net connection, sure, but only if you can give me a device I can ask for directions or restaurant advice and so on without taking my hands off of what I WANT to do, which is drive my car. Since that isn't happening yet, I don't want it. The same can be said of any other gadget - a momentary distraction is fine, if I can ignore it, but if it requires fiddling with, I'm already pissed at it.

My ideal car would be similar to a BMW 3 series roadster, but would be midengined. It would have the gadgets, but they'd be voice controlled. It'd have a heads up display for stuff relevant to driving, and for nothing else. I'd be perfectly safe driving it. However, it doesn't exist, and it won't for quite a while, if ever. And I won't be able to afford it anyway; I make good money, but face it, we'll be longer getting usable voice control at reasonable prices that works well enough for automobiles than we're going to have petroleum based cars, I think.

Why do I mention all this? Because regulations of the sort you allude to always screw guys like me in favor of the idiot who barely passed his driver's test, can't handle his car, doesn't maintain his car, and in general has no goddamned business on the road taking up space real drivers could be using in the first place. IMO, the laws regarding what you can and can't have in your car are stupid - what we need are tougher laws preventing total dumbasses who can't drive from getting licenses.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

s2000 (none / 0) (#3)
by rebelcool on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 06:08:40 PM EST

is a beautiful car :) handles like a dream.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Honda S2000 (none / 0) (#4)
by trhurler on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 06:39:51 PM EST

When I first saw the S2000, I thought maybe Honda had decided to make a real driver's car. However, what they've done is to create the inevitable "Sucker yuppie morons who want to be experts in various fields will buy this thinking it is the genuine article" knockoff of a real driver's car. Here are the problems:

First, for the price, it ought to have real power. It doesn't. The advertised 240hp and decent torque figures are a joke belied by the car's lackluster(for its type) 0-60 and quarter mile times. This is why people who care about their reputations don't build VTEC roadsters that squeeze 240hp out of a 4 cylinder engine - the power curve sucks, and that's what roadster drivers really care about. Well, at least that's what real roadster drivers care about.

Second, it handles better than most cars driven by common idiots, but compare it to an MR2 sometime on a winding country road. The MR2 costs a bit over half what you can buy an S2000 for, and yet it handles better when you really push it hard. Same for the Mazda Miata, BMW's roadsters(all of them,) and so on. In fact, I can't think of a roadster sold today that handles worse than an S2000, except for the Audi TT, which handles like a full sized sports car.

Third, for the price, it ought to be luxurious. There shouldn't BE a model without leather seating, buttwarmers, and all the other neat crap that real luxury automakers put on their cars, except possibly a race variation.

In conclusion, while it is a neat looking car and could be modified to be quite a nice car(lower it a bit, stiffen up the suspension just a tad, possibly bigger wheels and thinner tires, but not sure about that, replace engine outright, etc) it costs too much to ever make that worthwhile. I'd rather drive ANY other roadster on the market of which I am aware. That list includes the following, but probably also includes some I'm forgetting(I think even Vauxhall has one now!):

Miata, MR2, BMW Z3, M roadster, Z8, TVR's little two door(don't remember the name, but NICE car...) Audi TT(butI don't like this one much either - too heavy!) Boxter(those commercials telling people to go buy a Firebird or a Camaro instead are hilarious...) the Vauxhall(don't remember the name.)

By the way, the sucker yuppie thing mentioned at the top of this post also applies to way too many of today's microbrews. Watered down piss designed to be "different" while retaining as much of the no-body no-flavor cannot-even-hold-a-head bit-of-alcohol-in-distilled-water flavor of Natural Lite as possible. Geh.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
disagree (none / 0) (#13)
by rebelcool on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 08:45:19 PM EST

without getting into a pissing war here, have you actually driven one?

True, it won't win any drag races. You just cant produce much torque out of a 2.0 L engine.. neither do F1 engines which is what the s2000 powerplant is built off of. Besides, the car isnt about image or line starts. Who concerned about image would buy a HONDA, the company that makes civics?

