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Software Glitches Stall Toyota Prius 560

Posted by timothy
from the cool-story-to-tell-saint-peter dept.
t35t0r writes "CNN/Money/Tech reports that 2004 and early 2005 Toyota Prius models have software bugs that cause them to stall while traveling at highway speeds. While no accidents were reported to have been caused by the software glitch, could we be heading into an era where our automobiles will require software updates and fixes to keep them from literally 'crashing'?"
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Software Glitches Stall Toyota Prius

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:16PM (#12548312)
    ...from Ford.
    • by Blkdeath (530393) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:32PM (#12548501) Homepage
      ...from Ford.

      Actually in this case Ford is paying Toyota royalties to use their Synergy Drive System (the gas/electric hybrid technology at the core of the Escape Hybrid)

      • by ThosLives (686517) on Monday May 16, 2005 @07:38PM (#12549210) Journal
        Actually, Ford isn't paying royalties on anything. Ford and Toyota have cross-licensing agreements for various hybrid components and other automotive technologies. Ford developed their hybrid drive independently of Toyota's; the thing is the engineering problem only lends itself to so many economical solutions. (Notably, Ford's design is based more on the Volvo hybrid, but both the Volvo/Ford design and Toyota's use a modified Ravigneaux gearset - that's where the IP conflict arises).

        Mostly these technologies have to do with the transmission and, I believe, some of the control mechanisms and algorithms. But, despite what you have read in most media outlets, Ford is not buying parts or designs from Toyota (at this time).

        • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @02:54AM (#12551971) Homepage Journal
          The Prius transmission is fundamentally different in principle from a Ravigneaux gear set. In the Prius, everything is in constant mesh and there's only one torque ratio (single sun gear, single planet set). The brilliance of the Prius drivetrain is that you can get variable power split out of a fixed torque split by using the sun gear speed to vary the speed ratio.

          While there are only a limited number of economical solutions, it's noteworthy that Honda shipped a completely different CVT design for the Civic hybrid.
  • Failover (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nos. (179609) <andrew AT thekerrs DOT ca> on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:18PM (#12548326) Homepage
    Like planes, and other vehicles, any software problem should failover to a tested, less automated system. If my car stalls on the highway and I lose power steering and/or brakes, there's a big problem. Instead of stalling the engine, it should just shut down and let the engine take over, maybe flashing some warning lights.
    • Re:Failover (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sqlrob (173498)
      Can't always do that though.

      IIRC, some of the stealth bombers will fall apart in less than a second if the computers go.

      If the fuel injection is gone because of the computer crash, what do you fail over to?
      • A car that isn't electronically controlled. :)

        Reminds me of the old clip in Fallout of the car advertisement: All analog! No electronics!

        (Or some such thing, been years since I played it. :)
      • stealth bombers are a totally different case they are military hardware and that changes the rules somewhat (risks from tech can seem much less significant when you consider the alternative may be increased risk of being shot down)
      • Re:Failover (Score:4, Informative)

        by Sylver Dragon (445237) on Monday May 16, 2005 @07:35PM (#12549170) Journal
        That's actually a pretty common problem on modern military fighters. Most of them have a negative stability. This is the reason the F-16 can manuver so well; however, if the computers on the F-16 were to go out completely, it would tumble out of control. It's much like throwing a dart backwards, it will naturally flip over, it's just worse when thrust is being constantly applied.

