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November 08, 2013



It's a shame, because it sounds like they liked the car in general. I have a 2004 Saab 9-5 that has had NO gremlins and it's well over 9 years old. I think that beginning in the late 90s, if you wanted a Swedish car, Saab built a better car than Volvo did. Now both of them are owned by the Chinese. It'll be interesting to see if Saab returns to North America.


According to the article, the principal bug was with the CANbus network (or J1339 or something, in automotive terms). I've implemented a few CANbus networks in the industrial environment.

Apart from getting completely foreign gadgets to talk initially together, the CANbus network itself is pretty much bulletproof. I'm surprised that it took Volvo so long to figure out the faulty module and to replace it. The failures I've seen usually involve the custom chips that act as CANbus send/receive units on the individual devices. The network itself sends very small (32 bytes max.) packets of data at what can be extremely short intervals. A central unit acts as a Master and controls the state of the many slaves. The network itself is three wire.

This should be a screaming warning to stop automating absolutely every possible feature in vehicles. If the operating system is so dependent on continual and/or accurate input from remote systems like a steering pump, you are multiplying the failure points like crazy.


Agreed, Ace. Cars are becoming like Star Trek, where (for no discernible reason) a BB hit on the engine nacelles or a toaster overload in Auxiliary Chow causes the nav console on the bridge to blow up in an orgy of pyrotechnical glory. Everything's connected to everything else even when there's no reason for it. Designers should connect things because they must, not because they can.


I read an interesting and disturbing article at my dentist's office (great place to read). It was discussing how cars made 1998 or later can often be "controlled" remotely. The example given was that it would be possible for "hacking" to make every car in Washington, DC make a left turn at a certain hour of the day. The computer systems on these cars make it very possible to "break in" from 1200 miles away---this isn't "theory" it's reality. And we know that Onstar is able to turn off engines, lock doors, etc., from a satellite. I didn't realize that so many "newer" cars (now many of them not so new) can also be commandeered by an outside party. This type of thing sounds harmless at first----but it wreaks of 1984.


Summer of 2012 I test-drove the Volvo model they are writing about and it was a tempting choice: the inside felt luxurious, it handled well, ergonomics were thoughtful and elegant, and it had a lot of oomph. I think if I'd chosen a sedan I'd be driving that model today and probably cursing myself and Volvo (if it was as buggy as reported.) Fortunately, I chose a̶ ̶J̶a̶p̶a̶n̶e̶s̶e̶ ̶r̶o̶a̶d̶s̶t̶e̶r̶ the only Japanese roadster instead and curse no one.


I rented a Ford Escape for a family trip to Montreal this summer, and the damn thing had two (!) screens, two sets of nav buttons on the wheel, and "voice control" by Microsoft of all people.

I spent over an hour with the book trying to figure out how to lower the brightness of the instruments. Whatever happened to the little knob? I failed, but it was probably because we didn't have the "master" key, due to it being a rental, and such niceties may have been locked out.

Paradoxically, the gas filler cap is no longer locked in, and there isn't even a cap; just a spring-loaded flap!

I found and returned a CD to the rental outfit, after I hit the Eject button on a whim. The guy at the desk was very happy; the previous renter had phoned and asked if anyone had found the CD. He probably couldn't figure out how to get it out!


The guys on the Autoblog podcasts can't stand the Ford MyTouch screen system. I would never buy a Ford because of it.

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