Anyways, I think your lack of knowledge about the s2000 hurts this argument.. while it doesnt have much interior amenities (nor does it need them)..it does indeed have leather seating. And with the engine close enough to the cockpit, you dont need seat heaters to get warm. (you shouldnt be driving this machine on wet/icy days either..the potenza tires are a bit too slick for that)

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

s2000 (none / 0) (#17)
by tjb on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 10:39:22 PM EST

I test drove an s2000 while looking for my last car, and it was tons of fun, but I ended up with a BMW 323i instead.

On the pro-side:

-Its a roadster that drives like a Civic in traffic (this is good in NJ)

-The AC works well with the top down

-6 speed transmission

-It can be pretty fast

My biggest beefs were:

-In order to make it fast, you have to rev the shit out of the engine (on the order of 7500 RPMs!)

-Said engine is very, very loud

-The stereo sucks

-It has a plastic rear window, the kind that frost over very easily

-I wouldn't want to drive it in the winter (not that big of a beef, if I were to buy it I'd get another, much cheaper, car for the winter)

-Its marginally better overall than the MR2 or Miata, but costs twice as much

-I couldn't fit my golf clubs in the trunk, goddamit!(this really pissed me off)

In the end I went with a more practical car, with leather seat, buttwarmers, great speakers, and less power; I certainly don't regret it



[ Parent ]
My lack of knowledge? Um... (none / 0) (#19)
by trhurler on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 11:18:05 AM EST

I have to admit, while I've ridden in one, I have not driven it - that's essentially impossible in St. Louis, because there are only three or four in the whole city on account of dealers not being able to sell them here. I did base a good deal of my opinion on that ride and on the car's numbers - and I'll stand by my claims that either the brakes and suspension aren't quite right or else the car weighs too much - for a serious roadster. I'm not sure which is the case, but I wouldn't doubt the weight is a bit high, because the car isn't really all that small by roadster standards.

That aside, I think you mistook what I was saying. Yes, as a roadster, I laugh at the S2000. It is vastly overpriced and it isn't as good at being a roadster as cars costing between 1/2 and 2/3 as much. However, I can see why some people buy it. These are the same people sitting in luxury boxes at hockey games - sure, the seats down front are better to see the game, but they're not as exclusive, and besides, you might take a puck to the head! Besides, when you host customers in a luxury box, they're impressed, and you can talk business.

The S2000 is a safe funmobile for people with lots of money who aren't going to go out and really push it much anyway. Sure, they might rev the engine up really high, but are they going to slide through corners? No. Are they going to use the brakes and the gas at the same time just to save their asses from hitting some trees? Of course not. And that's the point - the S2000 has a place, but even if it looks like one, it is not a world class roadster. It looks to me more like a car built for sprints on the interstate highways when traffic is light - which is fine. But it isn't what I call a roadster.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
My two dinarii (none / 0) (#22)
by Rand Race on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 03:37:34 PM EST

"It is vastly overpriced and it isn't as good at being a roadster as cars costing between 1/2 and 2/3 as much."

While I haven't driven a new MR2, I have driven both an S2k and a late-model Miata recently (I assume you are talking about MR2s and Miatas as Z3s, Boxters and such are more expensive than S2000s). I agree that the S2k lacks the refined handling of the Miata, but it's ride isn't as harsh. Throw a set of Tokikos on the Honda and it ought to handle just fine. The (stock) S2k may not be as good a roadster, but it's still faster corners or no. An extra 100HP will make up for lack of refinement in a hurry.

Impressive performance can be coaxed out of the S2000, but it requires a bit more abuse to the clutch than I am comfortable giving a Honda. I will note as well that I have been driving high-RPM/low-torque fullsized sportscars (RX-7s) for a while now so I may be more comfortable with the style of driving one must use to get an S2k to get up and go.

All that said, I agree that a Miata is probably a better deal price/performance wise on the lower end. And I will add that on the higher end I'd take a convertable Corvette over a Z3 or Boxter, much less an S2k.... but I guess I'm letting my sportscar preference show ;)

Now, if Mazda really goes through with their rumored plan to put a 260HP Renesis rotary onto the Miata frame....


