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Microsoft Hardware

If Microsoft Built Cars... 642

trystanu writes "If Microsoft Built Cars, occasionally your car would just die on the motorway for no reason; you'd accept this, restart and drive on -- at least that was the joke a few years ago. ZDNET reports that Microsoft has persuaded a number of carmakers to use its slimmed-down Windows CE operating system to power a variety of in-car electronics, from navigation systems to music players to information devices. BMW, in particular, has gravitated to Microsoft systems, although the company has announced wins with Honda, Volvo and others as well. Perhaps the recent trapping of Thai dignitaries inside a BMW should be a warning to us all."
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If Microsoft Built Cars...

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  • If if if (Score:4, Funny)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:16PM (#7582698) Homepage Journal

    If Microsoft Built Cars..

    An interesting proposition.. /me peers into his crystal ball...

    If Microsoft Built Cars... []
    If Microsoft Built Cars... []
    If Microsoft Built Cars... []
    If Microsoft Built Cars... []
    If Microsoft Built Cars... []
    If Microsoft Built Cars... []
    If Microsoft Built Cars... []
    If Microsoft Built Cars... []
    If Microsoft Built Cars... []

    Whoa.. stick with QNX [], please.
    • by jared_hanson ( 514797 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:33PM (#7582834) Homepage Journal
      It wasn't the car's fault, it was bad drivers.
    • Re:If if if (Score:5, Insightful)

      by torved ( 204864 ) * on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:42PM (#7582892)
      Ironically, 50,000 people die every year from Automobile accidents and no one looks to blame Ford or GM for these deaths.

      It's probably not too far off to say 99.9% of Windows crashing problems are due to operator error from installing bad drivers (from other manufacterers), installing bad hardware, installing crappy software.

      If GM made Windows, it would not be upgradable, it would run 1950's technology, it would cost $20000 every 5 years, and it would STILL CRASH!

      Not a Microsocks fan, but it's funny how narrowminded some can be...

      • Re:If if if (Score:3, Informative)

        by whoever57 ( 658626 )
        It's probably not too far off to say 99.9% of Windows crashing problems are due to operator error from installing bad drivers (from other manufacterers), installing bad hardware, installing crappy software.

        Evidently you did not read the report [] that stated that only 50% of Windows crashes were due to such problems. By implication, the other 50% are due to Windows itself.
        • Evidently... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bonch ( 38532 )
          Evidently, you either ignorantly or puposely misinterpreted the report, which merely states that 50% of crashes are third-party, and the other 50% are from Windows itself due to bad drivers or other poorly-written OS hooks. Yes, there were other reports about this that stated such.

          In other words, half of what Dr. Watson reported was error conditions originating directly from third-party code, while the other half was initiated by Windows code. Hardly a reason to point fingers at "bad" Windows code. The
      • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:50PM (#7583302) Homepage
        When it becomes obvious that tires are shredding and rolling over, people do. When it becomes obvious that cars are exploding upon a slight rear collision, people do. When cars that are supposed to protect their drivers in a collision instead drive the steering column through their chest, people do.

        It's pretty obvious that, for example, when the Windows installer crashes, or a fresh copy of IIS has to be rebooted every 2 weeks despite serving only static HTML, that Windows is somehow at fault. Not only is Windows instability legendary, it is also well documented. Hardware cannot be the issue, because that hardware could be running another OS and have years of uptime. Drivers should not be the issue for the same reason. If the drivers are both put out by the same company, they should have the same level of overall quality.

        GM has made an OS... Its cars have been running on microcontrollers for years. They run on the smallest of processors, they can be upgraded for about $100 by replacing a ROM, and they never crash. If you had meant what a horrible mess it would be for GM to attempt to create a desktop operating system, then yes, I agree with you. However, that should extend to any company attempting to do something significant in a field that they don't have experience in.

        If Microsoft decided to do this properly by hiring the best kernel developers and experienced automotive programmers, and creating a real-time OS from scratch, people might be persuaded that this was a good idea. But they're not. They're taking an OS made for convincing a printer to communicate with a text processor, and trying to force it into making an antilock braking system communicate with a real-time traction control system.

        I don't know about you, but I'd rather use an OS specifically designed for reliability if I'm going to spend two hours a day inside something that kills 50,000 people per year.

      • Re:If if if (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jafac ( 1449 )
        Ironically, 50,000 people die every year from Automobile accidents and no one looks to blame Ford or GM for these deaths.

        Not nobody.

        Also, 9/11 was caused by poor airline security and lax regulation and oversight. Terrorists are a fact of life that's incredibly difficult (and expensive) to change. Airline security is something we could have changed to prevent this tragedy. And we still have not.

        It's probably not too far off to say 99.9% of Windows crashing problems are due to operator error from ins
        • BOX KNIVES! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by DunbarTheInept ( 764 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @03:34PM (#7583514) Homepage

          9/11 was caused by poor airline security and lax regulation and oversight.

          NO. NO NO NO NO!!!!. The terrorists took over using friggin' BOX KNIVES! I, for one, do NOT want to see the level of paranoid security that would be required to prevent someone from carrying a tiny razor-blade sized knife on board. The best weapon the terrorists had was deceit. They had the passengers convinced that all that was going to happen was that the plane was going to be forced to land somewhere and then negotiations would begin for hostage release. Under those expectations, the risk of being stabbed with the knives wasn't worth engaging in any heroics. In the one case where the news was already out, and the element of deceit was lost, the passengers did decide to overpower the terrorists' wimpy arsenel of box knifes. The same thing would likely have happened on the other three flights if they too had known what was going to happen if they sat still.

