Robotic Audi

Mike Arman Armanmik at
Fri Jan 11 07:23:38 PST 2013

Kent writes:

> Ha!  Let's see it in 10 years when its sensors start flaking out.
> "Oh, it needs a new infrared parking sensor. That'll be $945, plus
> 4 hours labor for installation."
> "No, we're not responsible for the dent in your bumper, or the damage
> it caused to the other car."

I see this as eventually becoming a serious problem.

First, as we well know, cars are becoming exponentially more complex - integrated touch-screen 
controls are a perfect example. When one of these fails (and as we well know, they WILL fail), the 
entire car becomes inoperable. There's no "limp mode", you're stuck.

As the cars get older, replacement parts will become harder and harder to come by, more and more 
expensive, and eventually will simply be unobtanium. When that happens, the REST of the car, most of 
which may be perfectly serviceable, is going to be junked.

Here are two current examples - 2005-2007 Ford Focus - non-replaceable air filter "never needs 
service!!" Has an indicator to show it needs the entire air box assembly (with the filter sealed 
inside) replaced. $545 from Ford - for an AIR FILTER!!

I didn't believe it, and I had my parts guy at FLAPS look it up (he didn't believe it, either) - 
when he did, there it was . . .

Turns out Dorman makes a replacement air box for $120 or so, then you can use a standard $10 air 
filter when the time comes.

Next they'll weld the gas tank shut so they can say "Never needs gasoline!" When the indicator reads 
"E", you just buy a new car.

Example 2 - Dodge PT Cruiser 2003 to 2005 or 6 (I think). Headlight goes out, change a $10 bulb, 
right? Nope, "Headlight Control Module" $2,500 (holy crap!). Probably available rebuilt/exchange by 
now, but since I gag every time I see a PT Cruiser, I haven't investigated it.

Result will be many of these things will soon be scrapped because nobody is going to spend $2,500 to 
fix a headlight on a $2,500 car, and there will be a BIG market developing in stolen PT cruiser 
electronics. When these cars start disappearing into chop shops, theft insurance on them is going to 
go WAY up . . .

Many of these "can't-run-your-car-without-it" devices are totally proprietary, so we will 
increasingly be at the mercy of the dealers. The $945 parking sensor will probably cost three times 
that, remember it is imported from Germany (originally made in China).

I don't even want to guess what the touch screen controller in the new Caddies costs.

I'm looking at a Chebby Volt, but have serious questions if anyone other than the dealer will be 
able to fix it after the warranty runs out.

It appears to me that the car manufacturers are really looking forward to making cars using the 
consumer electronics mode. When the TV or cell phone or computer breaks, we usually just pitch it 
and buy a new one, nobody fixes these things, even when there isn't much wrong.

That's where cars are going - constant upgrade cycles, don't repair anything, just get a new one - 
but cars are a LOT more expensive than cell phones as well as a lot bigger and a lot harder to 
dispose of.

They're going to price themselves right out of the market - incomes are not rising anywhere as fast 
as average car prices, and repair costs for these modern (and future) electronics-laden cars are 
about to blast off into orbit.

On the bright side, bicycles are still cheap, and the exercise is reputed to be good for us . . .

Best Regards,

Mike Arman

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