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

roadsters vs other sports cars and whatnot (none / 0) (#23)
by trhurler on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 05:15:39 PM EST

Throw a set of Tokikos on the Honda and it ought to handle just fine.
Handling just fine is not the same as handling like a Miata, and it'll take more than a set of tires to make an S2000 handle like a Miata.
The (stock) S2k may not be as good a roadster, but it's still faster corners or no.
Well, I don't really care about raw acceleration all that much, but if I did, I wouldn't buy an S2000. For the same money($40k+ to actually pry one away from a dealer,) you can buy a damned Corvette, after all...
An extra 100HP will make up for lack of refinement in a hurry.
I don't think quoting raw HP figures on a VTEC makes any sense; sure, you can get it from 60-80mph fast, but try going from 0-30, which matters a lot more to most people. Hopeless - like driving a damned Civic. In fact, there are a number of fair sized sedans that would beat it without really even trying.
I will note as well that I have been driving high-RPM/low-torque fullsized sportscars (RX-7s) for a while now so I may be more comfortable with the style of driving one must use to get an S2k to get up and go.
I've driven an RX-7, and driven it pretty hard. It is a fun highway car, no doubt, and I agree with your assessment of how to make it go. I do understand how to drive a VTEC or a rotary, and it doesn't bother me to do it in any "I'm fearful" sense - I just don't like it.
And I will add that on the higher end I'd take a convertable Corvette over a Z3 or Boxter, much less an S2k.... but I guess I'm letting my sportscar preference show ;)
Hell, if we're going to spend unreasonable amounts of money on a car, we might as well spend real money. In that case, I'll take a BMW M roadster. The Corvette is slightly faster down a straight line, but just try and keep up on a road course... hehe.
Now, if Mazda really goes through with their rumored plan to put a 260HP Renesis rotary onto the Miata frame....
If they do that, they'll ruin the handling, because the engine will end up totally throwing off the mass distribution. That's the reason Miatas have always had gimpy powerplants in the first place. It would be an S2000 killer, but I'm not sure it would still be a real roadster...

Of course, that's what this whole debate is about - roadsters vs big ass sports cars with huge engines. Some people like each. I like both, but I prefer roadsters. If I want huge engines, I also want huge cars - which, by the way, is another fine class of automobile. Nothing at all wrong with a full sized sedan that goes 0-60 in, say... five seconds:)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Whatnot (none / 0) (#25)
by Rand Race on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 05:50:07 PM EST

"Handling just fine is not the same as handling like a Miata, and it'll take more than a set of tires to make an S2000 handle like a Miata."

Struts, not tires. But your point is well taken, a Miata is a wonderfull handling car. No doubt.

" In that case, I'll take a BMW M roadster. The Corvette is slightly faster down a straight line, but just try and keep up on a road course... hehe. "

Depends on how curvy. As GT results will show you Vipers rule long strait tracks, 'Vettes get the middling ones, and the Beemers rule the twisty ones. I think I'd live with any of them... not long maybe in the Viper but it'd be a fun way to go ;)

If they do that, they'll ruin the handling, because the engine will end up totally throwing off the mass distribution. That's the reason Miatas have always had gimpy powerplants in the first place. It would be an S2000 killer, but I'm not sure it would still be a real roadster...

Actualy, a naturaly aspirated 1.3 litre rotary (like the Renesis) is a shade lighter than the Mazda 1.8 litre 4 banger (IIRC that's what's in the Miata) and much smaller. This would allow them to move the engine back in the engine bay which would improve the weight distribution (this allows the RX-8 to be a mid-engine car, even though the engine is in front of the passenger compartment). The drawback to the rotary is that it drinks gas like a 5 litre V8. Chances are though that Mazda will move the Miata (and it's RX-5 rotary variant) to the new RWD platform that is going to be the basis of the RX-8 and new RX-7 (and the rumored RX-9 400+HP NSX/Skyline killer).

