Bonum Certa Men Certa

Newer is Not Always Better (the Case of Automobiles)

The car drives you!

Summary: Techrights recommends caution against 'tech maximalism'; not everything that can be done with/on a computer should, in practice, be done that way; a careful balance is needed, taking stock of pros and cons

TODAY in IRC we had a lengthy discussion about the downside of supposedly "modern" or "smart" cars*. It'll be in the IRC logs tomorrow. It's very informal. It's going way beyond aspects like cost and privacy -- those two are commonly discussed these days. We did a series about it over a year ago.

"People are simply asked to buy the "latest" -- no matter what Trojan horses are included (mandated) in these."What compels people to blindly assume that newer is always better when it's perfectly clear that users aren't in control and products are tailored (over time) to better suit the manufacturers, the stores etc.? People are simply asked to buy the "latest" -- no matter what Trojan horses are included (mandated) in these.

This subject keeps coming back. People who drive need to buy cars (occasionally) and there are many things they see which they strongly dislike.

"The one [new article] about cars can be motivation for revisiting cars/embedded systems and software freedom," one person told us this week, suggesting it as a topic and stating that "the focus was in-house expertise vs outsourcing, in cars."

To quote the portion we've already included in Daily Links:

I would argue relying too much on external software vendors and not seeing software as a first-class citizen is the root cause. But Volvo Cars is wisely moving away from that model by bringing software developers in-house. Google and Apple partner with vendors for commodities. Software and data just happen to be too key to treat it that way. As I argued in a previous post, the automotive industry needs to own their data and set up to make it to the mobility-driven phase.

Having someone from software-only companies tell Volvo how to do software is not that different from having someone from Foxconn coming to Cupertino telling Apple how to do hardware. Personally, I approach Volvo from a position of respect and will do my best for it to achieve its vision. And I’m not alone. There’s a whole army of us.

Having done this for more than 2 decades, I don’t buy the argument that “it’s rocket science, you do cars, pay us to do it for you”.

Cars have long been marketed and merchandised as tools of freedom (mobility) and independence (no public transport). But if entering a car means being spied on in all sorts of ways (by third parties!), then taking a long walk might be more emancipating an experience. As a teenager, when I drove my car I brought a laptop into it (for music; no need to touch anything while driving). Back in the 90s it was possible with universal ports. There was no DRM. I could take the laptop anywhere I needed it afterwards, so I wasn't paying for a computer that only works inside the car.

"Cars have long been marketed and merchandised as tools of freedom (mobility) and independence (no public transport)."Tech maximalism typically results in tech fascism. It's the misguided belief that everything should be digitalised, no matter what the extra complexity may entail. In the case of voting machines, it begets mistrust and uncertainty; media moguls are happy to exploit that to discredit entire elections. This morning at 7AM I went to vote (I was the first person at the polling station) and all I needed was my passport. They gave me a piece of paper, a pencil, and I put the paper inside a physical box. They didn't mind me wearing a hoodie (whole head covered) and two masks. The passport is hard to forge and I knew how to answer questions when quizzed verbally (name, address etc.) so a bit of privacy is possible and society can function just fine this way.

I'm not against technology but as a passionate technologist I know where technology neither belongs nor is needed. There are companies trying to sell a bunch of useless "solutions" and councils/people eager to show it's worth the money by imposing these "solutions" on unsuspecting users (maybe they even get kickbacks for introducing these "solutions").

While we're on the topic of 'tech maximalism', yesterday TechDirt said goodbye to Twitter. TechDirt kept defending TikTok from bans, but maybe TechDirt is coming to realise that social control media is a bad idea. Outsourcing communications to it is a mistake. _________ * An associate reminded us of the horrifying nature and worrying trajectory of such "smart" cars. Buyers ought to check the number of sensors in each new car. They have some kind of jargon name -- ECU (Electronic Control Unit) -- and six years ago there were 80+ microcontrollers in your average new car. Some other sites put that number at over 100 microcontrollers. The diagnostics codes are proprietary and there was a requirement that they be accessible but that law did not specify wireless connections so the car companies block non-dealers from accessing wireless diagnostics and have taken away wired diagnostics.

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