Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Consumer, auto

Moral: Wherein we consider the current Toyota incidents as a chance to ask: who looks out for the consumer who is, essentially, the sink of the economy?


First, we ought to be grateful that it is Toyota who is in the hot seat. They (of course, after we acknowledge Deming) led the quality drive (pun) for a very long time and can regain their reputation.

The auto experience is an example of how big business (auto) and big government (and, in each case the best-and-brightest) tell us what we want. However, there is much more to the growing complexity of the auto than we're allowed to think about.

It is obvious that even the best cannot resolve some issues that underly software and its quirks. The net effect is that people, as drivers, will be central to containing the problems. Of course, we must act intelligently as drivers (for example, texting while driving is not smart).

What we're beginning to learn is that the car is becoming increasingly computerized or is becoming like a computer. Also, auto engineering has grown to cover quite a few intellectual domains.

Yet, we're driving as if we've just got past the horse-less carriage? What is the timeline of the current control systems (wheel, two pedals - some with three)? Are they outdated?

Is it any wonder that people have problems with the intuitive match, since generation by generation, we are becoming increasingly game oriented (which is not a bad thing). Why haven't we adjusted control systems?

Well, that the racing people (Danica, et al) have optimized their handling of the current configuration does lead toward some drivers thinking that being the wheel constitutes that they are in a race. Not so, people. It is transportation, for the most part. There are other enjoyments such as driving in inspiring landscapes, and such. That some drivers divert their attention to other things, and create risks, can be shown as indicative of the problem of the controls not engaging the person.

--- Aside

One question: why is there no user group related to car users? Every modern computational framework has one of these. What does the driver have? Don't say Car Talk, or manufacture brochures, and such. The issue is the state of being a driver and what it means. It is not maintenance, design (though, we need to look at serious modifications at some point), or trade-offs on performance. Those are covered by various interest groups.

Notice that most computer systems now allow some type of personalization? That was a struggle to attain. It did not just happen. The same sort of thing has shown up in the car, to a certain extent. You can set your environment, adjust seats, move the steering wheel, and such.

Ever think about what would be an improved driving experience? Let's look at the current configuration. The stop/go is related to the feet. This seems correct, carrying forward our long use of movement by walking. Then, we have the hands to change gears, signal, steer.

What if we steered by our feet? Don't laugh. Do not we balance with our lower appendage? We could signal, too; it wasn't long ago that the bright switch was on the floor. One had to stomp around to find the thing.

Having the switch on the steering wheel was nice, but there was not a standard way to do it. Of course, only the frequent traveler, who had to use different cars, had a problem. There are similar issues with differences that can be problematic.

However, what part of the game control knobs could be used with cars? There is a lot that could be discussed there.


And so, it's in the belly of the beast that we need to wake up to, as consumers. How are things communicating? What are the different chips? How are they used? Even this, what algorithms are being used for control?

You know what, people, some of the testing by the industry has been real-time, using drivers as the subjects. Allowing proprietary shields to some of these specifics ought not be the cause of lack of oversight.

Just asking questions here, folks. The fact of the matter is that we see one problem having a succession of possible causes thrown out (mat, pedal, switch, ...), with each cause and fix supposed to quiet the situation, yet the problem continued.

How many issues of this type lurk? You know, there is the concept of systemic which would be industry-wide.

We can say this: with software being a central factor, there are a whole lot of things that will be required to maintain stability of systems.

Anyone looking at those issues? Here, we have the concept of undecidability (dealing with decisions, especially those computational) to discuss.


01/22/2013 -- USA Today story on settlements. From three years ago, lest we forget.

02/08/2011 -- There was a report today concerning a study on the SUA problem that has been going on quietly. More news will be coming later when the report is technically analyzed.

09/28/2010 -- It nice to see the IEEE weigh in. Notice: sensors galore, drive in the loop, ...

04/19/2010 -- Genies, no not genius, indeed!

03/16/2010 -- Response to Toyota by Safety Research & Strategies, Inc. Did Toyota really use 'infallible' in describing their systems? One professor seems to think so.

03/12/2010 -- Toyota's web site that is related to recalls.

03/09/2010 -- Can of worms is what we've gotten from letting the genie out of the bottle.

02/22/2010 -- Business Week uses 'drive-by-wire' in an article about computational driving.

02/10/2010 -- There seems to be a rash of recalls, of late. The problem of value versus quality has been warped by an improper handling of near-zero.

Modified: 01/22/2013

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