    • Re:Failover (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "If my car stalls on the highway and I lose power steering and/or brakes, there's a big problem"

      How is this a big problem? Have you never had a car stall and these things fail on you before? It's no big deal. You push the pedal a little harder and you put a little more effort into steering.
    • by kbeech (660054) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:30PM (#12548474)
      If OS's Were Cars If operating systems ran your car, and you needed to go to the shops... MS-DOS: You get in the car and try to remember where you put the keys. Windows: You get in the car and drive to the shops very slowly, because attached to the back of the car is a freight train. Macintosh System 7: You get in the car to drive to the shops and the car drives you to church. Unix: You get in the car and type 'grep store'. After reaching speeds of 200 mph en route, you arrive at the barbershop. Windows NT: You get in the car and write a letter that says "go to the shops". Then you get out of the car and nail the letter to the dashboard. Taligent/Pink: You walk to the store with Ricardo Montalban who tells you how wonderful it will be when he can fly you to the store in his LearJet. OS/2: After fuelling up with 6000 gallons of fuel, you get in the car and drive to the shops with a motorcycle escort and a marching band in procession. Halfway there, the car blows up, killing everyone. S/36 SSP: You get in the car and drive to the shops. Halfway there you run out of fuel. While walking the rest of the way, you are run over by kids with mopeds. AS/400: An attendant kicks you into the car and then drives you to the shops where you get to watch everyone else buying filets mignon.
    • Re:Failover (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TopSpin (753) * on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:32PM (#12548495) Journal
      ...should failover to a tested, less automated system...

      It did. At least based on the anecdotes posted at edmunds.com by the drivers. The engine shut off, the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree and the battery continued to power the car. Not surprising that you might conclude total failure from the /. posting and its exceptionally lame, MSM-like allusions to 'crashing'...

      Guess what folks; you are expected to be capable of coping with vehicle problems while traveling at the phenomenal rate of "highway speed". Tires blow, people fuck up, things fly off randomly; deal with it.
    • Reminds me of driving with my mother in a Hyundai Excel.
      Going down the road, using only a change of the accelerator position: the lawn-mower-esque throttle comes apart.
      It accelerates to about 90 mph (fortunately, this is a straight country road starting to climb a hill).
      I'm a little agitated. Mother reminds me that, ultimately, turning the key to off within the ignition will stop any car.
      Sort of a three-finger salute[1], if you will.

      [1]ctrl-alt-del
    • Re:Failover (Score:3, Interesting)

      by poot_rootbeer (188613)
      The problem is that historically, cars have had real mechanical transmissions that were easy to fall back on if the Power Whatever system failed

      Actually, that's not the problem. The problem is that we're now starting to see more and more cars using "drive-by-wire" technologies. The gas pedal is no longer a lever controlling an engine aperture directly; it's a rheostat feeding a variable voltage to a computer, which then decides how to adjust the aperture.

      If that computer gets into an irrecoverable state
      • Re:Failover (Score:3, Interesting)

        by klubar (591384)
        Actually (at least on the Prius) it's not a rheostat on the gas pedal... the interface is redundant hall-effect sensors to ensure that it's not getting false readings. Systems can be designed to be redundant...the mechanical linkage could easily jam or break...either which could have catastrophic effects.
  • by ad0le (684017) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:18PM (#12548329)
    I was only trying to install the latest windshield wiper drivers....
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:19PM (#12548343)
    for my flying car. There will be a plumet, followed by a very sudden stop at the end.
  • Yes officer, I was trying to figure out how fast I was going but the speedometer was not refreshing and when I looked up "WHAM!"

  • by mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:19PM (#12548347) Homepage
    ...then... uh... i guess things would be just like they are now
  • I guess blue is going to be the dreadest color for a production line....
  • BMW?? (Score:5, Informative)

    by NETHED (258016) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:19PM (#12548356) Homepage
    Sounds very Familiar [roadfly.org]

    More to the point. How does everyone feel giving up full control of thier car? What about the Mercedes digital brakes? There is no physical link between the pedal and the wheels.

    We were promised self driving cars, and we're on the way to it.
    • Re:BMW?? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kin_korn_karn (466864) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:23PM (#12548397) Homepage
      I hate it.

      My car (2004 Mazda 3) has a fully electronic throttle body. It's all servo-driven, no linkage between the throttle and the gas pedal at all. If I had thought to check stuff like that I wouldn't have bought it.