          Don't blame airline security. Blame excessive optimism on the part of the passengers.
      • Re:If if if (Score:3, Informative)

        by rssrss ( 686344 )

        " Ironically, 50,000 people die every year from Automobile accidents and no one looks to blame Ford or GM for these deaths."

        That is just not true. Automobile manufacturers are sued for damages created by crashes routinely. Furthermore, they are subject to Federal regulation of safety equipment and must recall defective models.

      • Re:If if if (Score:3, Informative)

        by DunbarTheInept ( 764 )

        Windows crashing problems are due to operator error from installing bad drivers (from other manufacterers), installing bad hardware, installing crappy software.

        Two points:

        1) You just listed three things that are NOT the operator's fault. Why call them operator errors?
        Did the operator write the buggy driver? Did the operator know the driver was buggy? Did the operator know the software package had a fatal flaw? I know your point is that they aren't Microsoft's fault, but that doesn't mean they are t
    • Re:If if if (Score:4, Informative)

      by u-235-sentinel ( 594077 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:52PM (#7582974) Homepage Journal
      What really annoyed me was when I worked as a contractor for the Air Force, they had a fighter jet with a new computer system which would fail in the middle of the flight. After some poking around I learned it was a slimmed down version of Windows they were running.

      The sad part was they tied it to the propulsion. When the computer crashed, the jet would simply shutdown and at 20,000 feet things could get interesting.

      Ironically, the manufacturer provided restart instructions for the computer and claimed this was perfectly 'normal'. I don't believe this ever moved past the prototype stage.
      • by OldCrasher ( 254629 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @04:24PM (#7583751) Homepage
        The F22 and B2 aside, there are no aircraft the USAF flies that were designed and build in the time frame that Windows has come into being.

        The F22 only just fits the time period; it started its software development process in the days of Windows 3.0.

        No aircraft has Windows based Flight Control systems, not even the civil stuff.

        Though that is not to say flight qualified software doesn't reset.

    • Re:If if if (Score:4, Funny)

      by hurtstotouchfire ( 664278 ) <hurtstotouchfire AT gmail DOT com> on Friday November 28, 2003 @04:00PM (#7583646) Journal
      "It's part of the broad companywide effort to make sure that if a market emerges for software in unusual places, that Microsoft is there, so that when the revolution comes, we'll have enough footholds to launch a coup," said Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff.

      Mangled quote:
      "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy defines Microsoft as 'a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes... Curiously enough, an edition of the Encyclopaedia Galactica that had the good fortune to fall through a time warp from a thousand years in the future defined Microsoft as 'a bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came'."

      -- Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

  • 4 words (Score:5, Funny)

    by DirtyJ ( 576100 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:17PM (#7582709)
    Black Pavement of Death
  • Music Players? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aerojad ( 594561 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:18PM (#7582714) Homepage Journal
    So... what are the chances of DRM following us to our (future) cars after it's rolled out? More specifically, the playing of mp3 cds.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:18PM (#7582716)
    So long as they don't use Windows for the car security system, I mean imagine... "Insert any key to begin"
  • by nnnneedles ( 216864 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:19PM (#7582720)
    Competing with Microsoft woulbe so hard that other companies would start offering open-engine cars for free!

    • They do. At least one car maker nowdays has a specific selling point in the fact that you can program the ECU to understand additional keys in the field and ALL maintenance operations (even cambelt changes) are fully described and listed in the car manual. That is besides strictly adhering to ISO and any other standard applicable in every single component they can. In btw - as a result they make bloody good cars. Possibly the best petrol ones. All better ones are diesel (and german or french).

  • heh (Score:3, Funny)

    by odyrithm ( 461343 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:19PM (#7582721)
    I love it when /. posts jokes.. you are joking right?.. right?.... hello?
  • It's a good fit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GigsVT ( 208848 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:19PM (#7582723) Journal
    BMW's come with what amounts to an EULA. If you look under the hood, you'll notice a little sticker that says you are not to connect any third party electronics to the car, CB, ham radio, etc, or even use a hand-held cell phone within the car, unless you buy a BMW approved carphone. This is under threat of voiding your warantee.

    I'm sure in the US there's some protection offered under the same law that forces manufacturers to allow you to use aftermarket parts, but I don't know if that precedent would extend to electronics equipment that isn't really part of the car.
    • Re:It's a good fit (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sydlexic ( 563791 )
      I love BMW's, but my 2001 M5 is the last BMW I will buy as long as the new models run CE and look like Elephant Dung. The new models are seriously ugly Hyundai rip-offs and they have this gawd-awful iDrive. I tried iDrive and I'd rather not drive than iDrive.
    • Re:It's a good fit (Score:3, Informative)

      by Thavius ( 640045 )
      Well, from what I've gleaned working on warranties and listening to service managers is after market products that are installed on your car (such as remote starters, extra lights, anything that hook into your electrical system) have a high chance of voiding your manufacturer's warranty. Especially remote starters, those can fry your electronical system faster than it'll void your warranty.

      As far as add-on electronics goes, I'm not going to void my warranty by plugging in my cell-phone into my car. But
      • Re:It's a good fit (Score:5, Informative)

        by GigsVT ( 208848 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:42PM (#7582891) Journal
        The little notice says you are not to even operate a hand-held cell phone in the car.

        They must use some piss-poor shielding on their electronics if they are really worried about induced currents from a hand-held phone causing any problems.

