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This could add a whole new meaning to having a car crash

I was watching this video about electric cars…


…and was struck by this remark by Mark Tinker, discussing driving a Tesla:

“I liken it to driving an iPad”


Then I had a flash forward a few years into the future…

Me: Hello, sorry I am a bit late, but I had a car crash.

Friend: oh no, is everyone alright?

Me: Not that kind, I just had to pull over and wait for the car to reboot.

17 comments to This could add a whole new meaning to having a car crash

  • At COMDEX ’98, Bill Gates 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 $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.”

    In response to Bill’s comments, General Motors issued a press release stating: If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

    1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.

    2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.

    3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.

    4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

    5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive – but would run on only five per cent of the roads.

    6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single “This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation” warning light.

    7. The airbag system would ask “Are you sure?” before deploying.

    8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your cr would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna

    9. Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

    10. You’d have to press the “Start” button to turn the engine off.

  • Fred the Fourth

    I lease a Fiat 500e, which is a pretty good device for bopping around town, but it does have its…peculiarities. I was forewarned, though, by the fact that it comes with a “User Guide” instead of an Owners Manual.

  • Mr Ed

    For recharging, with automatic spacing management I suppose that you might have, for those averse to pantographs, a system with fast-charge ‘tankers’ recharging these electric rollerskates in motion on motorways, a bit like in aviation a Victor and Lightnings. The English Electric Lightning had a huge problem with range due to its stonking performance but limited fuel and fuel efficiency, in fact, the only thing that the RAF has ever had that was faster than a Lightning was its fuel gauge.

  • An interesting point of this video is that an electric car is mechanically simpler than its gasoline equivalent; when a product’s innovation moves from making the hardware better, to making its software more functional, innovation accelerates at mind-boggling speed. I am convinced that within 10 years, self-driving cars will be unremarkable, and within 15 years the majority of commuters will not own cars, but will buy memberships in autonomous vehicle ‘pools’, whereby you Uber up a vehicle to your location, it takes you to your destination, and then goes on to serve other members. Automatically navigating the shortest route, merging flawlessly and efficiently into and out of traffic at speeds humans cant handle, allowing the passengers to work, play, sleep, or whatever while in transit (instead of having to concentrate on mundane driving), managing power consumption and automatically charging when needed, and predictability of arrival times are all features of a city-wide electric autonomous vehicle pool that are so compelling, I see it as inevitable. Most taxi driver jobs will go to the same dustbin where pay phones have been consigned. Better brush up on your robot repair skills…

  • Runcie Balspune

    None of this need apply to an electrically powered car, I had a diesel car that would “reboot” intermittently and you needed to come to a stop to restart it, bit of a problem when you’re on a motorway without a hard shoulder.

    Electric cars need to move forward a lot more, they need to adopt two basic design changes:

    (a) consider the power coming from a generator rather than batteries. You can start with a petrol engine that just generates electricity, the issues are no different to a modern hybrid except the petrol engine is not physically driving anything, then replace it with something more efficient, perhaps hydrogen fuelled, gas turbine or even a “Mr Fusion” at some point.

    (b) remove the transmission system, put the electric motors directly on the wheels, one per wheel. Not a new idea, Mr Porsche did it 100 years ago and even had a tank running with this design. There are multiple benefits of in-wheel motors, full independent MWD, reduced weight, redundancy.

    The current designs are just smug aesthetics, get a proper transitional concept that will move electric forward, if anything the Tesla just holds it back, the future will not be car which relies on batteries.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Runcie, with respect, you clearly have not done your homework on what is currently available since both of your suggestions already exist in a number of different vehicles. The Tesla model SD has independent motors on all 4 wheels. BMW and Mclaren both produce hybrids where the petrol engine can be switched to a “generator” mode and all the drive comes from the electric motors.

    Electric cars are evolving at a truly remarkable pace. While I have essentially nothing in common with the well-to-do silicon valley eco-hippies that typically buy them, the Tesla model S is still my dream car because it is such a remarkable piece of engineering.

  • Runcie Balspune

    I’m not sure what the “Model SD” is, The model S has a “dual” motor version, it still has transmission and the motor is still a weight on the axle. A hybrid that can switch is inefficient, a petrol engine designed only to generate rather than drive has much better capacity and would be smaller, and you lose all the separate transmission, and can dispense with most of the heavy batteries.

