Bonum Certa Men Certa

The Car Drives You -- Part V -- Part of the Coming War on General Computation

Speeding Car
Speeding towards dystopia

Summary: General-purpose computing and cars which the owner/driver fully controls are a dying breed that may become extinct unless collective action is undertaken

THIS will quite likely be the last part of this series (see Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV), so it is a bit of an outline. We might continue the series if further findings bubble up to reach the surface.

"Eventually," as an associate noted, "the supply of old cars will run out and then even those that have succeeded, until then, in avoiding them will have their hand forced. The only way out is to influence the supply chain. Another aspect to cover, one which is as pernicious as the software aspects, is the push to move all aspects of car use and car maintenance over to subscription based models."

“Another aspect to cover, one which is as pernicious as the software aspects, is the push to move all aspects of car use and car maintenance over to subscription based models.”
"Even roadside service subscriptions have replaced the spare tire + jack. I don't mean leasing a car or similar to leasing, but the repair contracts in place of being able to choose where and when to do maintenance. Also various functionalties, such as the remote start addressed by Louis in his video. However, whole cars are being pushed as a subscription "service" nowadays. That's a different matter."

“You drive us wild, we'll drive you crazy. You say you wanna go for a spin...”
"Cory Doctorow, among many others, has also written a lot about the software in cars and other consumer devices."

See ""The Coming War on General Computation"" (from 28C3 in 2011)

Our associate said that "software showed up in public consciousness, though briefly" in relation to proprietary software scandals.

When we started the series we called it "Car Drives You", but MinceR has instead suggested (jokingly) "Car Drives You Crazy".

"You drive us wild, we'll drive you crazy. You say you wanna go for a spin..."

So said another person in IRC.

We've meanwhile learned about how computerised cars are further being exploited by dealerships and manufacturers.

As Ryan put it about an hour ago: "I got a letter from KIA saying that the engine might explode and they want to reprogram the ECM. I would tell them I don't care if it blows up. Hell, if Scumbucket is in it, I'd be eternally grateful."

“Now they even have brakes that catch fire. They don't call anything a recall. They say there's a "Product Improvement Campaign".”
It's basically about "[h]ow Hyundai/KIA do the cheapest thing possible. You can't repair metal shavings in an engine and defective connecting rods with a software patch. So they just reset the ECM to display Check Engine if it detects the condition. Many people with an OLD car just leave the warning light on and keep driving it, if they're in a state with no smog test, which is like, 90% of the country. They extend the engine warranty a bit, but I've heard horror stories about KIA and engine warranties. Like, the dealer will go "We're just dropping a used engine in here." You have no idea if that engine is in good shape! It could start doing the same thing 10,000 miles later! It's not a remanufactured engine where a mechanic has gone through rebuilding it correctly. It's just one they took out of a car that went to the junkyard. They're extremely disreputable and pretty much flout the law and then dare their customers and the NHTSA to do anything about it. They basically got a free pass under Trump, so they never fixed anything right. Now they even have brakes that catch fire. They don't call anything a recall. They say there's a "Product Improvement Campaign"."

As it is proprietary, you cannot really check either. Even reverse-engineering is discouraged if not criminalised.

"Just don't buy anything from Hyundai or KIA," Ryan said, "I haven't seen them design anything right, and by the time you compare a 2 year old KIA to a 2 year old Toyota, it's not much different in price, although statistically you'll have way more problems out of the KIA because they always seem to have a lot of manufacturing defects and they're so tight that they don't repair them properly when they do. To escape the American labor unions, Hyundai and KIA set up their assembly plants in the deep south, and some of those workers on the assembly lines only make about $10 or $11 an hour, which is $6-7 an hour less than what Walmart pays where I live. Most UAW members up north making more reputable brands make way over $20 an hour. Like $28 was typical a couple years ago. So KIA is using the deep south states as sweatshop labor compared to that. It's how they get the price of the car so cheap and nothing you buy that was made down there hold up. We bought some furniture that was labeled Made in USA. It was made in Mississippi, which is the poorest state in the country. The workers at that plant in 2018 were making $9 an hour. And about 3 months in I sat on the couch and heard "CRUNCH!". And the same things happened to our chair and loveseat. And The Roomplace was sending their warranty people out to our house constantly to patch it all up again. The Roomplace is about the worst furniture store ever. They make everything look nice in the showroom, charge too much for it, and then it falls apart. I got more durable furniture for a small fraction of the price this time from IKEA and Bob's Discount Furniture. According to a Google reviewer last year, they now have a 3 day rule. There's no fixes or replacements or warranty anymore."

The quality is decreasing, but the prices keep going up.