        Either that, or they want to scare people into buying a BMW blessed carphone from a dealership, which is much more likely.
    • Re:It's a good fit (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:40PM (#7582877)
      Also, from the reactions to their iDrive system that I've seen, they can use all the user-friendliness they can get - the perfect job for MS.
    • Re:It's a good fit (Score:5, Informative)

      by Temkin ( 112574 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:44PM (#7582905)

      In the US, it's called the Magnuson-Moss Act of 1975. Google for it. It specifically prohibits product tying for warranty claims. They cannot deny your claim because you used an unapproved cell phone. There's a number of other provisions in MM that BMW seems to be trying to ignore.

    • Re:It's a good fit (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dread_ed ( 260158 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @03:29PM (#7583487) Homepage
      I work at a BMW retailer and I can relate a few interesting facts about why this notice is on the car in the first place.

      The number one reason is that each BMW vehicle has a personalized wiring system. Each vehicle receives a different wiring harness based upon the features and options in that specific vehicle. In other words, if one 325i has an auto dimming mirror and another does not, the entire wiring harness is different between the two vehicles.

      Keep in mind that the wiring harness is like the electrical backbone of the car, weighs about 50 pounds, and runs contiguously from one end of the vehicle to the other. It is NOT something you want to mess with unless you really know what you are doing. In fact, if there is ever a problem in the wiring harness BMW recommends putting in a new one.

      That brings me to reason number two. Alot of your aftermarket companies hire morons to install their electronics. I know this because I see it all the time.

      For example, we had a customer buy a brand new M3 convertible (~$60K american) and they installed one of those Viper alarms that tells you to "Get BACK!" when you go near the car. The guy that installed it had the great idea of yanking out the headlight control module, chopping a piece out of the wiring that controls the headlights and splicing in there to get power for his alarm. Needless to say the car was NOT OK after this. Starting the vehicle would cause the headlights to freak out...they would switch on and off randomly. To make matters worse, the malfunction caused the autoleveling feature to kick in and make the lights to bob up and down.

      This led to a cluster-f$#k with the customer and the service department. The customer was pointing fingers and yelling at the sales and service staff about what a piece of krap the car was and such. Things were pretty bad until we pulled out the light control module and showed them where the aftermarket guy had spliced in to the light system and where the control board had gotten fried.

      I personally think the whole reason for the sticker is because BMW wants to maintain the integrity of the electrical system in the car and to make sure people understand that if their aftermarket device screws something up BMW is not gonna pay for it. Bmw even goes so far as to place prewiring jacks in the cars for most aftermarket devices you could want: bluetooth, satalite raio, mp3 players or line in devices for the stereo, phones, alarms, cd changers, and even Universal RF transcievers (programmable garage door opener).

      You could even chalk it up to those strict German engineers if you want. God knows they hate it when people mess with their systems.
  • Not a problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:19PM (#7582724)

    It will just make it that much easier to decide which manufacturers I'd consider the next time I buy a car, since there will a few that will immediately excluded.
  • hooray for MS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mOoZik ( 698544 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:19PM (#7582726) Homepage
    Seriously - don't flame me. Win CE is very user friendly out of the box, and that's what one needs in a car interface. Familiarity is also key. Add some flashy, touch screen navigation, and voila. I'd have thought the increased cost of using MS as a reason to use a Linux flavor, but hey, I'm not the one spending money here.

    • Re:hooray for MS (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      When you're talking about a car interface that can do alot more than just directions, for example locking and unlocking doors, windows, starting and stoping the engine, etc, what you need is STABILITY, and then a pretty interface once the stability part is done. Microsoft comes at it from the other direction, they make it pretty first and work on security and stability second. This is not the place where you ever want even a single crash.
      • Re:hooray for MS (Score:4, Interesting)

        by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @06:36PM (#7584322) Homepage
        The cars on the market with CE also:

        1. Automatically switch on/off lights. Citroen C5, C8 and BMW 6 series. Possibly others.

        2. Automatically switch on/off wipers and control wipers frequency. C5 at least.

        3. Automatically retune suspension pressure and do autolevelling and compensation in sharp turns. C5 at least.

        These are features I personally do not like being entrusted to anything but dedicated simple feedback systems with manual override. The last thing you want is the car to flip in the wrong direction when taking a sharp turn at 40mph on a wet mountain road (example taken out of a C5 commercial)

    • I currently have an Acura with a navigation system built in, and I can tell you that there is no need for a familiar windows interface in that car. It's easy to use, and the only complaint I have is that it's kinda slow and adding windows probably won't speed it up. As an added thought the 2004 Acura TL already has blue tooth, plays mp3 CDs, and has speech recognition for a navigation system thats better then mine. What does Honda gain by going with Microsoft?

      I've also seen the navigation systems in both
    • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:12PM (#7583093)
      Win CE is very user friendly out of the box, and that's what one needs in a car interface.

      except that 7-series owners are trading their iDrive-equipped(and hideous-looking) cars in for Mercedes and Audis. They just don't "get" iDrive, and since it's tied into so many goddamn features on the car, if you don't "get" it, you're not "getting" most of the car. WinCE has been a -spectacular- failure in that car. There are videos running around the net showing a guy's 750iL hunting for gears on the highway, closing+opening the trunk incessantly, ejecting the key from the keyslot(making it impossible to start the car!), changing radio stations on its own...

