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New cars: are they as impossible as they seem for cartopping?

Do you fly on commercial aircraft?

Only under extreme and limited circumstances, such as visiting Alaska or Hawaii. If I can make the drive in 2 days, then no. At three days I may consider it. For me the journey is almost always as important as the destination, why miss out on all the great places the urbanites refer to as “flyover country”? Who wants to spend their lives in airports and cities? When in a city or any place congested with people I can’t stop looking for the exit.
 
Well, some of us with particular kinds of employment, have had to fly on frequent business trips. Driving for two days out for an important meeting or research collaboration and then two days to return would not be a viable opton to keep our job. Covid and online Zoom have gone a long way to eliminate some travel, but you can't Zoom every necessary in-person or equipment interaction or research system evaluation.

Anyway, whether an individual flies frequently or not was not the point that Alan and I were making in this thread. It was about automating the technology of travel safety. Ground and air.
 
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You’re right. There are some choices to be made when accepting certain employment. I wouldn’t choose them.
 
You’re right. There are some choices to be made when accepting certain employment. I wouldn’t choose them.
Sometimes the choices are made for you. All you have to do is to define and steer the details. The end of the Viet Nam era had a lot to do with it in my case. I defined for myself and spent much of of my employment years doing what I most enjoyed in the engineering sciences as a front line state of the art researcher and director of contract research programs. Requiring frequent travel to many states and countries. Yes, I even visited and flew over many "flyover" states to get to where my research took me in a majority of the U.S. states and especially to Hawaii, Alaska, Australia, Japan, Korea, UK, and many others in Europe. Finally resulting in excellent senior level career pensions from a 22 year military and a 42 year combined civilian retirement employment.
Yes, there are certain employments that you should not choose, but accepting others will pay off if you decide to choose them, even if you are willing and have to fly to get the job done.
 
Actually, on my Outback the lane centering is on by default until you go into settings and turn it off.
Interesting. I checked my 2018 Outback this morning. Lane warning and centering was off on startup. (It had been on before I parked.) I turned adaptive cruise control and the lane stuff came on. I touched the button below it and turned off lane centering, without affecting cruise control.

I kind of like it.
 
While I don't like the idea of a car doing the driving for me I'm also not completely opposed to the idea.

Lots of commentary on the drive-ability issues with increasingly complicated electronics in vehicles. I'm curious about the repair-ability issue. Since you're in that business, Alan, what is your experience and opinion on that?

When I bought my used 2013 Mercedes, which doesn't have all the electronic gizmos being talked about here, the Mercedes dealer made it sound like only Mercedes could diagnose and repair many of the electronic things because, for example, their scanning software was proprietary. I was skeptical, thinking this may just be sales hype. But now I'm not so sure my local mechanics could fix many of the sensor-based electronics and computer-based navigation and infotainment systems.

Alan is not far off in describing the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System, already being implemented and operational on your next commercial flight.

Maybe the technology is similar, but the statistical risk of collision death isn't. There's not as much to hit while flying at 30,000 feet in the atmosphere as there is when driving on I95, Dead Man's Curve, or no-guardrail mountain roads in the Andes.

I have no problem trusting auto-pilot in an airplane—if I wanted or liked to fly, which I don't—but I wouldn't trust an auto-pilot car here:

Traffic.jpg
 
In all likelihood self driving cars would make for safer drives and faster driving times.
I dunno... the car will likely be able to read the (theoretical) "speed limit" sign and is unlikely to include an "override and drive like the wind" feature. I'll bet it takes me longer to get around. 🤷‍♂️

...unless I remember to turn the system off first
I've never understood why these systems don't disarm when the trailer lights are connected. That should be an easy upgrade.
 
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I'm curious about the repair-ability issue. Since you're in that business, Alan, what is your experience and opinion on that?

Good question, and a complicated one.

One the one hand vehicles are more reliable than ever. They last longer with fewer breakdowns. It's amazing how well a lot of this gadgetry works. Stuff that I thought would be a nightmare of breakdowns and obsolete parts/technology has done quite well.

But, when stuff does break, it can be a lot more complicated to fix. Even a 20 year old car will likely have at least a dozen different control modules on multiple computer networks and newer vehicles can easily have over 30 modules. When there is a communication failure on a network it can get very labor intensive to track down.

More specific to this thread we're talking about ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems). Many of these systems have been out for years and have proved to be quite reliable but now the technology has trickled down to all models and is much more prevalent. Our industry is in a bit of a turmoil over it right now.

These systems all require calibration in the event of an accident, component replacement, and sometimes even disturbance of a component (removing a bumper for other repairs). Even something as simple as an alignment can often require these systems to be calibrated.