"If I want huge engines, I also want huge cars - which, by the way, is another fine class of automobile. Nothing at all wrong with a full sized sedan that goes 0-60 in, say... five seconds:)"

I'm with ya there.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

Oops (none / 0) (#27)
by trhurler on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 06:33:07 PM EST

Struts, not tires.
Now I understand why I'd never heard of them. I assumed they were tires because I've never heard of anyone "slapping a set of Xs" onto a car where X wasn't tires of some kind, but hey, that's what I get, I suppose:)
Depends on how curvy.
Oh, I know. Do remember that I' m a roadster fan - we're talking pretty damned curvy here.
As GT results will show you Vipers rule long strait tracks, 'Vettes get the middling ones,
Yeah, they really need to offer a twin turbo version of the Corvette; people do it aftermarket anyway(650hp+!!!) and putting that on the GT circuit would once and for all put an end to this Viper crap. I suppose I shouldn't dislike the car so much, but there's something about a car with so little style and so much power that just is the antithesis of everything I think makes driving fun. (Yes, I know, there are some people who think a sleek body and a big engine make a car stylish without any further aid. These same people don't understand why the guy in the GTI has more fun on the road than the one driving the Mustang GT. They aren't drivers - they're there to be ogled.)
Actualy, a naturaly aspirated 1.3 litre rotary (like the Renesis) is a shade lighter than the Mazda 1.8 litre 4 banger (IIRC that's what's in the Miata) and much smaller. This would allow them to move the engine back in the engine bay which would improve the weight distribution (this allows the RX-8 to be a mid-engine car, even though the engine is in front of the passenger compartment). The drawback to the rotary is that it drinks gas like a 5 litre V8.
Well, ok... but if you carry extra fuel, something has to give, and besides, what in hell would I want with a roadster with much more horsepower than torque? (For that matter, unless they've improved the reliabilty of the rotary, why in hell would I want one? Expensive to service, short service life relative to the best conventional designs, expensive to replace, and needs lots of attention. I never quite understood the appeal, but it is possible they've improved it significantly.)
Chances are though that Mazda will move the Miata (and it's RX-5 rotary variant) to the new RWD platform that is going to be the basis of the RX-8 and new RX-7
Hmm... in that case, maybe I should buy one now. I really don't think they can produce a superior roadster to the current Miata without several years to work the glitches out, and even then, it is hard to say for sure - especially if the platform is being shared.
(and the rumored RX-9 400+HP NSX/Skyline killer).
Another class of automobile I just don't get. "I've got a $90,000 car that weighs slightly more than my own ass and goes really fast. If I hit a pothole, I'm going to die!" Geh. Like those idiots that put a 400hp engine in a Miata, only more expensive.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
you missed a nice roadster in that class... (none / 0) (#28)
by bobdobbs on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 01:28:13 PM EST

Mercedes SLK (maybe the 320) - what do you think of that car?

[ Parent ]
Information overload (4.50 / 6) (#5)
by jabber on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 06:49:27 PM EST

What you say is precisely right.

Information overload is a sign of a poor user interface. The whole point of a UI is to shield the user from the tangle of the implementation. A UI is supposed to abstract the underlying complexity and provide the user with a pre-digested, easily accessible overview.

Throwing a bunch of electronic devices and independent features into a car does not make for ubiquitous computing. Integration of all of these devices, and forcing them to abide by well-defined protocols does. A car on-board computer should be able to determine the complexity of the situation in which the driver is currently involved, and stage the interruptions appropriately. For example, if the driver is taking a turn, merging or standing on the brakes, the ringing of the phone should be suppressed until the situation is safer. If the driver is talking on the phone, an audible cue from the computerized map should be muted, and replaced with a visual cue on the HUD.

My favorite example of a car-based UI that is too rich is my fathers old 87 Lincoln Continental. That thing had more buttons on the dash than was reasonable. I guess back then, this was a sign of sophistication or something. But really, does a driver need to know instantaneous fuel economy in either gal or litres, their 'distance to empty' and the temperature of their oil all at the same time? Some of these things ought to have been 'on request' at least until they exceed some critical threshold..

Are computers in cars necessary? Absolutely not. We haven't needed them before, have we? Then again, 'necessary' is such a relative word. Computers in cars are inevitable, and once experienced, they will become indispensable as well - just like cable TV is now and cell-phones are about to be.

Once you no longer have to worry about breaking down or running out of gas on an out-of-the-way road, because your car will automatically summon most efficient help, you too will become a computer-in-car convert. As soon as you can schedule service automatically, and just approve the appointment and show up, you will appreciate the convenience.