      If you want to see the interface done right, check out an Audi A8L with MMC. Similar idea, but instead of putting absolutely everything on the dial and making you push/pull/twist/etc, it's simply an "adjuster"; buttons around the dial are used to actually navigate around the menus. Oh, and it's also not in control of absolutely everything in the bloody car. It's only in charge of suspension settings, the radio, phone, and nav system(actually, it might have climate control too, I forget.)

      The running joke in the auto industry is that the only reason Chris Bangle(BMW designer who ruined the 7-series and now the 5-series) has a job is that all his bosses got 7-series cars and can't get them out of the driveway to go into headquarters and fire him.

      • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:42PM (#7583260) Homepage Journal
        Consumer Reports had an article recently that mentioned this general topic. Their general suggestion was to avoid buying the new computerized luxury cars for a few years, until they get the UI right. It seems that in general their testers couldn't make much sense out of the menu-based centralized controls, and they considered these controls to be hazardous in the extreme under normal driving conditions.

        BMW's newer models were not nearly the only bad examples.

        Trying to discover where they've hidden some control in an N-level-deep menu tree is extremely distracting. You don't want this when you're driving.

        Of course, if you screw up, the manufacturer will just call it an "operator error".

    • Re:hooray for MS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by qtp ( 461286 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @03:24PM (#7583444) Journal
      Win CE is very user friendly out of the box, and that's what one needs in a car interface.

      For what? What need is there for a computerized interface to the locking mechanism. Or the fuel system?, or any engine functions?

      Familiarity is also key.

      Familiarity? I turn the key, the door unlocks (or locks). I turn the key, the engine starts (stops). That's familiar. Any computer involved in these functions need not have a "user" interface, GUI or other.

      Add some flashy, touch screen navigation,

      OK, fine GUI is nice for this, but that's not something I'll be happy giving up reliable performance and working doors for. Why does it have to be full fledged, or based on sometghing I've used before? All I need is a place to enter my destination (I'm assuming it has a GPS) and the ability to retrieve and show a map, estimate travel time, fuel consumption, suggest directions, etc. Manny OS can do this, and I'm sure that WinCE is fine for this, but the OS of such a system is hardly a selling point to the consumer, brand loyalty has no effect when it all relys on how it looks and other embedded systems are perfectly capable of appearing the same or better. Why should navigation be conected to the other functions in any way other than knowing how much fuel is in the tank and at what rate is it being consumed?

      The entire conept seems to be a poorly thought out scheme to sell product without concern for actual need, reliability and efficiency of design. Sometimes the separation of functions and the subsequent duplication duplication of effort is a good thing, especially when the issue is the reliability of essential functions (such as engine operation and being able to get out of the car) in the case of failure of non-essential functions (Oh no, my navigation system's on the fritz! Honey, would you please get the map from the glove compartment?).

  • Win CE/PPC 2003 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bagboy ( 630125 ) <neo&arctic,net> on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:21PM (#7582735)
    I currently have to hard boot my Dell Axim X5 after roughly 2-3 hours depending on the app that locked (RealOne Player, X-Lite (SIP Phone), etc..). I think CE/PPC is still too unstable for possible life threatening experiences in the car.
    • So the Seimens Telemetry monitoring system in our cardiac ward is Windows CE based. I finally had a crash of a telemetry monitor recently (which is how I found out it was CE based when the splash screen launched). There was a patient on it, and it simply stopped reading his heart rate/EKG. Luckily a reboot fixed it, but these should never crash...
  • by mcg1969 ( 237263 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:22PM (#7582743)
    Reading that story from Singapore puzzles me. Does it strike anyone here as silly to have car locks that are controlled entirely electronically? I mean, power locks are great, don't get me wrong. But since they are by necessity mechanical anyway, so doesn't it make sense to provide a manual, mechanical means to lock and unlock them? Doing otherwise just seems like you're placing unnecessary trust in imperfect electronics.
    • by His name cannot be s ( 16831 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:35PM (#7582842) Journal
      I just had the opposite problem.

      In my brand new Honda Accord, I came out to the cold Canadian air last week, pressed the button on my key to open the door, and All I heard was a faint thudding click. It seemed the locking mechanism was a tad frozen ( it was -26c that night).

      Repeated attempts were not producing results, so I inserted the key into the lock, figuring I'd just open in manually. It turns out there is no physical connection to the locking mechanism, the key simply triggers the electronic lock!

      Needless to say, I ended up popping the trunk with the remote, and crawling thru, pushing down the back seat. When I got inside the car, I had to end up pulling the lock up mannualy, and boy was it ever stuck.

      Seems like a simple thing, but how the hell could some idiot engineer put together a single point of failure for getting into the car?

      What if the battery was dead? then neither the trunk nor the door would open, and I couldn't get in to pop the hood to replace the battery. Needless to say, I'm still quite pissed about it.

      I'll be yelling rather profusely at the Honda rep this week.

      • by SpaceLifeForm ( 228190 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:09PM (#7583081)
        You had better yell profusely. With temperatures that low, and having that single point-of-failure, your frozen locks could cause you to die of exposure. That model of car should be recalled.
  • by Slick_Snake ( 693760 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:22PM (#7582744) Journal
    Security updates for you car will be availible on the internet. Failure to update voids all warrenties.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:23PM (#7582750)
    Before the airbag deploys, it asks you "Are you sure?"
  • by betis70 ( 525817 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:24PM (#7582755) Homepage
    Too bad he wasn't driving a BMW with an iDrive system, but an earlier BMW. It was a catastrophic electrical system failure that locked him in the car.,39001153 ,3 9130270,00.htm
  • Worrying... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chicane-UK ( 455253 ) <> on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:24PM (#7582756) Homepage
    Quite frankly this concerns me.. all joking aside, Microsoft has yet to prove itself in the reliability stakes. Plain and simple.

