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Automotive software is giving a whole new meaning to the term "car crash"

Most vehicle purchasers typically don't shop for a car by asking the sales person at the dealership if there's Intel inside. Seriously, when people shop for a car they choose one based on make, model, color and maybe a review by Consumer Reports or J.D. Power's reliability rating. But rarely do they think about the computer systems in a car.

Most vehicle purchasers typically don't shop for a car by asking the sales person at the dealership if there's Intel inside. Seriously, when people shop for a car they choose one based on make, model, color and maybe a review by Consumer Reports or J.D. Power's reliability rating. But rarely do they think about the computer systems in a car.

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Image courtesy nipitphand/freedigitalphotos.net
That fact was brought to our attention recently when Volkswagen used a computer system to get around emissions testing. Suddenly we were reminded that computers are increasingly becoming the "guts" of our vehicles, and can possibly do things that are totally unknown and unanticipated by us behind the wheel.

I don't know about you, but I hate it when my car is smarter than I am!

And I hate it even more when my car is doing things of which I am completely oblivious. And they actually believe driverless vehicles will be a big thing on the highways? Are you kidding me?

Yet, computers make it possible for that to become commonplace. Last week, California came out with a law that all driverless cars must have a driver! Really?!? I mean what good is a driverless car if it has to have a driver? Obviously the state of California doesn't trust computers, either. I mean, all these computers in your vehicle could give a whole new meaning to the term "car crash."

The other day I found out that the auto repair shop is looking to hire computer geeks to work on cars. Why hire someone? Just call the Geek Squad!

A recent report from LNS Research, "Software as a Business Worry - Volkswagen is Just the First," notes that software and its flexibility opens the door to hardware manipulation in ways that we never imagined. "[The Volkswagen] event highlights a real change in the world of manufacturing that has been accelerating over the last few years—software as a definer of functionality. There are many exciting opportunities for software to enhance products, and there are also innumerable opportunities for making mistakes of varying degrees of seriousness," the report commented.

Noting that the Industrial Internet of Things promises to multiply the quantity of software used in manufacturing by an order of magnitude, LNS says that everything from "simple factory sensors to civil airlines will be ‘enhanced' by the addition of intelligent software." And while it will make a lot of products better able to communicate with other devices and with the real world, LNS reminds us that every block of software "will need to be managed through development introductions, operations, services and replacements, just like hardware is today."

That means that your new robot on the production floor could suddenly get a mind of its own and begin running amok, smashing plastic parts and throwing them all over the place. And you can't find the "kill" switch!

In today's environment, industrial software is a very serious subject, says LNS. "Since the Volkswagen case broke, there have already been other, as yet unsubstantiated, accusations against industrial manufacturers and we expect there to be more in the coming months," commented LNS. "If the manufacturing industry is going to avoid reoccurrences of this type of behavior, it can only be done by people and their behavior."

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