Calibration requires specific software and targets placed in specific locations relative to the car. This must be done on a flat floor surrounded by a certain amount of empty space (so the vehicle only sees the targets and not something like a hoist or wall).

To go all in for ADAS calibrations will cost a shop about $50,000. Many shops aren't willing to make that investment yet and many shops, even if they do make the investment, don't have a suitable location in the shop to perform the calibrations. Many shops are afraid that as this technology advances that calibrations will be done more with software rather than hardware and that in a couple years this $50,000 investment will be obsolete.

Also, very few shops have found this service to be profitable because not everyone in the industry is on board (or even aware that it's required). Even many dealerships, who are forced to buy the equipment and attend training, are not performing the calibrations as required.

So let's say you're an independent repair shop and you're all setup for ADAS calibrations. A vehicles comes in for an alignment and factory service info says the forward facing cameras and radar will need to be calibrated after the alignment. So you tell the customer that instead of a $100 alignment it's going to be a $400 alignment.

The customer calls another shop, who either doesn't know or doesn't care that ADAS calibration is required, and they tell the customer that the alignment will only be $100.

The customer calls the dealership and even they, who should know better, tell the customer that an alignment will only be $100.

The customer, understandably, is going to think the first shop is crazy or trying to rip them off.

Such is the state of our industry at this point.

When I bought my used 2013 Mercedes, which doesn't have all the electronic gizmos being talked about here, the Mercedes dealer made it sound like only Mercedes could diagnose and repair many of the electronic things because, for example, their scanning software was proprietary.

Mercedes, and other Euro brands, are quite different than domestic and Asian. There are a lot of really good non-dealer shops out there that specialize in Mercedes and Euro and are absolutely on the cutting edge. There are also shops that tinker around with Euro here and there and that's a lot more spotty. Most shops decide to either specialize in Euro or not touch it at all. That's where I'm at.

Mercedes does have a very high entry cost for tooling. Their factory scanning software is available to anyone but I believe it costs in in the $30-40,000 range so only the shops specializing in Mercedes are likely to have it.

There is aftermarket software that will work with Mercedes but it will not have all capabilities of the OE software. If I had a Mercedes I'd only trust it with the dealer or a specialty shop. There are a lot more quality aftermarket shops that can capably handle domestic and Asian.

Alan
 
Good question, and a complicated one.

One the one hand vehicles are more reliable than ever. They last longer with fewer breakdowns. It's amazing how well a lot of this gadgetry works. Stuff that I thought would be a nightmare of breakdowns and obsolete parts/technology has done quite well.

But, when stuff does break, it can be a lot more complicated to fix. Even a 20 year old car will likely have at least a dozen different control modules on multiple computer networks and newer vehicles can easily have over 30 modules. When there is a communication failure on a network it can get very labor intensive to track down.

More specific to this thread we're talking about ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems). Many of these systems have been out for years and have proved to be quite reliable but now the technology has trickled down to all models and is much more prevalent. Our industry is in a bit of a turmoil over it right now.

These systems all require calibration in the event of an accident, component replacement, and sometimes even disturbance of a component (removing a bumper for other repairs). Even something as simple as an alignment can often require these systems to be calibrated.

Calibration requires specific software and targets placed in specific locations relative to the car. This must be done on a flat floor surrounded by a certain amount of empty space (so the vehicle only sees the targets and not something like a hoist or wall).

To go all in for ADAS calibrations will cost a shop about $50,000. Many shops aren't willing to make that investment yet and many shops, even if they do make the investment, don't have a suitable location in the shop to perform the calibrations. Many shops are afraid that as this technology advances that calibrations will be done more with software rather than hardware and that in a couple years this $50,000 investment will be obsolete.

Also, very few shops have found this service to be profitable because not everyone in the industry is on board (or even aware that it's required). Even many dealerships, who are forced to buy the equipment and attend training, are not performing the calibrations as required.

So let's say you're an independent repair shop and you're all setup for ADAS calibrations. A vehicles comes in for an alignment and factory service info says the forward facing cameras and radar will need to be calibrated after the alignment. So you tell the customer that instead of a $100 alignment it's going to be a $400 alignment.

The customer calls another shop, who either doesn't know or doesn't care that ADAS calibration is required, and they tell the customer that the alignment will only be $100.

The customer calls the dealership and even they, who should know better, tell the customer that an alignment will only be $100.

The customer, understandably, is going to think the first shop is crazy or trying to rip them off.

Such is the state of our industry at this point.