    Their handheld / 'CE' operating systems are no different, and quite simply I wouldn't knowingly buy a car where the majority of its tricks and gizmo's were Microsoft powered.
  • Non Critical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vchoy ( 134429 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:25PM (#7582766)
    ...from navigation systems to music players to information devices...
    Personally, I think it's no big deal. Just remember these are all non-critical components.

    I'd start to worry if they operated the controllers for engine/fuel/drive-by-wire systems. etc.
    • Re:Non Critical (Score:3, Insightful)

      by satterth ( 464480 )

      ...from navigation systems to music players to information devices...
      Personally, I think it's no big deal. Just remember these are all non-critical components.

      I can just see someone driving down the road and their Indash navigation system locks up. And as they are fumbling with buttons to reboot/reset the damn thing they crash into a telephone pole and take down the DSL connections in that neighboorhood. All because they took their EYES off the road for a few seconds.

  • by Ducon Lajoie ( 30475 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:27PM (#7582786)

    Microsoft Technology Hits the Road in BMW 7 Series []:

    Microsoft technology powers the navigation feature used in BMW's innovative new iDrive telematics system. (Click for high-resolution image)
    REDMOND, Wash. -- March 4, 2002 -- Microsoft Corp. today announced that the BMW 7 Series, the line of cars introduced last month in the United States, features Microsoft's robust, real-time embedded operating system, Windows(R) CE. This announcement comes shortly after Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit launched Windows CE for Automotive v3.5, the newest version of its telematics software platform based on Windows CE, and announced an end-to-end solution to enable the auto industry to cost-effectively implement and maintain advanced automotive telematics.
  • by Flamesplash ( 469287 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:28PM (#7582800) Homepage Journal
    "Perhaps the recent trapping of Thai dignitaries [] inside a BMW should be a warning to us all."

    Did you actually read the article????

    It starts with this paragraph

    BMW has told CNETAsia that an electronic fault caused the problem, rather than a system crash of the car's Windows-based central computer, as other reports have speculated.

    and ends with

    But when contacted by CNETAsia, a spokeswoman from BMW Thailand said the car at fault was a 10-year old BMW 520i that had suffered a simple electronic failure.
    • I think you missed the point that the story submitter was making. It was a 10 year old car with dedicated electronic devices that failed which managed even the locks of the automobile, among other things. Now imagine those devices replaced with software with Microsoft's track record. I don't want my locks, my fuel injection system, my engine timing, etc, managed my Microsoft software. I don't think I'm comfortable placing my life in Microsoft's hands. Are you?
      • Ahem. Your fuel injections system and engine timing aren't being so much as breathed on by MS software, if you'll read the article. Nor could they be, since WinCE isn't designed for hard real-time control and requires significantly more processing power and memory than that found in a car engine controller.

  • by Barnett ( 550375 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:31PM (#7582810) Homepage
    A Software Engineer, a Hardware Engineer and a Departmental Manager were on their way to a meeting in Switzerland. They were driving down a steep mountain road when suddenly the brakes on their car failed. The car careened almost out of control down the road, bouncing off the crash barriers, until it miraculously ground to a halt scraping along the mountainside. The car's occupants, shaken but unhurt, now had a problem: they were stuck halfway down a mountain in a car with no rakes. What were they to do?

    "I know", said the Departmental Manager, "Let's have a meeting, propose a Vision, formulate a Mission Statement, define some Goals, and by a process of Continuous Improvement, Change Management, Re-Engineering and Service Integration, find a solution to the Critical Problems, and we can be on our way."

    "No, no", said the Hardware Engineer, "That will take far too long, and besides, that method has never worked before. I've got my Swiss Army knife with me, and in no time at all I can strip
    down the car's braking system, isolate the fault, fix it, and we can be on our way."

    "Well", said the Software Engineer, "Before we do anything, I think we should push the car back up the road and see if it happens again."
  • by kaan ( 88626 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:31PM (#7582811)
    Not trying to troll here, but Microsoft is a company that I simply do not trust. I don't trust them with maintaining my privacy, nor do I trust that they have my best interests in mind. And that's only for computer usage. Why would I trust that their system will always "do the right thing" when I'm in a real-world scenario, driving down the highway at 50 mph? True, I have no idea what role Windows CE (or whatever is used) would actually play while the car is in use, but it's an important question to answer. For myself, you can damn well be sure that I would take some serious convincing before I would entertain the possibility of spending a huge sum of money on a rolling, engine-powered WIndows machine. And even if I'm convinced, who's to say that there aren't serious problems with the design of Windows CE and how it interacts with the rest of the car. Even if it's only used to control the car stereo, I'd rather not have it there. I'll just stick with a nice Toyota or Volkswagen, or frankly any other manufacturer that avoids the use of a Microsoft prodcut as a systems controller.
  • by elmegil ( 12001 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:32PM (#7582817) Homepage Journal
    Those Thai Ministers are a pretty skittish lot.

    "We couldn't breathe because there was no air," he added.

    I have not yet met the car that was utterly and completley sealed. And there's a lot of air in the passenger space of even a small sports car, and this was a "luxury car". See below for more reasons why, even if it were completley sealed, this is totally stupid. Even if they mean no air conditioning, I can't imagine in the time this occurred it got so hot they couldn't breathe.

    To draw attention, the minister and his driver waved frantically at passers-by. The incident ended only after a nearby security guard smashed the car's windows with a sledgehammer.