      It hasn't given me any trouble yet (it's a 2004, it had better not), but just wait until the sensor shorts out and tells the engine that I want to floor it, or vice versa.
      • Re:BMW?? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Xzzy (111297) <sether@t[ ]h.org ['ru7' in gap]> on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:31PM (#12548491) Homepage
        Buy a classic auto while you still can.. before 1975 or so (depends on your state) so you can skirt around smog regulations as well. Especially if most of your daily driving is on local streets.

        Simple and functional, and after a while you'll even look forward to spending a weekend maintaining it.

        I drive a 40 year old vehicle, and wouldn't give it up for anything. As vehicles become more and more drive-by-wire, I only see it as validating my decision. ;)
      • Re:BMW?? (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        just wait until the sensor shorts out and tells the engine that I want to floor it, or vice versa.

        Yeah, there's nothing worse than your engine shorting out and telling the sensor that you want to floor it.
      • Re:BMW?? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Locke2005 (849178)
        All the more reason to drive a manual transmission car. I had a Honda CRX that the dealer misinstalled the air conditioner in so that the the cotter pin came out and jammed the throttle advance (needed to keep the engine from stalling at idle when the A/C kicks) wide open. Cars starts accelerating across parking lot, I simply push in the clutch. Car pegs RPM gage, I shut off the engine. The other point is, you don't need drive-by-wire in order to have a throttle stick wide open!
      • Re:BMW?? (Score:5, Funny)

        by edremy (36408) on Monday May 16, 2005 @09:21PM (#12550102) Journal

        It's all servo-driven, no linkage between the throttle and the gas pedal at all. If I had thought to check stuff like that I wouldn't have bought it.

        And a cable is any better? I've been a car where the accelerator cable broke and left the throttle wide open. I suspect a servo might well be more robust than a cable.

        Luckily it was a 70's era VM Vanagon camper. I think we went from 62 to 63 in the 5 minutes or so we spent playing with the accelerator pedal to see what the problem was.

    • Re:BMW?? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Timesprout (579035) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:27PM (#12548443)
      Doesnt seem to bother people when they get on fly by wire planes.
      • Re:BMW?? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BackInIraq (862952)
        Doesnt seem to bother people when they get on fly by wire planes.

        But most of us assume that part of the extremely large cost of those planes is in both more reliable technology and increased redundancy. I think the systems of a Boeing 777 are probably held to a higher standard than a Mazda or even a BMW...mostly due to the more catastrophic nature of a failure.

        Doesn't mean we're right...maybe the systems on a BMW are every bit as reliable as on a plane. But it would still explain this reaction.
    • Re:BMW?? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EggyToast (858951) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:28PM (#12548452) Homepage
      Depends. A lot of traffic accidents and general traffic problems are caused by individuals acting separate from the "herd" of cars that are obeying traffic laws.

      Imagine if in 10 years, when there's a minor fender-bender, once the accident is off to the shoulder, traffic picks back up at a regular pace. Now, everyone gawks and traffic stays backed up for miles thanks to that.

      Or even better, when someone misses an exit, they don't slam on the brakes in the middle of the expressway and back up to the exit.

      There was an 8 car pileup with numerous fatalities last year on the Baltimore beltway thanks to someone in the middle lane cutting across 2 lanes of traffic at top speed to turn into those "Emergency turnaround" digouts between expressway lanes. If he literally was prevented from doing something that stupid thanks to his car, those people would still be alive. Sure, he'd be 5 minutes later to where he was going...

      Bring on cars that don't let people be idiots. The rest of us who do a good job of obeying traffic laws will be that much safer thanks to it.

      As far as software controlling much of our cars, we're already mostly there. Power locks lock you out of your car if they fail. Power steering makes your car nearly unturnable if that fails. Power breaks provide so much extra breaking power that if they fail, your car is basically going to be nearly brake-less anyway.

      • Re:BMW?? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Politburo (640618)
        A lot of traffic accidents and general traffic problems are caused by individuals acting separate from the "herd" of cars that are obeying traffic laws.

