October 23, 2012 - As cars and computer technology begin to converge, it is becoming more difficult to draw a clear line between the two. You can’t drive your Dell to the grocery store, but you can listen to music, access the internet, and get real-time driving directions in your car. Newer cars have so much computer technology integrated into their operating systems (see what I did there?) that the standard concept of car repair has begun to change.
Recently, the newest model of Chevy Volt was experiencing engine problems—apparently the engine was shutting off mid-drive and drivers were forced to coast to a stop, turn the car completely off, then restart it. The issue was affecting only the Volt owners that were implementing the delayed charge function. The function allows users to set a timer that only charges their car during hours in which electricity rates are lower—pretty cool. I’m not sure what the connection between the delayed charge function and the engine shutting off was, but either way it was an issue that required immediate attention. GM promptly put out a service bulletin asking all 2013 Volt owners to stop by their local dealership so that…the car’s software… could be rebooted? That’s right—as it turns out the issue could quickly be solved using a technique PC users have relied on for decades… the good ol’ fashioned reboot. (The GM service bulletin also warned Volt owners that if they were going to illegally download music using their Chevy, to make sure they install Norton Anti-virus first, otherwise it might take 15 minutes to get from 0 to 60.)
The future of cars seems to be headed in the direction of “smart” technology—the trend in the automotive industry is to add features to new cars that make driving and navigating easier for the driver. In a realm where convenience is king, computerized car systems have become the norm. Right now, the first consumer-ready driverless car seems to be the pinnacle of car technology and all signs point to the fact that the day when our cars will drive us is not far away. When that day finally comes, assuming that it does, and your car breaks down, you may find yourself asking whether you should take your car to the mechanic or the Genius Bar.