“So KIA is using the deep south states as sweatshop labor compared to that. It's how they get the price of the car so cheap and nothing you buy that was made down there hold up.”
"Scotty Kilmer, a mechanic on YouTube that I like to watch," Ryan concluded, "said don't buy a KIA unless you don't plan on keeping it very long. He went over one with (iirc) like 50 or 60,000 miles on the clock (my 2003 Impala has had some work, but closing in on 300,000) and he was going over all of the stuff on the KIA that was broken. He said they just don't last. If you plan to have the car for ten years, don't get one. They make it real cheap to buy, but it's an illusion. On average these days, you buy two cars to last as long as one would from the 90s, and as long as 3 would from the 80s. The later the model year, the crappier they made it. The more they cheaped out on the parts. The more underpaid and disgruntled the labor. Even GM is unbelievably bad now. They used to go over all of their cars before QA signed off on them. It was a very tough inspection process, especially for their higher end brands, like Buick. In fact, mom even bought a 1986 Buick for her third husband and it ran just fine 30 years later. He's still driving it I think. The carbon emissions of a vehicle are not just the amount of fuel it burns for the miles you get from it. 26% of a car's LIFETIME CO2 emissions are when it is assembled. If you have to buy three cars to last as long as one, did you really save any emissions? When Congress passed Cash 4 Clunkers, they disabled and crushed cars that were in their prime, and paid for! Then those people got a car payment. The average fleet fuel economy in the US went up by like, some abysmal amount. Less than 1%. And all of those cars that took energy and materials and emissions and lots of water to produce were crushed! As soon as you start driving a car, the fuel economy starts going down for all kinds of reasons, from plugged filters nobody ever changes to worn out or fouled spark plugs. This stuff is cheap to fix, but it will turn any car into a gas guzzler if you aren't servicing it. These new Gasoline Direct Inject engines are amazing, for a little while anyway. On paper, it rolls out of the dealer with 15% more power generated for the same displacement size as a Multi-Port Fuel Injected engine. But it doesn't stay that way for long! The EPA has not revised fuel detergent standards at the federal level since 1996 and if you run fuel with the bare minimum of detergent in a GDI engine, you will have severe carbon buildup about 40,000-50,000 miles in and it will be running terribly. And the solution at that point is of course new plugs and having the mechanic tear apart the engine to do "walnut blasting" to get the carbon out. That's not cheap. If you want to avoid that in a modern engine, you have to pull over at the expensive gas stations that have the "Top Tier" label. Nobody knows this, of course, until it's too late. Murphy is not Top Tier gas and it's near most Walmarts and really cheap. I can run my car on it. Don't try this with a new one! The new technologies backfire, especially on early adopters. Honda was the last major automaker in the US to introduce fuel injection. That got along really bad with US gasoline early on because there were no detergent standards then at all. It was a disaster for everyone who bought a car like that before the mid to late 1980s. But Honda has really conservative engineers. VW was the first one to roll out GDI in the US, and everyone that bought one suffered that too, because their engine got crapped up and VW had to pay to have mechanics clean them out. It's perfectly fine to run a GDI engine but don't buy bargain gasoline for it. Hyundai's THETA II engine was not GDI. In fact, I think it was a fine engine other than the defective connecting rods. The correct repair is tear it down and replace those. But the software patch that doesn't really do anything is cheap, so they do that. Given every opportunity to make things right with their customers, Hyundai and KIA just screw the customer harder. KIA Motors Finance was even in hot water for violating vehicle repossession laws in almost every state (case here). There's one about false credit bureau reporting and one about violating repo laws. You'll probably know if the connecting rod bearings are failing even if you don't get the patch. Your engine will make a horrible grinding noise while it's on. You won't miss it unless you're deaf. The problem is, once the bearings are bad, it won't run for very long like that. But whoever has that problem will figure it out. I personally witnessed two KIAs explode last year within a week of each other. The fire department had to come to the motel and to Walmart."

Cars have become a lot more troublesome or troubling than they used to be. I myself have stopped driving and have not shopped for a car in 10 years, so I don't yet know all the nasty bits in the cars to be sold in 2022; the meters/odometers have become all electronic by now (they won't last 20 years like the old generation and 'repairing' them would basically mean swapping components). For a car 20 years old (or more) they would not have those parts manufactured anymore, which may lead to planned (digital) obsolescence. This, in turn, is terrible for the environment.

"If your [odometer] stops working you can still drive the car," Ryan said, "and sell it, but you'd have to mark "exceeds mechanical limits" for the odometer. Then it gets a new title saying "WARNING - ODOMETER READING NOT ACCURATE". It'll be a major pain in the ass because age and mileage are how you determine the value. So you'll have to sell it to them at a high mileage price or they won't take a risk on it."

There are many other 'moving parts' you cannot quite repair, at least not in the long run. "What happens when you get a single source for parts is exactly the same thing as prescription drugs," Ryan noted. "BMW has a monopoly on brake pads, rotors, and calipers, so a simple brake job that might cost you $199 at a independent mechanic on a Chevy could run you $600-700 on a BMW. Because he has to run down and buy the pads from BMW. A used BMW might be cheap to buy, but it won't be cheap to keep."

The "infotainment" bit is not essential for driving, but more critical components are nowadays becoming computerised and we know that the shelf life and reliability of electronic devices is far shorter than analogue equivalents. All the "infotainment" is typically not connected to the rest of the car or does not pose a security threat although in the case of planes it has been reported that "infotainment" panels are capable of taking over the whole plane. I once read and heard that in planes they changed this, so now, as a passenger, you could leverage "infotainment" to take over the main computer and steer/crash the plane etc. Not a comforting thought...

“ can probably get parts for a 1984 Land Cruiser J70...”
MinceR said that in is car "the infotainment thing doesn't even seem to be connected to the MID". That's about security, never mind economic and environmental factors, which may merit another part. The shameful thing is that cars are made to depend on things more complex than they really need to be and for a car 20 years old they would not have those parts manufactured anymore.

"You can still get parts for a 2003 Impala," Ryan said, but that's a car almost 20 years old.

MinceR said "you can probably get parts for a 1984 Land Cruiser J70..."

"If you're going to buy an old car, buy one that they built millions of," Ryan concluded. "Parts for a 2003 Impala are pretty cheap and they tend to have multiple sources." As Ryan noted earlier, more "modern" cars aren't like this anymore.

We might do a Part 6 about environmental impact, but if we do, that would take some time.

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