    There is a fundamental design change when you have an in-wheel motor, the heavier part of the motor turns so it comes off the axle. There are issues with drive power, but electric motor/generator technology is moving faster than battery technology, so this is a more likely future design.

    The current designs are being held back by hipster-grade ideology. The only reason the Prius sells so well is because it is a separate shape rather than an existing body shell with a new engine, the smug factor is strong in that one. The Telsa really is an iPad on wheels, under the shell its the same old electric format we’ve had for years.

    The Jaguar C-X75 would be my idea of a true electric car for the future, but that is still concept, and it needs to move to an affordable and less “supercar” image.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    The Telsa really is an iPad on wheels, under the shell its the same old electric format we’ve had for years.

    Hmmm, OK. The fastest saloon car the world has ever seen is just so much same old same old…..

  • Mr Ed

    Battery technology probably cost the Nazis the Battle of the Atlantic, Diesel-electric hybrid U-boats had to spend too long on the surface for much of the war, recharging their batteries, where the heroic men of Coastal Command and the USN could get at them.

    I reckon that petrol and Diesel have many years left, fuel if you think it’s over!

  • Tedd


    Motors in the wheels would seriously limit the power, due to packaging and unsprung weight considerations. Fine for a tank, not so fine for a passenger car. Also, the heat from the brakes (which are still necessary) would present a major, unnecessary enginering challenge. However, a motor for each (drive) wheel, connected by a conventional half shaft (as Tesla has done), is a good design.

    Regarding hybrid systems, don’t forget that the electric motor/generator part of the system also has different efficiencies at different rotational speeds, as does the variable-frequency drive that controls it. The Toyota HSD system takes advantage of that by allowing variable ratios between the engine, the motor/generator, and the wheels, so that all parts of the system can be continuously optimized. This is more efficient in real-world conditions than the direct-drive method you described, even with the added weight and efficiency loss of the transmission.

  • Sceptical Antagonist

    If the Navy can have nuclear vessels that run using MS Windows, the idea of pulling the car over to reboot is probably not that far fetched.

  • Tedd


    Perhaps I’m picking nits here, but the Yorktown was powered by gas turbines, not nuclear reactors.

    But, yes, NT 4.0 might not have been the optimum choice for an OS. Still, the failure appears to have been a software glitch (inadequate data field validation), not anything OS-related. Perhaps more importantly, it was a developmental system. How do you propose reliable computerized systems be built if they are not allowed to fail during testing?

    Which brings up a more important point: A lot of people don’t appreciate the difference between a general-purpose computer simultaneously running a wide variety of software, from different vendors, and a dedicating control device running dedicated software under conditions for which it has been thoroughly tested. Such comparisons are merely engineering by aphorism — rarely worthwhile.

    (Although there was one embarrassing incident where the pilot managed to invoke a software update on an Airbus while at cruising altitude.)

  • Rich Rostrom

    Variant on the (mythical) GM response:

    “If automobiles had developed the way computers have, the typical family car would cost $100, go 400 mph, get 1000 mpg, carry 50 people, and explode about once a month, killing all the passengers.”

  • Paul Marks

    Presently (currently – for pedants) electric cars are really coal powered cars.

    The people pushing them (on anti C02 grounds) do not seem to understand this.

  • Fred the Fourth

    Isn’t another reason for NOT putting the motors in the wheels, that it increases the unsprung weight? IIRC that makes it harder to design a suitable suspension.
    My Fiat 500e “User Guide” says it has a “single-speed transmission”, which I presume means the motor is geared to the axle.

  • Sceptical Antagonist


    My apologies for ambiguous English. I guess it should have read “vessels with nuclear capability”.

    I hadn’t heard about the Airbus update. Not Good!

    Back to the car though: at one point I had a Toyota Landcruiser that had an annoying intermittent glitch; it was fly-by-wire and sometimes when you stopped at traffic lights, the lights would turn green, you put your foot on the accelerator and… nothing happened. You had to switch the ignition off and back on before the thing would move, along to the tune of a line of angry motorists honking behind you.