And that's what it boils down to. Convenience. We don't even 'need' cars, to be ridiculously absolute about it, but the convenience is too much to pass up. Computers in cars will make a lot of people much more comfortable than they are today, so there will be a demand, and there will be a supply as well.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Why UI people should not be left alone with cars (3.66 / 3) (#6)
by trhurler on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 07:03:02 PM EST

Your general statements are dead on; your specifics are iffy.
For example, if the driver is taking a turn, merging or standing on the brakes, the ringing of the phone should be suppressed until the situation is safer.
A car cannot determine if you are merging - any attempt will be hopeless. Taking a turn? If taking a turn requires so much of your attention that you can't handle a ringing sound, you should NOT be driving.
Are computers in cars necessary?
Do you mean net connections or computers? I assure you that computers ARE necessary in modern cars. Without them, the cars would not do what they're required to do.
because your car will automatically summon most efficient help
It better not do ANYTHING without me telling it to, or we're going to have real problems. The capability is nice, but automating things like this is something straight out of bad sci-fi.
And that's what it boils down to. Convenience.
For some people, yes.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
What computers are for (4.50 / 2) (#15)
by tftp on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 09:19:25 PM EST

I assure you that computers ARE necessary in modern cars.

To start with, microcontrollers adjust ignition and fuel injection to get maximum performance while staying within safe (and clean) limits. Carburetors are evil, easy to damage and very hard to clean and adjust.

Beyond that, computer will be very useful to increase safety. There is already one car with infrared vision overlay on windshield. Good if you are driving in darkness, rain, snow etc. - anything that increases your perception is good, as long as you decide when to turn it on. Same goes for rear view mirrors - replace them all with one LCD display, with no blind spots, no dirt or ice.

Computer will also be able to warn you about other cars on the road. It is already possible to install a small radar that will prevent you from rear-ending someone. Brakes in all regular cars are more or less similar, so if computer can apply it instantly you can avoid pile-up. Many areas are covered with fog, so this is a useful application.

Thinking even farther, each car can have a computer-controlled transceiver (of small range) that transmits current position of controls to all other cars around. They listen and take notice, so that obviously wrong action of the driver can be warned of or prevented. Many accidents are caused by less capable people (old, drunk, young-n-reckless etc.) Again, this system is yours to turn on and off. Eventually it will become an automatic pilot, fully connected (securely!) thus allowing the driver to relax, read papers, browse the Web in complete safety. People who enjoy driving will not use this system. But many other people will, and this only makes roads safer.

[ Parent ]

Assumptions - Semantics - Inevitability (4.00 / 1) (#16)
by jabber on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 10:35:11 PM EST

My whole post was written from a future perspective, where cars are 'aware' of each other's presence and velocities, and the entire highway system is aware of the traffic on it - so it can inform motorists (or their automatic navigation systems, actually) of road conditions.

To me, this is part and parcel of 'ubiquitous computing', and in that context you can believe that your car can, and will, know that you are in a merge. Furthermore, it will know that you are coming up on a bottleneck around the corner before you ever see the brake lights.

I read your comment about fahrfegnugen, and can relate to a good degree, but I'm more of a tour driver than a roadster fan. I would probably very much prefer the Audi TT experience to the one of a Miata. No offense intended, but the Z3 looks like a waste of space to me. Tastes vary. For the record, my 'full size sports car' is manual, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

That said, I think that we're heading into a future where most machines on the road will be not only mini-vans, but also 90% automatic. They will be auto-guided, and folks like you and I will be relegated to the Lane Formerly Known as HOV, to not complicate life for people who can now read the paper and apply make-up in peace during their morning commute.

I expect that we will have to be specially (read 'expensively') licensed for the privilege of driving under our own control, and eventually we'll be viewed by main-stream society with the same distrust as they all now reserve for the proponents of fully automatic weapons.

Computers may be necessary in 'modern' cars, but not in cars. You know it, I know it. Arguing the point is a waste. Modern regulations and expectations of efficiency make computers a necessity. Let me ask you this: Would you be willing to let your dealership monitor your car's vital statistics for a 75% savings in extended warranty costs, and in more effective and lower priced scheduled maintenance?