    Even with the heavy-duty tool, Suchart said it took a long time to break the windows as the "glass proved to be very resistant".

    The harrowing experience lasted about 10 minutes, he said.

    Let's see "it took a long time.... about 10 minutes". What exactly is wrong with this statement? Certainly 10 minutes is longer than you expect for a sledgehammer to go through glass, but even so, that's NOT really a long time. Certainly not enough time to asphyxiate. Can you say complete panic?

    • by quacking duck ( 607555 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:54PM (#7582988)
      You have to remember this was in Thailand, where if you're driving with windows up you by necessity need air conditioning. The passenger compartment starts cooking VERY quickly under a hot sun on a humid day, so even in the few minutes they were trapped in there it would have gotten very uncomfortable. Remember also they probably would have been in shirt, suits and ties, not shorts and T-shirt.

      And what's wrong with the 10 minute figure? It didn't take 10 minutes to smash through the glass, it took ten minutes to attract someone without using a horn, who then notified a security guard, who then had to find a sledgehammer. I'm sure few have them strapped to their belts as standard equipment.

      Every year here we have cases of babies locked inside cars on a hot summer day while the parent runs inside for some quick errands. In many cases these babies end up in the hospital, after not much more than 10 minutes of being in such conditions.
    • by vasko ( 168613 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:21PM (#7583146)
      I have not yet met the car that was utterly and completley sealed.
      In Yugoslavia (origin of ingenious Yugo car ;) we have a joke about car sealment:

      What is the difference between final control in Japanese and Yugoslav car factory?

      In Japan they put a cat in the car and seal the doors. Tomorrow if the cat is still alive that means that sealing is not good because air managed to get in.

      In Yugoslavia we also put a cat in the car but tomorrow we check is the cat still in the car or she managed to escape.

      No cats were harm during posting this message.
  • BSOYFGTTW (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:32PM (#7582825)
    Blue Screen of Your Face Going Through The Windshield.

    Stop: 0X0000000A (0X00000000, 0X00000002, 0X00000001, 0X80448BF6)
    Adress 80448BF6 base at 80400000, DateStamp
    3d366b8b - brake.exe
    Beginning dump of physical facial bones
  • idrive issues (Score:3, Interesting)

    by martin ( 1336 ) <maxsec@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:34PM (#7582835) Journal
    Seem to be lots of issues with the idrive system. BMW's answer seems to be 'tough, what do you expect from a first generation system'. Of course this is just what I see from TV/newpaper articles, so it must be true;-)

    In other news, try getting a service on an engine management system over 15 years old. Almost impossible. I think I'll go back to carbs :-)
  • by jared_hanson ( 514797 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:44PM (#7582907) Homepage Journal
    Three Microsoft employees and three Apple employees are boarding a train to attend a conference. The three MS people walk up and buy their tickets. Then, only one of the Apple employees buys a ticket.

    The MS guys say, "Whoa! Wait a minute, how are you all going to ride with only one ticket."

    "You'll see," they replied.

    Everyone boards the train and the MS employees take their seats while all three Apple employees cram into the bathroom. A while later the ticket taker comes down the isles and takes the tickets from the MS employees. He passes the bathroom, notes that it says "Occupied" and softly knocks on the door. "Ticket please," he says. Slowly, the door cracks open, one hand reaches out and hands him a ticket. A few minutes later, the Apple employees emerge from the bathroom and take seats, much to the amazement of the MS employees.

    After the conference, on the way back home, the same employees are reboarding the train. The MS people, having deftly learned a new trick, buy just one ticket. The Apple employees then say, we aren't going to buy a ticket this time. MS peoples' jaws drop, but everyone gets on the train.

    The MS people quickly cram into the bathroom, and the Apple employees go into a different bathroom. After a couple of minutes, one of the Apple employees comes out of the bathroom, walks up to the door of the bathroom that the MS employees are hiding in, knocks on it, and says:

    "Ticket please"
    • Recycled MBA/Engineer joke []?
      Or was it engineer/mathematics?

      Anyway, the engineer part is important, as it shows the pragmatism of an engineer on most matters in contrast to their humouristic antagonists.

      The transposition of the joke on Mac/Win lacks this kind of insight as pragmatism is, IMHO, not the distinguishing attribute of a Mac user.
  • by tjansen ( 2845 ) * on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:50PM (#7582958) Homepage
    Near Heidelberg/Germany there seems to be a bump in a highway that causes some BMW firmware to crash everytime a BMW runs over it, with the same effect as reported in the second article: the engine stops, the doors and windows are locked and the occupants are trapped. Fortunately people don't need to wait long, because there's usually a local breakdown service waiting to rescue the drivers. Interesting business idea :)

  • SSX5 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PurpleWizard ( 643191 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:52PM (#7582976)
    I work in the automotive industry. No one has I know has ever heard it even contemplated to run important systems on Windows products.

    The main reason being you want a real small real time kernel tucked in there for the engine controller, ABS, stability control, traction control, gear box.

    All those systems are normally kept on a seperate network for traffic to from any telematics (industry BS word for the nav, steroe, DVD, phone, climate etc...). If they do use the big optical network it is through a gate way that is written to safety critical standards. Of course not every writer of safety critical or safety related software meets what I would consider adequate standards.

