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Microsoft Hardware Technology

Cars that Can't Crash? 921

johnsee writes "Microsoft is working with Ford Motor Co towards car that can't crash. The future of cars according to Gates will involve high-definition screens, speech recognition technology, cameras, digital calendars and navigation equipment with directions and road conditions." From the article: "Also on Friday, Microsoft unveiled its Performance Peak Initiative -- a line of computer systems to help the auto industry better coordinate supply chains, streamline design, production and sales and fill vehicles with computer gadgets."
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Cars that Can't Crash?

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  • by winkydink (650484) * <> on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:24PM (#12422675) Homepage Journal
    For best straight line ever seen on Slashdot:

    Microsoft is working with Ford Motor Co towards car that can't crash.
  • by -kertrats- (718219) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:24PM (#12422680) Journal
    I smell an episode of Fear Factor in the making....
  • by PaulBu (473180) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:24PM (#12422686) Homepage
    ... to begin with...

    Paul B.
    • by Lysol (11150) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @02:07PM (#12423467)
      WHY? Why always Gates trumpeting some new innovation to the press who swallow it down hook line and sinker? Besides the fact that is already mentioned - if your computer isn't reliable, then why let the same company put their insights and innovation into your car? - why does Gates get so much press on this crap?

      I've seen the car of the future in countless sci-fi movies and books already! But, hey, if Gates says it, then for sure it must be right around the corner. Ho hum..

      God help us all if these are the things to come. In fact, I prefer my technology to
      • first and foremost: WORK!
      • second: stay the hell outta my way

      Even my first-gen iPod still works! I dunno, I'm past the disliking Gates and his empire and now I'm just sick of him telling everyone what the future's gonna be and the fact that Microsoft's gonna get you there.

      Hang it up man, hang it up.
  • by nacturation (646836) <> on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:25PM (#12422692) Journal
    Blue Windshield of Death jokes in 3... 2... 1...
  • by suso (153703) *
    Microsoft is working with Ford Motor Co towards car that can't crash.


    I'm speechless, I really am.
  • my head... (Score:5, Funny)

    by nanojath (265940) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:25PM (#12422698) Homepage Journal

    can't crash...

    must... make... joke... before head explodes...
  • It's like a train wreck-- I wont want to look but later I'll be back to see the poor windows/crash jokes.
    • If the Open Source Community made Cars

      1. There would be multiple distributors of free cars, though all would be spurned by the commercial auto industry.

      2. If you want to change your tires you have to download all the most recent parts and rebuild your engine.

      3. Upon building a new car you would find that your new windshield wipers are not yet supported.

      4. You could build your own windshield wipers if you really, really wanted to.

      5. Sourceforge would release a wrapper to allow you to retrofit M

  • Old Joke (Score:5, Funny)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmail.3.14159com minus pi> on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:25PM (#12422721) Homepage Journal
    Sorry, but this story is just begging for this old joke:

    Bill Gates wanted to look good and impress everyone with his success. He decided to measure the accomplishments of Microsoft against General Motors. The comparison went like this:

    If automotive technology had kept pace with computer technology over the past few decades, you would now be driving a V-32 instead of a V-8, and it would have a top speed of 10,000 miles per hour. (160,000km/hr)

    Or you could have an economy car that weighs 30 pounds (14 kilos) and gets a thousand miles to a gallon of gas. In either case the sticker price of a new car would be less than $50.