At each service stop, or each time you refuel (SpeedPass) or pass through an electronically debited toll gate, they could download the 'black box' of your car, and monitor fuel efficiency, sensor readings, estimated tire wear based on gyroscopic readings... They could know your driving habits and service your car accordingly. Synthetic oil, specific filters, all these things could be de facto instead of special request.

Of course this data would also filter back to the manufacturer, who could then consider the statistical averages of car usage on a particular make and model, and factor this into both the next years design and trim packages as well as advertising campaigns aimed at the bulk of the drivers of that model.

If you could cut your insurance premium by up to 75% by allowing the insurance company to monitor your driving habits in real-time? Imagine, only paying for the time you're actually on the road, moving, instead of 24/7... But be careful, as soon as you exceed the posted speed limit, your rates go up.

That is the future we're heading into, like it or not. It's just as likely as air-bags, ABS, hell, even seat-belts were a 'safety option' at one point... Yes, you can have your air-bags disabled today, but I assure you that no matter how many people burn to death due to a jammed seat-belt, they will never become optional again. Half of it will come in the name of safety, and the other half in the name of conveneince.

And even if you and I don't want to buy a car with such features, I doubt anyone but Ferrari will bother to make one custom, just for the asking. "Real" drivers are already few and far between, and tomorrow, they'll be a drop in the bucket.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

I wouldn't worry too much (none / 0) (#20)
by trhurler on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 02:05:30 PM EST

Intelligent highway research, as it is called, is a pathetic joke. Like AI, it is an intellectual meatgrinder: you pour in good minds and great careers, and nothing of any use comes out. I went to a school that gets tons of money for this - they have produced nothing. I thought this odd, given that it has been at least a decade and maybe more, so I talked to others. Nobody has produced anything of substance. A few demos, a few pathetic attempts that would never scale and aren't reliable enough to trust peoples' lives with. Nothing else. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Forget about it. Fundamentally, we don't know how to build systems that tolerate errors and exceptional conditions as well as the human mind does - especially cooperative distributed systems such as an intelligent highway. It would be easier and cheaper to build permanent outposts throughout the solar system than to construct and operate such a system safely.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
IWHS (none / 0) (#24)
by krlynch on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 05:30:34 PM EST

Intelligent highway research, as it is called, is a pathetic joke. ..... Fundamentally, we don't know how to build systems that tolerate errors and exceptional conditions as well as the human mind does - especially cooperative distributed systems such as an intelligent highway.

Umm...that's why we do research into such things. There are lots of things that we fundamentally don't understand right now: distributed computing, parallel computing, how proteins fold, how to put a man on Mars, etc. etc. etc. Eventually, we'll likely be able to understand these things to the level necessary to make them practical; just don't expect that ten years of research will be enough. After all, we've had "modern" computers since the late 40s, and our computers today are still, fundamentally, primitive and provide little to no real productivity enhancements, except in the most menial computational tasks....but no one would claim that we should stop doing research to improve them, as we have high hopes and dreams for the future. It took four thousand years of indoor plumbing for the flush toilet to be invented. Electricity was known and reasonably well understood by the end of the 1700s, but we didn't start using it extensively until the early 1900s.

And given that we couldn't even get back to the moon in the next decade if we wanted to, I doubt that it would be easier and cheaper to populate outposts all over the solar system than it would be to produce an IVHS.

[ Parent ]

Bold claims (none / 0) (#26)
by trhurler on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 06:03:44 PM EST