  • I'm not saying that I'd want to have any safety critical systems depending on it, but it's actually getting better (which, after my recent experiences with XP, I'm beginning to think is counter to the trend at that place). The 2002 version of Pocket PC, for example, is a lot more stable than the 2000 version. My Jornada 548 had two total data loss crashes that prevented it from shutting off until the battery ran out. My 568, running the same applications, hasn't managed to pull that trick yet... though it's still got the awful memory management problems that cut the effective usable memory by a factor of 3-4.

    I don't think I'd want my car powered by embedded Linux, either. There are a lot of high quality well-designed dedicated real-time operating systems that don't have a legacy "big system" design. Why not stick with them? Going to Microsoft for your embedded systems is like going to Navistar for your family car, or to Halliburton for your swimming pool.
  • I was trapped (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Paradise Pete ( 33184 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:57PM (#7583013) Journal
    Three days ago I was trapped inside my BMW 535i. It had been having some electrical problems, such as the windows occasionally not working, and the door locks behaving erratically. The other night it all came together at once, and I could not get out of the car. The windows would not open and the door locks would not budge. To my further frustration I realized had also left my cell phone at home.

    The car was still operational, though, so I drove to a friend's house and eventually got their attention. Two hours later a locksmith finally got me out. In the mean time I had to sit through each passerby feeling compelled to go around the car and try every door, and then signal me to pull up on the lock. As if somehow no one had yet thought of that. It was a bit like waiting for an elevator, where each new arrival feels the need to press the button.

  • by hazem ( 472289 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:58PM (#7583015) Journal

    Isn't it ironic... most cars now have latches to let kids and gangsters out of trunks, yet now you can't get out of the car when its OS freezes? Good grief!

    How many times has the Enterprise been saved (or blown up to kill bad guys) through the use of manual overrides? I should be able to get out of my car, even if the battery is drained and the computer is drained. If it's good enough for Jean Luc, it's good enough for me!

  • by DollyTheSheep ( 576243 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @01:58PM (#7583018)

    Embedded != Embedded. MS products maybe used in cars, but largely in the "infotainment" sector.

    WinCE is much too big for the tiny microcontrollers that control engines, breakes, gear shifts and so on.. As is Java.

    If you want to really what going on in car electronics look for example for the OSEK/VDX initiative [], a consortium of german and french carmakers.

  • by ahmed_a ( 241016 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:01PM (#7583035)
    Someone may have already posted this, but a while back, a retired test engineer had a website with video of his misbehaving 7i series BMW. The errors were many, and the dealership indicated that the car was functioning normally inspite of numerous software problems. The car was running WinCE. Is the site still up?
  • by occam ( 20826 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:13PM (#7583099)
    Despite liking BMW's, I'd say their choosing MS OS for their cars seems to dovetail with their latest love-hate designs of the new 7 and 5 series. Bangle seems to make very controversial decisions which even to the plainest view, have warts. MS OS seems to fit the Bangle model for feature-ful failed designs. I just hope BMW recovers sooner than later (the board should already have taken action but so it goes).

    I hope the government forces car companies to label any car with an MS OS in it. Caveat emptor!
  • by morcheeba ( 260908 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:16PM (#7583117) Journal
    True story: In the mid 70's in Egypt, the u.s. ambassador was using a souped-up car that had been confiscated form a drug dealer as his official car. It was perfect for the job: bulletproof, had hidden sirens and lights, plus a megaphone and tear gas for crowd control (and being free was something the government liked, too). One day a critical fuse blew and they were trapped, just like the Thai ministers... it took a lot of energy to break through the bulletproof glass, but they eventually got him out.

    Solution to the problem? A fire ax became standard equipment in the back seat of that car.

    I never got to see the car, but I always imagined it as totally pimp-rific.
  • by siphoncolder ( 533004 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:28PM (#7583184) Homepage
    ... You would have no steering wheel, but instead about 17 different levers...
    ... Your car would cost close to nothing, but you'd have to assemble it yourself...
    ... It would come with several different chassis, so you could decided which one you wanted most...
    ... Every time you change the oil, you have to rebuild the engine...
    ... Everyone will swear they drive one...
    ... Never crashes, but drives at a constant 12mph...
    ... It would be easy to lock yourself out...
    ... You wouldn't be able to lend it to your friends unless they agreed to lend it to THEIR friends...
    ... You wouldn't be able to make aftermarket parts for it unless you give parts makers the schematics for the ENTIRE car...
  • Open v Closed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NtroP ( 649992 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:32PM (#7583206)
    I just bought a 98 Mercedez. The first time I lifted the hood I realized I'd be fsck'd if I ever got stranded. My previous car was an 18 year old Volvo. I always kept a small set of tools in the trunk for emergencies. I only needed to use them once (hence the Mercedez) but I always knew that if push-came-to-shove I'd be able to lift the hood and tinker until I got her running again.

    I still cary the same bag of tools in the trunk of the Benz, but mostly out of stubborn habit (and the fact that they provided a hidey-hole for them that was exactly the same size as my bag ;-), but I know that there's no way I'll be able to work on my new car with all the electronics.

    As it was, I just had it winterized and requested they put a trickle-charger on the battery instead of a blanket heater. They had to disconnect the battery to do this. When I got back into the the car to drive it home all the electronic devices - seats, windows, sunroof, mirrors, etc. refused to work properly until they were "reset" - meaning run through their entire range twice. I paniced and thought the dealership had totally screwed my car up until I realized how to get functionality back.