    In response to all this goading, GM issued a press release stating the following: "If GM had developed technology like Microshaft has, we would be driving cars with the following characteristics:"

    1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash at least twice a day.
    2. Every time they repainted the lines on the road, you would have to buy a new car.
    3. Occasionally, your car would die on the freeway for no apparent reason, and you would accept this, restart, and drive on.
    4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to start, in which case you would have to re-install the engine.
    5. Only one person at a time could use the car, unless you bought 'Car95' or 'CarNT'. Then you would have to buy more seats.
    6. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was more reliable, five times as fast, and twice as easy to drive, but would only run on five percent of the roads.
    7. The oil, water, temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single 'general car fault' warning light.
    8. New seats would force everyone to have the same butt size.
    9. The airbag system would say "Are you sure?" before going off.
    10. Occasioanlly, for no known reason, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.
    11. GM would require all car buyers to also purchase a deluxe set of Rand McNally road maps (now a GM subsidiary), even though they neither want them or need them. Attempting to delete this option would immediately cause the car's performance to diminish by fifty percent or more.
    12. Every time GM introduced a new model, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.
    13. You'd press the 'Start' button to shut off the engine.
  • by nizo (81281) * on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:26PM (#12422737) Homepage Journal
    Eventually, Gates said, there could be a car that wouldn't let itself crash.

    Will I have to pay yearly license fees to drive my car, or will it just one day swerve off the road if I let my licenses lapse? Can they catch a virus from neighboring cars at the parking lot? Will it come with Clippy? "Hello! you seem to be flying off the roadaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh" (car flies off road, rolls, and catches on fire).

    Must resist urge to make bluescreenofdeath jokes.....

    • Ahh, but (Score:5, Funny)

      by hawk (1151) <> on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:47PM (#12423106) Journal
      you will find that when you inserted the key into the ignition, you waived all warrantees of suitability for purpose, waived all liability, and in the case that there was liability anyway, limited it to the price of the software . . .

      • Re:Ahh, but (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928)
        You know I hadn't really considered it, but this would definitely be a place in which the standard EULAs would get tested to death in court.

        Because you're right, they'd defintiely try and disclaim all responsiblity for anything bad happening, but there is NO WAY that would fly in the auto industry...we have a long history of suing them to bits when something breaks.

        The first time a MS car's cruise control screws up and plows someone into a Semi at 100 miles an hour their little fantasy world of "It's not
  • by museumpeace (735109) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:27PM (#12422754) Journal
    every /. reader in the world is gonna think "car that will never crash from the maker of the OS that will always crash?"
  • by EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) * on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:27PM (#12422768) Homepage Journal
    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.

    That's nice and all, but how will these technologies help cars to 'not crash'? It seems like a digital calendar will lead to more crashes.

    Driver: "Car! I said DON"T CRASH! DON'T CRASH!"
    • It seems like a digital calendar will lead to more crashes.

      "Ooooh! Quick honey, look at this really cool instrument panel screensaver that some nice man named "4@X0r-4-d3@th" sent us from Thailand!"

      "I can't really look right now sweetie, I'm trying to merge...Hey! That's wicked cool!

  • by mtDNA (123855) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:27PM (#12422770) Homepage
    The only car that can't crash is one locked in a concrete room with no doors and no internet connection...
  • by Sai Babu (827212) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:30PM (#12422817) Homepage
    instead of these virtual things, they'd still crash. Trains do.
  • Um...can't...crash? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GweeDo (127172) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:32PM (#12422840) Homepage
    This coming from the company that even makes fun of all its BSOD's in their games!

    Enjoy the BSOD of Halo 2 []
  • I have 10 simple, low tech ways to which will guarentee fewer car crashes. Most of these already come with your current car, and the rest are simple and free to implement.

    1. Breaks
    2. Steering wheel
    3. Side mirrors
    4. Don't speed
    5. Don't drink while drunk or high
    6. Use your turn signal
    7. Leave enough space between your car and the car in front of you.
    8. Check over your shoulder to look in the blind spot before making a lane change.
    9. Be considerate of other drivers.
    10. Don't drive in LA.

    And a bonus 11th point to feed the trolls:

    11. Revoke the drivers licenses for anyone with 3 serious tickets in the last 5 years.
  • by Robotech_Master (14247) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:35PM (#12422900) Homepage Journal
    ...they can design an unsinkable cruise liner.