There are lots of things that we fundamentally don't understand right now: distributed computing, parallel computing, how proteins fold, how to put a man on Mars, etc. etc. etc.
We do understand parallel computing - it just doesn't do what people hoped it would. It has limitations. In principle, we understand distributed computing - but it also has limitations that make it impractical to actually do much with. Both these sets of limitations are largely matters of overhead costs of communication and so on being quite high. Similarly, we know of quite a few technologically viable ways to put someone on Mars, but the time, risk, and expense involved are extraordinary. I don't know much about proteins, but I'm betting we know how they fold in general and simply don't know all the specifics of any given case.
our computers today are still, fundamentally, primitive and provide little to no real productivity enhancements
Little to no real productivity enhancement? Computers have improved just about everything. Businesses aren't buying them just to be cool like the next guy. The company I work for saves its major customer 98% of pre-computerization costs for the service we provide. I know because I've seen the figures. (No, I cannot and would not discuss it in further detail, but if I did, you'd quickly see why this is true. Some processes are horribly inefficient without a communications network.)
It took four thousand years of indoor plumbing for the flush toilet to be invented.
I am not aware of widespread deployment of interior plumbing prior to the 1800s - anywhere. Sure, a few rich people might have had "personal aquaducts" and so on, but get real...
And given that we couldn't even get back to the moon in the next decade if we wanted to,
It is trivially demonstrable that we could. The cost to build a duplicate of the equipment used last time would be a fraction of what was originally spent, and the time to build it not much at all. It is so much simpler than the space shuttle that NASA would probably cry with relief to be given such a task. Unfortunately, it is also meaningless, because you need more than just a couple of guys and a flag to do anything useful. Current prototype drive systems will probably yield engines capable of reaching distant parts of the solar system in only a few weeks or months, and this isn't pie in the sky research - this is actual working technology that needs a few edges smoothed over. On the other hand, we have no clue how to build a computer system that can run an intelligent highway system. Not even the beginning of a clue. In fact, it is fair to say we might not see it in the next hundred years, or maybe ever. I wouldn't be surprised if it is irrelevant before we figure out how to build it.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Young/Inexperienced Drivers (4.66 / 6) (#7)
by clarioke on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 07:12:16 PM EST

I'm not that far away from high school and I remember all the terrible drivers. The girl who wrapped three cars around trees/posts. The guy who drove home while drunk. The kids who can't drive in the snow. The guy who hit black ice, nearly killing himself and totalling the car. Especially in the wintertime, every week brought a new car-related horror story to high school gossip.

And then there's the car gossip. Who has the coolest/nicest/biggest backseat. Whose daddy bought them the brandnew SUV/bug/audi/<insert favorite car here>.

Now imagine some rich parents thinking that having a computer in their kid's car will be safer. Sure, they can be sure the kid can get help if need be and the parents can call on that nifty cell phone just to check in.

To check in with the kid with four friends and someone's pet ferret while playing with all these cool gadgets as the kid hits a <random object seen on roads>

And then there's the cell-phone issue. People can't handle cell phones. You don't have to look at a cell-phone.

Car stereos. Especially for newer/just-plain-bad drivers... car stereos are a challenge. If we can't handle car stereos or cell-phones, what will we do with car computers?

Perhaps this scenario is extreme. Perhaps clarioke is rambling a little too long. Perhaps it's not just the kids who can't handle cool shit in their cars.

just as long as you "feel" comfortable.. (none / 0) (#21)
by psyclone on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 02:11:22 PM EST

..computers/electronic devices in cars are fine. I have an IOpener in my car and I feel perfectly comfortable using it and my stereo while driving (of course, it's just playing music). I also feel comfortable using a cell phone -- but not dialing. Every time I have to look down at the phone to read my mail or dial a number, I don't drive as well. As said in previous comments, user interface is the most important -- if my phone numbers/email were displayed on the windshield like my speedometer is, I'd have no problem.

just because some people can't handle their devices doesn't mean they shouldn't be in cars. (as long as they can turn them off or choose not to use them.)

[ Parent ]
the place for computers in cars (4.00 / 4) (#10)
by _Quinn on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 07:57:28 PM EST

   is the same place as everywhere else: nowhere. Or everywhere, if you prefer. It's less about ubquitous (sp?) computing, and more about /transparent/ computing. The computer in the car engine is done well -- it doesn't bother me, I don't bother it. Or the computer in the (digitally-tuned) radio -- competely transparent. While internet access from a car may be a Good Thing, it shouldn't be directly accessibly to the driver, but through something like voice-cued directions (checks 'net for traffic updates). Car phones are a disaster, but there's not much you can really do about it.

-_Quinn
Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.
If we could install Linux (2.80 / 5) (#12)
by spacejack on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 08:34:30 PM EST

.. into our brains, then we could allocate the appropriate grey-matter resources to each task. Once our brain is out of spare cycles, we refuse to respond to additional devices, or drop less important ones.