Mercedes, and other Euro brands, are quite different than domestic and Asian. There are a lot of really good non-dealer shops out there that specialize in Mercedes and Euro and are absolutely on the cutting edge. There are also shops that tinker around with Euro here and there and that's a lot more spotty. Most shops decide to either specialize in Euro or not touch it at all. That's where I'm at.

Mercedes does have a very high entry cost for tooling. Their factory scanning software is available to anyone but I believe it costs in in the $30-40,000 range so only the shops specializing in Mercedes are likely to have it.

There is aftermarket software that will work with Mercedes but it will not have all capabilities of the OE software. If I had a Mercedes I'd only trust it with the dealer or a specialty shop. There are a lot more quality aftermarket shops that can capably handle domestic and Asian.

Alan
I don't think you really understand the complexity of today's vehicles- I had the situation where my engine light came on, and I had no heat in FEBRUARY, according to the dealer they had to check or replace 27 different sensors just for the false direction the BCM was getting to turn the heat off, there were no other codes, IM's or problems found.
so you'd think if it's only one "minor" issue unrelated to steering, breaking, lighting, engine, or transmission,it would be an easy fix- that's what they thought too when they said it'd be only a couple of hours- it took them 3 full days, a visit from a Ram engineer, and re and reing about 16 different sensors while testing 11 others in situ that were ALL showing "marginal", only to EVENTUALLY discover it was a short in the BCM (or brains of the car) itself causing it to read two different, conflicting temperature sensors- an interior sensor that was erroneously reading 188C that was actually the radiator temperature sensor reading, and was calling for full A/C, while a second interior sensor was calling for heat because it was correct at -5C
 
Scoutergriz, From previous conversations, I suspect that Alan, having spent his adult life fixing cars, is well aware of the complexity of modern automobiles (not that he needs my defense but...).

I, myself, have spent the better part of 30 years in that industry and, although your situation sounds very extreme, I can say from experience that (IMO) too many of today's techs rely on the diagnostic computers to tell them what the problem is and have weak / non-existent actual problem solving abilities. On top of that, the computer (becoming ever more human) will never never identify itself as the problem.
 
I don't think you really understand the complexity of today's vehicles- I had the situation where my engine light came on, and I had no heat in FEBRUARY, according to the dealer they had to check or replace 27 different sensors just for the false direction the BCM was getting to turn the heat off, there were no other codes, IM's or problems found.
so you'd think if it's only one "minor" issue unrelated to steering, breaking, lighting, engine, or transmission,it would be an easy fix- that's what they thought too when they said it'd be only a couple of hours- it took them 3 full days, a visit from a Ram engineer, and re and reing about 16 different sensors while testing 11 others in situ that were ALL showing "marginal", only to EVENTUALLY discover it was a short in the BCM (or brains of the car) itself causing it to read two different, conflicting temperature sensors- an interior sensor that was erroneously reading 188C that was actually the radiator temperature sensor reading, and was calling for full A/C, while a second interior sensor was calling for heat because it was correct at -5C

That sounds very frustrating for both you and the tech. Things can definitely get complicated in a hurry and there are certainly very complicated problems that can take many, many hours to properly test and diagnose and even then there is sometimes no clear cut problem and the best you can do is cross your fingers and make an educated guess.

I suspect that the dealership's pay structure (shared by many independent shops) played into your scenario.

The dealer tech is paid flatrate, which means they are paid based on a percentage of the hours they bill out. And unfortunately, testing and diagnostics, while being the most time consuming and complicated task there is, pays the worst. Many dealer techs are paid for 18 minutes worth of time to diagnose a warranty problem. Some of these guys are extremely good and they see a lot of pattern failures and it's amazing what they can deduce in that amount of time. But when they get a weird problem they've never seen before things can go bad in a hurry.

After 18 minutes the tech is working for free unless they can lobby for extra time, which is what they should do. But some techs will take a best guess at a component which they get paid to replace. When that doesn't fix it they can either go back to testing for free or take a guess at another component, which they get paid to replace. It doesn't take long to realize that you're dealing with a strange problem that's probably going to suck up a bunch of time. The longer this goes on the more frustrated they get because they're watching all the other techs around them do gravy work like brakes and suspension, making easy money, while they're busting their butt for next to nothing.

It does sound like they were dealing with a complicated and frustrating problem but I'd guess it was compounded by a tech who just wanted the truck to go away so he could go back to making money. The dealer is often thought of as the golden standard, and there are some fantastic dealerships and dealer techs out there but there are also bad dealerships and bad dealer techs with everything in between, just like everywhere else.