    Oh wait.
  • by Mark_pdx (466326) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:39PM (#12422960)
    Making progress here is long overdue. The government has been studying this for at least 15 years.... I did some research work on this in the early 90's: Collision avoidance systems (radar or laser based) drowsy driver detection, etc.

    google IVHS (intelligent vehicle highway system) for starters.

    Not the Microsoft would be my first choice to design mass-produced life-threatening embedded systems.

  • Cameras? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by o-hayo (700478) <> on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:40PM (#12422996)
    TFA doesn't really go into detail, but I can only assume they want to use cameras to detect "things" and react accordingly. To me it seems like on old idea being applied to a new idea. Isn't there something better than photo/video analysis these days? I'm just not sure how well data from a set of cameras provides a good foundation for gauging depth perception, or the difference between a repaired section of a street and a pothole or puddle.

    What would stop a car, trying to avoid a potential accident, from steering itself off the side of a cliff?

    And what about choices that real people may have to decide. If I lost control of my car and the options were

    1) Attempt to crash into brick wall
    2) Attempt to crash into side of a hill
    3) Do nothing and continue on course to plow into a group of children crossing a street.

    What would the car decide? What's the failsafe if the magic computer stops working? What level of control is still in the hands of the driver? These are questions people will want to know the answer to, not a bunch of marketing oral-ejaculation about how this is the greatest thing since seatbelts.

    • Re:Cameras? (Score:3, Funny)

      by SmokeHalo (783772)
      This is where the Three Laws comes into play:
      1. A vehicle may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
      2. A vehicle must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
      3. A vehicle must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
      Apologies to Mr. Asimov.
      • 1. A robot must be operated with exclusively MS code.
        2. A robot must obey orders given by permission of Bill Gates and his minions and no one else.
        3. A robot must arrest any person or machine that attempts to force it to break the first or second law.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:42PM (#12423032)
    I can just picture one of these cars disobeying a traffic officer instructing the car to cross over into the oncoming traffic lane.
  • Everyone stop (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:45PM (#12423083)

    Yes the story invites the inevtiable, insipid jokes about Microsoft and unstable software. Some are even clever. Some might even be funny.

    It is worth pointing out the scale of this proejct for those who can't (or won't) accept it: cars are simpler than general purpose computers. Yes, cars are complicated machines with lots of interworking parts. However, the hardware installation on a car is fixed (within paramters) whereas today's general purpose PCs are not.

    The flexibility of modern computer peripherals makes for seemingly endless combinations of hardware and existing software. Microsoft attempts to support quite a few of those combinations, with the mixed results we see today.

    But cars are a different beast. I bet it's possible to get good test coverage of this car software through test driving. The scope is that much smaller. Think of your favorite console game; has it crashed recently? Ever? It is possible to create software that passes some reliability metric with a fixed hardware platform. A general purpose OS would be hard pressed to make that guarantee.

    Microsoft could get this right technically speaking. It remains to be if they do.

    Oh, and is it a good idea? I wouldn't buy one :)

    • Re:Everyone stop (Score:3, Interesting)

      by penguinoid (724646)
      It is worth pointing out the scale of this proejct for those who can't (or won't) accept it: cars are simpler than general purpose computers.

      I fail to see how a car with a computer built into it, is simpler than a computer.

      It is possible to create software that passes some reliability metric with a fixed hardware platform. A general purpose OS would be hard pressed to make that guarantee.

      Um, you do realize that to run software, you need an OS?
      • Re:Everyone stop (Score:3, Informative)

        by jimicus (737525)
        I fail to see how a car with a computer built into it, is simpler than a computer.

        I think you're thinking of a computer as "PC with any one of a few hundred motherboards, a few hundred videocards, a few hundred soundcards, a few hundred CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drives, a few thousand hard disks and Heaven only knows what other crazy peripherals".