I noticed, for example while writing simple AIs for a driving game, that they only really needed to be updated once every 100-200ms and there was all this time left over.

d00d 1 0wn j00r c4r (5.00 / 10) (#14)
by MAXOMENOS on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 08:46:26 PM EST

Embedded computers have been in cars for a long time. What scares me isn't computers in cars. What scares me is computers, in cars, that have some kind of network link.

Let's take Chevrolet's system...comes with every new Blazer...a computer with a remote connection back to GM. GM can monitor your Blazer remotely too make sure that it's working right, and can even unlock your car doors remotely. "Hey, GM? I locked my keys in my car." "No problem sir. Your car doors are unlocked. Have a nice day."

This is one system that I would never want in my car. Not because I'm afraid of Big Brother...Big Brother might be a little annoyed with what I have to say, but if they haven't killed Biafra yet, they're not going to try to kill me either. What I'm really afraid of is some twelve year old script kiddie who finds a 'sploit for my car and decides to have some fun with it. My radio tape player stops and next thing you know I'm listening to Kenny G cranked up to 10...lights flashing...remote map display switches to goatse.cx...dashboard goes out...odometer displays the message:

1 0un
JOOr C4r

That would seriously screw up my day.

More seriously, this kind of technology can make it easy for car thieves. Just crack the car's computer and go. No muss no fuss.

No thanks. I'll take my plain old not-wired auto over one of these things....or at least I'm going to be smart enough to figure out how to switch off the wireless connection. And the car had better be running something that's at least B1 rated.


We need an ODMG implementation that's open source. ObJectBridge is one candidate, and it needs volunteers.

A friend of mine had a For truck... (2.75 / 4) (#18)
by SIGFPE on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 12:40:53 AM EST

...that turned out to be a lemon. Ford gave him a diagnostic recorder thingy to plug into the diagnostics port but this made the truck occasionally have spontaneous system resets. All of the doors would suddenly lock and many of the gauges dropped to zero. I experienced this myself on the freeway once. But it's not as scary as it sounds - the thing just rebooted and business was as usual within a second or two. The bulk of the car could still run without the electronics. I suspect this is pretty typical for most cars available today.
SIGFPE
Trick of the car companies.. (none / 0) (#29)
by Zenith on Wed Jan 31, 2001 at 01:13:56 AM EST

The variety of new components added to the cars these days are usually useless, or just there for the purpose of showing off, but better still, its a way for the car companies to sell cars. "My company's car have the latest car phone, driving direction... air condition, all this for $15,000 plus 3 year on-road services."

Now, perhaps people should realise most of these are just ways of advertising new cars, with new feature, new design, but old purpose - transportation. But still people think "more is better" so they want more features, better designs. Whether or not these features or gadgets actually improve driving will depends on the people who use it, but generally its simply another way of attracting more consumers.

"Truth is what people conceit, but in reality there is no real truth, just opinions." - Zenith

Trick of the car companies.. (none / 0) (#30)
by Zenith on Wed Jan 31, 2001 at 01:18:53 AM EST

The variety of new components added to the cars these days are usually useless, or just there for the purpose of showing off, but better still, its a way for the car companies to sell cars. "My company's car have the latest car phone, driving direction... air condition, all this for $15,000 plus 3 year on-road services."

Now, perhaps people should realise most of these are just ways of advertising new cars, with new feature, new design, but old purpose - transportation. But still people think "more is better" so they want more features, better designs. Whether or not these features or gadgets actually improve driving will depends on the people who use it, but generally its simply another way of attracting more consumers.

"Truth is what people conceit, but in reality there is no real truth, just opinions." - Zenith

A good use for a computer in a car... (none / 0) (#31)
by LocalH on Wed Jan 31, 2001 at 07:41:46 AM EST

...plop it in the trunk and bog it down with MP3s! Sure, MP3 isn't as 'pristine' as CDDA, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. No more fumbling with CD's, no expensive CD changer to get stolen, you can see the name of the song that is playing at a glance, etc. It would help keep eyes on the road, instead of looking down to get a CD and then ass-ending someone. I'm currently working on one myself, but haven't decided whether to use CAJUN or Route 66 for the UI. Not sure about CAJUN, but Route 66 uses MySQL to store preference information for each track.

The computer in the car | 32 comments (29 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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