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The Dreaded Car Computer

I’m on a car thing- Specifically how to merge cars and wireless- Wireless enables mobility, and the most mobile thing I have is my car. So bringing the two together, so that I can stay mobile, seems like a pretty good thing. Willie Nelson once sang,”You are always on my mind-”Right now I’m singing,”My car is on my mind-”Here’s why- I have two cars. One looks like this and the other looks like this- The more expensive one is currently in the shop, which means I’m a racking up bills and thinking about my youth.When I was younger I used to love to give my cars tune-ups, change the oil, and swap the brakes out- that sort of thing. Any of you real ‘gear heads’ out there will agree that there is no feeling (or smell) quite as sweet as dumping a few quarts of syrupy black goodness into the local sewer so it can make its way out to sea.I used like to sing the song,”Get back to where you once belonged” while I dumped the stuff. I didn’t *want* to dump it. I might have even felt a bit bad, but I wanted to be part of the cool crowd -- and they all did it. Then these new cars came along and everything was computerized and suddenly the sheer joy of working on car was taken away. It was replaced with the ‘secretive’ car computer. You know the one. For example- You bring the car in to the shop and Joe the mechanic says,”I’ll plug the computer into it and get back to you with an estimate.”Next thing you know Joe calls up asking you to fill out a credit application because that little pinging is the beginning of a catastrophic nuclear melt down. He’s gonna have to replace complete fuel injection system, spark plugs, rework the pistons, yada yada yada.You ask Joe,”How do you know? You haven’t even started working on it?”To which Joe replies,”The computer told me.”And you feel helpless.Two weeks later you go to pick up the car and you notice that Joe, who used to drive a rusty blue Nova with a brown Pinto door, is now driving a candy-apple red Ferrari and dressing like Don Johnson on ‘Miami Vice’. So anyway yesterday I went to my car shop. I got to talking to my mechanic about what is up with my car. He whipped out his car computer and plugged into my car (Note: I didn’t get a chance to read what the computer said). However I *did* notice that the computer had a connector on it and that connector was plugged into my car.I asked him what was up with the computer. He told me that it is special for the type of car that I have. My car computer communicates what needs replacement and he in turn tells me. I asked him how accurate it is and he told me,”Pretty accurate Matt- Pretty accurate.”I’m not a big fan of proprietary systems. So I’ve come up with a good idea-Car companies are talking about putting 802.11 into their cars so that when they come back into the dealer the car can tell the mechanic what is going wrong without the car computer. In addition, for home use your car can be seen like an iPOD so that you can download the latest Interpol album, or perhaps pump a little Judas Priest or Led Zepplin into your car system. Fine and dandy, but here is what I want:1) I want my wirelessly-enabled car to upload d its information to an access point at home.2) I want the car computer, which takes in sensor data from the car to upload its information to a web site 3) I want the web site to interpret the information and tell me what is needed to be done. Note: I’m willing to pay a subscription fee for this information.4) I want to be able to take this info and then see if I can do it myself, or get an estimate from a few mechanics so I can see if I’m getting a good deal.Next time you have to ‘plug’ something in to exchange data think about it- that interface can and should be wireless. If you have any ideas about that I’d love to hear about it.Finally, for those of you that made it this far down my little blog and wetting your quill getting ready to write a complaint letter about me dumping crude oil into the gutter. I have a good defense; I only did it after eating three Hershey’s bars. It was the sugar and peer pressure. I believe that will hold up in a court of law.Okay- Okay- The truth is that I’ve never dumped motor oil, but it did make you read this blog!!!

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