        It can also be the other way around. Take an example where someone is driving the speed limit in the left lane of a major urban expressway. On most of these roads, when traffic permits, the left lane moves at least 10 mph faster than the speed limit. Someone driving the speed limit, obeying the law, will cause drivers behind them to back up and try and go
    • There is no physical link between the pedal and the wheels.

      Bleh... Ford invented that years ago: it's called a "brake fluid leak".
  • by Kesh (65890) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:20PM (#12548360)
    "You have shifted gears. You must restart your car for these changes to take effect."
  • I hate that pun every time we talk about software and some kind of vehicle. Next, of course, comes the Microsoft jabs - even when MS isn't involved. *sigh*

    More on-topic, Slashdot recently ran an article about some guys trying to infect a Prius via Bluetooth, and were able to accomplish a system crash repeatedly. Turned out to be low on battery power.
  • by silentbozo (542534) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:21PM (#12548371) Journal
    The 2001/2002 Ford Escapes have to have the EEPROM flashed as part of a transmission recall. The days of software fixes for cars have been with us for a while.
    • Among us for some time indeed. A friend of mine had a similar problem two or three years ago with a Peugeot. I do not rememember the model, but it was one of the first batches out of the factory.

      She had problems with the engine shutting down sporadically while driving (at any speed). This happened one or twice. She went with her car to the garage, and the mechanic told her, blank face, "Known problem. Needs a software upgrade. Come back in two weeks time, we have place in our schedule by then".

      Of course s

  • Oh. At red lights. Not at highway speeds. Never mind.
  • video of the car-to-car worm via bluetooth/ wifi that stalls cars

    you would watch it move like a wave through traffic: on one end, normal moving traffic, on the other, fender benders and honking horns and frozen cars

    it would move under overpasses and propagate upward and spread in either direction, like dominoes

    awesome and frightening and completely plausible in the next 10-20 years
  • by trb (8509) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:22PM (#12548388)
    They said:

    sent owners a service notice advising them to bring the cars into dealers for an hour-long software upgrade.

    They meant:

    It's a five minute software upgrade, but if we told you that, you'd be upset when the service dept made you wait for an hour.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    is still the world most reliable car

    it has nothing to do with electronics
  • by billstewart (78916) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:23PM (#12548413) Journal
    My 2001 PT Cruiser had a "recall" a couple of years ago - they gave it a firmware upgrade, and the acceleration got better.

    Back in the 80s, I had an old beater 1971 Chevy Van with the usual Weird Chevy Electrical Problems. Every once in a while the engine would stop running while I was driving down the road (which is a problem for power steering...), so I'd put it in neutral and reboot, which would usually work. My current van is a 1987 Chevy, with a new engine installed about 5 years ago. The engine's not quite identical to the original, and every once in a while the monitoring system decides something's wrong and turns on the "Service Engine Soon" light, typically when I accelerate to pass somebody while going uphill on a freeway. There's no harm done, as long as that's the cause (as opposed to something actually being wrong with it), but to turn the light off you also have to reboot the car.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      something's wrong and turns on the "Service Engine Soon" light, typically when I accelerate to pass somebody while going uphill on a freeway.

      Uh, that's a classic sign of an air leak and one of the sensors is picking up either too much or too little pressure.

      Could also be the knock sensor, O2 sensor, etc.

      Read the code from the computer and see why it turned on the light, duh...
  • Updating software (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjbe (173966) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:24PM (#12548419)
    could we be heading into an era where our automobiles will require software updates and fixes to keep them from literally 'crashing'?"

    Without putting too fine a point on it, yes! But there is no reason to go all chicken little. Standards of reliability for automotive software are generally much higher than for desktop PC software. No EULAs and auto manufacturers generally can not disclaim warranties. If a car breaks down due to crappy software, Consumer Reports will put out a report and people won't buy it. Additionally there are Lemon Laws and lots of eager lawyers to protect consumers. Unlike PCs where we have been trained to expect crashing software, people don't put up with that in cars, especially since there is the potential for physical harm when hurtling down the road at 80mph.
  • could we be heading into an era where our automobiles will require software updates and fixes to keep them from literally 'crashing'?