        In this context, a computer will be built out of few, well-tested, reasonably reliable parts and these parts won't vary from vehicle to vehicle. They probably won't vary
    • Re:Everyone stop (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shotgun (30919)
      Yes, but the environment the car operates in is much more complicated than the environment the computer has to operate in. There is some predictability to a new video card. But how do you program "Deer on the side of road possibly about to spring into your lane" . Now try "child", "stumbling drunk teenager", "armadillo", "dump truck", "boulder on side of hill", "dumb as sport car driver in the next lane"....

      Limit the scope to all the problems that could go wrong in the car itself, and it is more than mo
  • by SomeOtherGuy (179082) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:50PM (#12423166) Journal
    Posting this story on /. is like posting a story about the joys of a hot dog eating contest in a vegan forum.
  • Great! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Skiron (735617) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:55PM (#12423256) Homepage
    So on top of patrol tax, car tax, MOT, and all the other taxes associated with running a car, all road users now have to find a £300.00 MS tax also... (and it will still crash, as the per the joke).
  • by Ars-Gonzo (14318) <> on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @02:22PM (#12423715) Homepage
    "The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.')"
  • by Assmasher (456699) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @02:44PM (#12424008) Journal
    Sigh, where to begin?

    First I'd like to point out to the OP that it was recently MAY first, NOT April first.
  • by SunFan (845761) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @02:46PM (#12424032)

    The unity of Slashdotters above is quite beautiful. I've never seen anything quite like it, where an entire discussion can be moderated redundant once and be completely correct. It is the most amazing thing to have happened since user #1 signed be honest, it brings a tear to my eye. :'-)

  • by autophile (640621) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @03:28PM (#12424566)
    Michael Knight: KITT, get ready for Turbo Boost!
    KITT: It sounds like you're trying to jump over a construction site. Would you like help?
    Michael: Yes! Turbo Boost now!
    KITT: There's a grammatical error in that --
    Michael: You bastard!

    A few hours later, in the Knight Travelling Truck...

    Michael: Bonnie, KITT has something wrong with him. When I asked him to Turbo Boost, he kept asking for confirmation, and then said that I talked funny.
    Bonnie: No problem, let me look under the hood. (pulls vainly on hood) KITT, open up.
    KITT: No, Bonnie, you are not authorized to look at my internals.
    Bonnie: Devon, what is this crap?! What's going on?
    Devon: Oh, we signed a contract with Microsoft for them to provide us with software updates. After all, the Knight Foundation can't afford as many programmers as Microsoft can.
    Bonnie: But Devon, I'm the only programmer who ever worked on KITT!
    Devon: But look, Bonnie, KITT can now play all these MP3's. Watch. KITT, play "Knight Rider TV Theme Song."
    KITT: No, Devon. "Knight Rider TV Theme Song" is owned by Universal Studios. You do not have the right to play that song.
    Devon: Bloody hell. KITT, play "Knight Rider 2010 Theme Song".
    KITT: No, Devon. "Knight Rider 2010" sucked.
    Devon: What cheek! You little wanker!
    KITT: It sounds like you're trying to view pr0n. Would you like help?
    Michael: See? See?


  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @03:49PM (#12424823)

    Ford now stands for Fix Or Reboot Daily.

  • In other news, Bill Gates predicts that in 10 years, cars won't need more than 640K of RAM.
  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @10:10PM (#12428415) Homepage

    (For the ignorant, the NT-based US Navy ship that had to be towed back to port when NT crashed.)

    Second new Ford motto: "Quality is Job - er, where's the Task Manager?"

    "End Task"

    "The program is not responding. Do you want to end the task?"

    "Yes - that's why I clicked 'End Task' - you stupid fucking piece of shit...!"

  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @10:13PM (#12428430) Homepage

    which are supposed to be the safest and most fuel efficient ever made.

    Then he said the jet's systems were Microsoft-based.

    So I sent him an email asking: "What's wrong with this picture?" and referencing the Yorktown.

    He replied that he was going to research that part some more, but he got the point.

Just about every computer on the market today runs Unix, except the Mac (and nobody cares about it). -- Bill Joy 6/21/85