Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Internet Of Shit

Over the air automatic software updates for a large fleet of vehicles can be...a problem.

Being able to update your car’s user interface over the air means better access to new features, with fewer trips to the dealer, and — ideally — a quick fix if something’s wrong. But there are inevitably going to be hiccups when a behemoth like, say, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles tries to update the infotainment system it pushes on many of its sub-brands and something breaks. This weekend, as Jalopnik noticed, FCA sent an over-the-air update to its Uconnect platform that is causing infotainment systems in cars to reboot every 45 seconds or so.


It’s not just the radio that these customers have lost access to. Uconnect also includes controls for heat and A/C, heated seats and steering wheels, rear-view cameras, and is needed to power things like the vehicle’s voice assistant and even the “SOS” feature. Even with redundant physical buttons — which are becoming rare in a screen-first world — not all of these controls will be available until FCA issues a fix.

This is only tangentially related, but generally I do not get the touch screen interfaces for cars. You have to look at them as there is no tactile feedback. Meaning it's hard to adjust the radio or the heat or whatever when you're actually driving. Knobs and buttons you can feel for, once you're used to them.