    It's been well known for a long time that parking a computer-equipped car (that is, one with at least electronic ignition and/or electronic fuel injection) under a high-voltage powerline can very well "crash" the computer or scramble the computer's memory to the point that it's impossible to start.

    I first heard of that problem when I was a kid, and I'm not all that young ;)
  • Didn't the 2003 BMW 745Li had a software error that would cause the engine to stall?

    Do a search for "software" on this page [internetautoguide.com]


  • "...could we be heading into an era where our automobiles will require software updates and fixes to keep them from literally 'crashing'?"

    Yes.

  • Figures (Score:2, Funny)


    "Please insert your Prius into the original location from which the software was installed."
  • Slashdot reporting (Score:2, Informative)

    by krem81 (578167)
    From the summary: While no accidents were reported to have been caused by the software glitch...

    From the actual article: The report said no injuries or fatalities have been linked to the problem, but it did not say whether there had been accidents due to the problem.

    Close enough for government work, eh?

  • I'm sure this issue [cnet.com] with BMW's have been discussed, not to mention the faked computer override problem (in France, don't have link). All I can say is, expect more issues as cars become more automated and software controlled. I mean, hell... my phone (T610... I love it, but it) has it's share of glitches (phone reboots when on call and camera button is invoked... sucks since the genius designers put the camera button too easily available.. I never use teh POS).

    My friend has a Merc S500, and he mentions havi

  • Perspective (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:31PM (#12548488) Journal
    1.2 million people a year die on the world's roads [globalroadsafety.org]. Yet whenever a one-off incident (even a non-fatal / non injury one) grabs the headlines because there was something unusual about it, people start to panic.
  • What RTOS are they using in the Prius?

    I know that Steve "Woz" has several of them. Maybe he can talk to Steve J about putting OS X in it. ;)

  • by 3ryon (415000)
    Gives a whole new meaning to Blue Screen of Death.
  • As we all know mechnical cars are perfect and without any defect at all. You never see one of those reliable things by the side of the road!

    Of course when a old-style mechanical car has a problem at least you can just connect it to a modem and get a redesigned fuel system dropped in without and cost or hassle! ...but on the other hand I do wish they would design their software with something like CSP so that they could use a formal model checker like FDR2. Something like that should resolve almost all of t
  • I drive a 1976 TVR 2500M. No fancy black boxes, no computerized doodads, just one great big honkin' engine and a manual gearbox.

    Wouldn't have it any other way.
  • I guess not everyone has seen this. I thought it was kinda funny.

    (From Here [vbrad.com]

    At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving twenty-five dollar cars that got 1000 miles to the gallon.

    In response to Mr. Gates' comments, General Motors issued the following press release (by Mr. Welch himself, the GM CEO).
    If GM had developed technology like Micr
    • I guess not everyone has seen this. I thought it was kinda funny.

      Yes, there are still a few wandering nomads in equitorial New Guinea who haven't seen the "if cars were as unreliable as computers" joke yet. Good job!
  • The article summary misses the point. Software updates and fixes shouldn't be necessary for any software. Due primarily to companies like Microsoft teaching us that improperly tested software is OK, and using their paying customers as beta testers, we've now reached this point. Car manufacturers that do not properly test their software should be held accountable both civilly and criminally.
  • by dyfet (154716)
    I recall pushing an old russian model car over the Macedonian border once. Now those were mechanically simple and generally realiable; any simpler and they would have had a hand crank! That particular one suffered from "cautastrofic vehicle impact failure", a common occurance in Bulgaria where there are few stop lights that work. While putting four westerners in such a car may cause it to overheat in just a few km and burn off the tires, they were otherwise generally reliable vehicles, even if my big Ame
  • Just gives it new meaning does it not!!!
  • by jd (1658) <imipak@yahoo.cEINSTEINom minus physicist> on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:44PM (#12548645) Homepage Journal
    The problem is that companies work on the basis that it is cheaper to produce probably faulty goods with a low risk of being sued, than producing probably working goods with no real chances of failure.