    Take this to the extreme then. What happens when, instead of just windows and seats, we have steer-, accelerate-, and brake-by-wire in our vehicles? If a computer program is controling this instead of some sort of redundant solid-state system, I want it to be bullet proof and open to public review - with the ability to mod it if I feel the need (yes, yes, warrantly, blah, blah) I just don't want a completely closed system where I have to trust the manufacturer (or God forbid, Microsoft) with critical systems in my car. And since it is MY car, I want the freedom to be able to "get under the hood" if I want/need to.

  • Excuse me but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stubear ( 130454 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:36PM (#7583232)
    ...Microsoft didn't design the iDrive system, they only provided the underlying OS. That's like blaming Linus for a shitty UI design from KDE or Gnome. As for its stability, stop comparing a desktop based Windows OS to what would be placed in ar computer systems (presumably CE or XP Embedded). I'm always amazed when the OSS community whines about all the FUD put out by companies like Microsoft or SCO yet they turn around and generate the same, if not more, amount of bullshit FUD in return.
  • by baileytal ( 692920 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:55PM (#7583319) Homepage
    I can just imagine the look on the dealer's face.
  • by rssrss ( 686344 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @03:22PM (#7583437)

    Car and Driver Magazine reviewed 6 luxury sedans in their December 2003 issue []. They rated the Lexus and the Jaguar 1 and 2. Here is what they said about the BMW iDrive:

    Who Asked for the Lawyer Screen?

    None of the cars in this test will give you full control until you agree with their company lawyers. In some, you must do so every time you start up. The screen opens with a warning that such devices in cars are unholy distractions. You must click on "I agree."

    Navigation systems work best when they show you where to go; that means some sort of display. Does any other in-car feature need such detailed visuals? Probably not (forget e-mail in cars). Yet the latest luxo crop has become screen dependent, to the point of ruination in the 7-series BMW.

    "It wouldn't be that bad if they changed a few things." That's from the staff's most ardent 745i defender. The majority of us think iDrive, as BMW calls its computer interface, needs a clean-sheet redesign.

    BMW tried to take over control of HVAC, audio, chassis settings, trip info, navigation, etc., with a screen. You make your choices with a single knob that turns, toggles, and clicks; it's a mouse substitute. Worse yet, the company forced ordinary controls into some contortion of the knob thing; for example, you must select the part of the seat you want to adjust by pressing a button, then twist or toggle a knob to make it move. Okay, but what was wrong with the old way?

    In fact, the 745i has buttons and rockers scattered about the dash that let you adjust HVAC and do very basic radio/CD changes without using iDrive. But they're so haphazard in their logic that they only add to the annoyance.

    We've given iDrive 18 months to persuade us. It failed. Now the F is in ink. Fearless prediction: The 745i will take a beating on resale.

    BMW's pickle is made worse by the fact that it's all by itself at the irritating extreme. The Jaguar and the Lexus are very friendly; they have touch screens, surely the easiest input method, and they provide full HVAC and entertainment control without the screen. In fact, you needn't agree with their lawyers if you don't use the navigation.

    Audi and VW are almost as screen-centric as BMW, but they have a critical improvement: Separate buttons, well-labeled, bring up the various menus. Their graphics are also vastly superior to BMW's. We find them relatively easy to operate, particularly the VW's.

    Like Jaguar and Lexus, Mercedes doesn't force you to use the system for trivial jobs, but the basic controls operate on their own quirky logic.

    The lawyers are right: Screens are distracting. And the friendliest cars depend on them the least. --PB

  • by SmurfButcher Bob ( 313810 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @03:45PM (#7583573) Journal
    ...once the new, "pop-up billboards" become common.
  • by ejaw5 ( 570071 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @03:57PM (#7583633)
    All you do is get into the car, close the door and Windows Car will automatically configure the car to suit the driver. It will adjust the seats, climate control, and select a radio station. Our driver is... (BSOD on dash) ... Uh Oh

    uuhh...moving right along...

    Bill Gates: So this must be why we're not shipping Windows Car yet.
  • by blang ( 450736 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @04:15PM (#7583715)
    With wifi catching on, and with MS software being central in a car's brain, the possibilties are endless.

    People will have their cars recalled 3-4 times a year to apply the latest patch.

    You might have viruses that spread from car to car.

    There'll be the IloveYou kind of virus, or blaster kind of virus, that will shut down traffic and cause millions of accidents within hours of release to the wild.

    There's the jerusalem style of virus that will crash all cars on the planet at a predetermined time.

    There'll be backdoors and IRC robots, where the script kiddies in stead of trying to shut down a web site in a DDDOS attack, will instead take control over cars, and use real people as objects in a videogame.

    Or more innocent viruses that hijacks a car's stereo, and starts blasting Wang Chung at full volume.

    Scary. The scariest part is that this is not crazy science fiction. By all signs, I don't see that any of this is avoidable, given MS current dominance, their awful track record on security, and the extremely weak consumer protection laws.
  • Lawsuit bait (Score:5, Informative)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @04:25PM (#7583754)
    Watch for the tsunami of lawsuits to come out of this. Some of the 50,000 highway deaths are bound to be due to software failure. And when a Ford, say, equipped with Windows is involved in a fatality, the case will attract lawyers like some kind of legal black hole. Can you imagine the prospect of picking the deep pockets of Ford and Microsoft?

    Software manufacturers have been immune from this before, because everyone "knows" that computers are unreliable and crash. A jury isn't going to care that your desktop burst into flame and lost all your data. That's state of the art in the zeitgeist. But juries drive cars and are more sympathetic to claims against their makers. Do you want to be defending Microsoft when the other side shows the birthday party videos of the little girl who was immolated in the fiery wreck caused by your software?

APL hackers do it in the quad.