May 09, 2005
Microsoft Car 1.0

What would you say to a car that doesn't crash? Would you say the same thing if you heard it was powered by Microsoft?

Microsoft Corp. mogul Bill Gates and the leader of Ford Motor Co. outlined a future Friday in which software enables cars to fix themselves and avoid accidents.

Gates and Bill Ford Jr., Ford's chairman and chief executive, said high-definition screens, speech recognition technology, cameras, digital calendars and navigation equipment with directions and road conditions will set car companies apart from their competitors.

Eventually, Gates said, there could be a car that wouldn't let itself crash.

"That absolutely should be the goal," Gates told several hundred participants of the Microsoft Global Automotive Summit at the automaker's suburban Detroit campus. "The embrace of technology will be the key for the leaders of the industry."

The jokes just write themselves, don't they? Via the Dark Star Gazette, which plays along and considers some actual implications of this hypothetical technology.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 09, 2005 to Technology, science, and math | TrackBack

You know, I checked my calendar and I noticed that today is not April 1st.

How long before we see a Linux-powered BMW? :-)
How about a Macintosh-run Toyota? :-)

Of course the security system on the Ford Microsoft would need to be patched on a weekly basis. Then again, the old joke about Ford was that it meant "Fix Or Repair Daily". :-)

Posted by: William Hughes on May 9, 2005 2:49 PM

They do indeed.

Though, tragically, the "blue screen of death" joke is no longer funny anymore.

Posted by: Jim D on May 9, 2005 2:59 PM

Although I suppose it makes sense; Microsoft is already making the Ford Pinto of computer operating systems.

I suppose the first MS-Ford smart car will be the "Pinto XP"

Posted by: Jim D on May 9, 2005 3:02 PM

First how about a PC that doesn't crash? I look forward to Gates' personal demonstration without seat belts and air bags.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on May 9, 2005 5:56 PM

Charles: He can't even make a personal demonstration of Windows without it crashing.

Posted by: Brock Batsell on May 9, 2005 11:09 PM

Aw, c'mon, Jim D, those are pretty stale jokes. I run my XP box continuously for literally a month or more at a time with no crashes. The last thing that actually locked up my Win XP system was my vain attempt to install QuickTime, which is written by... do I have to lay it in your lap?

I have no great love of Microsoft; indeed, many of their behaviors as a corporation leave me outraged. But I remember my days as a tech support person for a local branch of a major university. I was required to support 'em all, every kind of small computer they had. And Mac's crashed at least as often as anything else. Mock Windows for its functional inadequacies; that's well deserved criticism. But don't pretend Windows crashes more often than a Mac, especially these days. That's BS.

And no, of course, I don't want a car driven (figuratively or literally) by any currently popular OS. And if you are proselytizing for an open-source automobile, please take your pitch elsewhere! :)

Posted by: Steve Bates on May 10, 2005 1:17 AM

Steve: I take it that your last experience with Macs was prior to Mac OS X 10.2 or later.

Also, Jim made no reference to Macs - maybe he uses FreeBSD, or OS/2, or perhaps even BeOS! ;)

Posted by: Brock Batsell on May 10, 2005 6:19 AM

I can't believe somebody beat me to the BSOD joke! Can I add all the well known jokes about having to turn the ignition key to the start position to turn it off, roaming gangs of teenage car-hackers who don't actually steal your car, just make sure it breaks down, and, of course, charging for "upgrades" that are really fixes?

As to the holy war, I'm with Steve. I use OS X 10.3.9 at work, and Win2K at home and on my volunteer stuff, and the Mac crashes more, which is to say just often enough for it to be expected, and just infrequently enough that my paranoia level is moderate. I can verify; I decided to track it 6 months ago when I was bitching at Mac Tech Support. My Mac actually crashes MUCH more frequently than my PC while being asked to serve fewer functions. YMMV, but I can document my mileage. It's not a holy war for me. I use both, and both are tons better than they were in the late 90's. I'm just reporting.

Posted by: RonZ on May 10, 2005 1:18 PM

FTR, Brock, my last direct personal experience with a Mac was indeed prior to OS X. But two of my musician friends use Mac laptops, and boy do they ever have stories to tell. I have personally seen one of those Macs lock up just before an impending performance. Fortunately, my friend got it going again, and the performance went well. There's enough nerve-racking stuff right before a show that you don't need to worry about whether your "engine" will start or not.

Regarding Jim D, you're right; perhaps he uses FreeBSD. I would consider that preferable, but YMMV. I was comparing my personal experiences when I mentioned the Mac.

It's just not a holy war for me. I'll use whatever my current contract du jour requires of me, and buy Windows machines for home use because they're cheap and I'm cheap.

I've yet to see the computer I would trust to run my auto... even the chip that runs my ABS, admittedly 10 years old, engages in some frighteningly strange behavior at times. I am more than happy to make jokes about Windows; sometimes it sucks. But any implication that certain other OS's are more reliable is just not supportable in my observation.

Posted by: Steve Bates on May 10, 2005 7:46 PM

First how about a PC that doesn't crash?

Took the words right out of my mouth. And Steve, I'd agree that XP is a much stabler version, but that's about all I can say in its favor. Leaving aside for the moment that it took Micro$not two decades and about 15 versions of Windows before they finally came out with a stable one; it's insecure, it won't run some software that ran fine under Windows 98; when things do go wrong (such as a bad sector on a hard disk), it hides the problem from you rather than fixing it; and it has copy-protection so ridiculously extreme that you can't even upgrade your PC anymore without letting Micro$not know about it!

Now, back to the original topic:

Gates said there could be a car that wouldn't let itself crash.

Talk about chutzpah; Bill Gates now thinks he can write a program to change the laws of physics! The only car that "won't let itself crash" is a car that doesn't move!

That's not to say that computer technology won't have a role to play in automotive safety; indeed, it already does. Heck, I'll even concede that Micro$not could wind up developing some of this technology. But you have to admit, their track record over the past two decades is somehow not particularly encouraging.

Posted by: Mathwiz on May 12, 2005 5:37 PM