    Regular devourers of world news will recall that a few years ago, Bridgestone/Firestone got sued for producing tires with a propensity for exploding. A few years before then, there were horror stories of malfunctioning cruise control that would activate itself due to a short-circuit, with no way to switch it off.


    Actually, a similar fault to that last one even appeared on the Space Shuttle - the last launch window was scrubbed when it was realized that the attitude rockets could fire themselves, even when the power was switched off.


    Engineering to build fault-tolerent systems (ie: systems that will still behave sensibly, even when something goes wrong) is expensive, difficult, time-consuming and requires enormous resources to cover every possible aspect.


    Even when faced with the prospect of multi-million dollar lawsuits for death/injury, it is often cheaper to simply let people die a torturous, firey death in agony than to prevent such incidents from arising. Because we live in a competitive world, where success is measured in dollars, there is simply no incentive to get things right. Getting things affordably wrong is a far more profitable approach.


    It would be possible to build a car that can do 100 miles to the gallon, be able to keep the occupants intact after a 150 mph head-on collision (F1 monocoques can handles 240 mph collisions) and have software driving every aspect of the system that is not only 100% free of bugs but is able to adapt to handle the natural degredation of the hardware. Such a car would cost about as much as a NASA Space Shuttle and don't expect the insurance to be any less, simply because of the theft value.


    A company producing such a car might sell as many as one. The McLaren F1 road car would be much more affordable but is wtill somewhere in the low double-digit sales, and was reportedly still in single-figure sales at the end of the first year.


    Having said that, I think that it should be mandatory that car companies produce the very best they can. Failure is not only an option, it's often so cheap that it's the best option. That should not be the case, ever. Bugs in software and failures of hardware are going to happen in the Real World, but they should not be encouraged. Good practices, good designs and thorough design reviews should be the norm.

  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Monday May 16, 2005 @06:50PM (#12548700)
    I think we are starting to see this in cars, but I know its also a problem in some farm equipement now as well. Farmers used to be able to fix most mechanical beasts often with the use of bailing wire. One of our farmers had a problem last year during harvest: the engine would start. Why? One of the sensors went bad and wouldn't allow the engine to start. The engine itself was mechanically fine. Took four hours for a field tech to come by and replace the sensor. Four hours doesn't sound like a lot, but during planting or harvesting, getting that extra 50 arces planted or harvested is the difference between breaking even and making a profit.

    Growing up we did most of our own car repairs, changed the oil, etc. But with our newer car we cannot do a lot if something goes wrong, especially with electronics which is what fails 90% of the time.

    The day my push mower won't start because of a faulty sensor is probably the day I really get mad. Why? Because with all this technology, I think many, especially engineers, might have forgotten that true genisus is making something complex simple. Too often I think we are making simple things way too complex.

  • Larger picture (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thu25245 (801369) on Monday May 16, 2005 @07:18PM (#12548946)
    According to the organizations (JD Power, Consumer reports) who do objective studies of such things, the Prius has been more reliable, with higher owner satisfaction, that almost any other model.

    Electronic systems are, in general, more reliable, with lower failure rates, than the mechanical systems they replace. They are also easier to service. (Though the repair bill may very well be higher, and specialized equipment may be necessary.)

    This "software", as others have said, are not the same as the software we run on our PCs. The software quality standards are higher, and the testing is far more intense.

    People lament the loss of simpler mechanical systems that can be fixed with know-how and a socket set. We publicize every example of a system failure we hear of. But the numbers don't lie: a 2005 model with a half-dozen embedded computers has a far lower incidence of problems than a corresponding 1970 model when it was new. You are far less likely to ever have to call a tow truck in your lifetime than your father/grandfather was.

