IBMannounced on Friday that itis joining the Autosar automotive standards consortium (see also thepressrelease). Founded in 2002 (but formally launched in 2003), Autosarencourages open and interoperable systems in the horseless carriage space.
One of the things that caught my attention in the article was thecontention that "By 2015, embedded systems are expected to account for 60percent of automotive research and development costs."
The statement reminded me of Ed Sperling's assertion in the ElectronicNews that anautomobile does far more processing these days than a PC did 10 yearsago (of which I was skeptical at the time I first read it -- perhaps becausemy own personal automobile dates from 1955).
What on earth are those systems doing, to consume so much processingpower? And what will they be doing, to consume so many R & Dresources? Surely we are not talking about just playing DVDs (which in itself takes "more processing power" than a 486 was capable of)?
Well, I'm so glad that you asked, because I have been collecting URLs on this verysubject! No, really!
Firstly, Fujitsu is apparently working to make your car talk to you like theHAL 9000, while Motorola is said to be working on various remote-controldevices (I don't have URLs for those two, unfortunately -- that's justgossip I picked up on mikeslist -- but I'mwilling to mention them anyway, because they are intriguing).
And I can cite reports that policedepartments are funding work on intelligent police cars and many inthe industry are working on self-navigatingcars.
Things like adaptive cruisecontrol and automaticparking and aquatic capabilities are already available (at leastin some markets).
Put them all together and you have the makings for a very bad 1980s action-adventureseries... The only question that remains then is, what operating systemwas Kit running? I have a hard time believing that it was Windowsfor Cars (or even Windows for Patrol Cars. Similarly, no to Windowsfor Warships or Windows for AirTraffic Controllers -- and Windows forToilets is right out). Given the timeframe and advanced capabilities,I'm led to believe it was AmigaOS.
But enough with the nostalgia -- it should be noted inany case that all of this technicalenhancement of the motorcar is not without downsides,and even -- potentially -- great risks:"A security update is available for your braking system.Press okay to begin installation."
Speaking of risks, another interesting statistic that I came across washow many automotive coponents fail, and at what cost (literally).
The most recent IBM IdeawatchNewsletter includes the IBM Global Services Executive Strategy Report,Componentbusiness modeling: A new lens for examining warranty administration(note to IBM Global Services: headlines could be a bit spicier). The paperasserts that "TheNorth American automotive industry spends nearly three percent of itsrevenue on warranty claims. In 2003, claims at two of the largest U.S.manufacturers totaled just under US$8 billion -- an alarming rate of aboutUS$1 million per hour, just for these two OEMs. And warranty costs areexpected to grow..."
I'm not sure what's more alarming -- that US$8 billion a year is flyingout the window, or that that figure (based on numbers from but twomanufacturers) represents only a fraction of the real losses inthis sphere.
For mine own part, my 1955 Buick and I are quite happy together.As far as "future capabilities" in transportation are concerned,I am holding out until the day that the US$30K personal helicopterbecomes a reality (see also this article for more info on privatehelicopters).
Return to the Power Architecture zone