    Sensationalism is so much more fun than fact, though.
    • Re:Larger picture (Score:4, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @04:10AM (#12552229) Journal
      According to the organizations (JD Power, Consumer reports) who do objective studies of such things, the Prius has been more reliable, with higher owner satisfaction, that almost any other model.

      I've spent a lot of time looking Consumer Reports' car reviews, and frankly, their reviews have no basis in reality. Cars that were rated as extremely noisy, may be quieter than cars rated as quiet. I know this from experience. Go read their reviews of a few cars you have owned, and see if they match reality.

      Now, you can certainly attribute that to different reviewers having different standards, or to individuals' biases, but it seems to be very widespread, and seems obvious to me that it's always in favor of one brand or another. I can't prove it, but it looks very much like certain companies (eg. Toyota) are getting far more favorable reviews than the best cars of other makes, even on their poorest offerings.

      I've come to this conclusion long before I came to this thread, so the fact that the car in this case happens to be a Toyota is coincidence.

      Electronic systems are, in general, more reliable, with lower failure rates, than the mechanical systems they replace.

      That's really not true. I've never had a mechnical cooling fan fail on me, while I've had a few electric fans fail. Which would you will find in trucks? Not electric.

      They are also easier to service.

      Now that's just blatantly wrong. The only problems that are easy to fix on computers are the problems introduced by the computer. For instance when the warning light comes on, sensors go crazy, etc. You may also have heard of cases where certain models of cars will drive fine for 80,000 miles, then like clockwork, start running too rich/lean/etc. It's debatable whether car manufacturers are intentionally inducing these faults, but it is not debatable that these faults are there, and tricking the computer can commonly fix problems the computer has caused.

      But the numbers don't lie: a 2005 model with a half-dozen embedded computers has a far lower incidence of problems than a corresponding 1970 model when it was new. You are far less likely to ever have to call a tow truck in your lifetime than your father/grandfather was.

      The numbers don't lie, but you sure do. Those numbers are certainly due to improvments in engineering vehicles, (manufacturing/design) improvements to mechanical parts, improvements in fluids, materials, etc. It's only common-sense that those numbers would improve.

      Also, the /. mantra bears repeating. "Correlation does not equal causation"...

      Those numbers are also deceptive, because people don't complain much about computer problems with new cars. Give me numbers when those cars are 5 years old, the we'll see.

      I'm tired, so I'll say the one thing that will end this arguement instantly: New BMWs
  • by biglig2 (89374) on Monday May 16, 2005 @07:57PM (#12549471) Homepage Journal
    ... because perhaps by then all the people repeating the tired jokes about "if microsoft made cars" will have given up.

    Oh wait, this is slashdot, even the dupe is going to have tired jokes.
  • by Mr Pippin (659094) on Monday May 16, 2005 @09:42PM (#12550239)
    Microsoft Windows for Automobiles - "Where do you want to stall, today?"
  • by Thagg (9904) <thadbeier@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @12:12AM (#12551181) Journal
    and my wife's, twice. She has had hers in for the "recalibration of the computer." We'll see if hers acts any differently now than it did before.

    It seems to me that the problem occurs when the computer tries to restart the engine, and it doesn't catch immediately. It does seem that the car will continue to run as an electric car, and it does seem to come its senses within a few seconds.

    My blindingly white Prius is nicknamed "Snowcrash" for exactly this reason -- if the computer goes down, it's just a car shaped hunk of metal.

    Thad Beier
  • by Dahamma (304068) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @12:25AM (#12551253)
    Yow. I saw a Prius on the side of the highway this morning - I was wondering what could have gone wrong with it, since it looked brand new.

    The driver was wandering around the hood looking like he wanted to open it, but had no idea what to do when he did :)

The universe is like a safe to which there is a combination -- but the combination is locked up in the safe. -- Peter DeVries

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