Alan
 
I don't think you really understand the complexity of today's vehicles- I had the situation where my engine light came on, and I had no heat in FEBRUARY, according to the dealer they had to check or replace 27 different sensors just for the false direction the BCM was getting to turn the heat off, there were no other codes, IM's or problems found.
so you'd think if it's only one "minor" issue unrelated to steering, breaking, lighting, engine, or transmission,it would be an easy fix- that's what they thought too when they said it'd be only a couple of hours- it took them 3 full days, a visit from a Ram engineer, and re and reing about 16 different sensors while testing 11 others in situ that were ALL showing "marginal", only to EVENTUALLY discover it was a short in the BCM (or brains of the car) itself causing it to read two different, conflicting temperature sensors- an interior sensor that was erroneously reading 188C that was actually the radiator temperature sensor reading, and was calling for full A/C, while a second interior sensor was calling for heat because it was correct at -5C
Who paid for all the sensors they replaced?
 
Although I did not suffer a similar convoluted sad story, i did have an outside temperature sensor go bad in my then 5 year old Forester. The tremperature would constantly show some value well above 100 degrees in January (or February). I could not get any cabin heat or defroster to work and I suspected the bum senor was the reason. Although I had a good long term relationship and much respect for Stephanie, my Subaru dealer service manager, she said that sensor was not likely to be the reason. Then after I made the chilly 60 minute drive to the shop with no heat or defroster, that bad sensor turned out to be the entire cause of problem.
 
Although I did not suffer a similar convoluted sad story, i did have an outside temperature sensor go bad in my then 5 year old Forester. The tremperature would constantly show some value well above 100 degrees in January (or February). I could not get any cabin heat or defroster to work and I suspected the bum senor was the reason. Although I had a good long term relationship and much respect for Stephanie, my Subaru dealer service manager, she said that sensor was not likely to be the reason. Then after I made the chilly 60 minute drive to the shop with no heat or defroster, that bad sensor turned out to be the entire cause of problem.

Isn’t this just insane? This is why I like an AC that I set to the color I want (red or blue or mixed) and how hard I want the fan to blow. There’s no reason for the car to know what the temp is, inside or out, nor what temp I want the inside of the car to become. I’ll back the controls down when I get comfortable and I’ll never care what the temp actually is. Blow cold HARD! Ok, now blow cold gently. The main 2 settings in Florida.
 
Isn’t this just insane?

Absolutely! A heating/cooling system shuts down because and outside temperature sensor doesn't work. It's a molecule on the end of the cart leading the horse. Those outside temperature measures are rarely accurate anyway. Park the car in the sun or shade or begin to drive and it will change significantly.

Same stupidity as with the headlights I can't turn off because a sensor in the windshield thinks it's night when a canoe is on top of the car, as I described early in this thread.
 
All of these discussions are many of the reasons why I drive a 1977 Jeep CJ5.
It’s as reliable as stone, and if a rare breakdown occurs, I can generally fix it roadside ( or trail side) with a hammer and chisel.
Sadly, it’s not a good canoe transport vehicle…
 
Sadly, it’s not a good canoe transport vehicle
I've been looking for a picture of my '79 CJ5 hauling a 17 foot aluminum Grumman for the "pictures of your tripping ride w/ canoe" thread. I'm sure I have one but I've yet to find it. (the top had to be off, it wasn't safe, it wasn't [even close to being] secure and I hauled it many miles like that... ah, to be young & dumb)
 
That sounds very frustrating for both you and the tech. Things can definitely get complicated in a hurry and there are certainly very complicated problems that can take many, many hours to properly test and diagnose and even then there is sometimes no clear cut problem and the best you can do is cross your fingers and make an educated guess.

I suspect that the dealership's pay structure (shared by many independent shops) played into your scenario.

The dealer tech is paid flatrate, which means they are paid based on a percentage of the hours they bill out. And unfortunately, testing and diagnostics, while being the most time consuming and complicated task there is, pays the worst. Many dealer techs are paid for 18 minutes worth of time to diagnose a warranty problem. Some of these guys are extremely good and they see a lot of pattern failures and it's amazing what they can deduce in that amount of time. But when they get a weird problem they've never seen before things can go bad in a hurry.

After 18 minutes the tech is working for free unless they can lobby for extra time, which is what they should do. But some techs will take a best guess at a component which they get paid to replace. When that doesn't fix it they can either go back to testing for free or take a guess at another component, which they get paid to replace. It doesn't take long to realize that you're dealing with a strange problem that's probably going to suck up a bunch of time. The longer this goes on the more frustrated they get because they're watching all the other techs around them do gravy work like brakes and suspension, making easy money, while they're busting their butt for next to nothing.

It does sound like they were dealing with a complicated and frustrating problem but I'd guess it was compounded by a tech who just wanted the truck to go away so he could go back to making money. The dealer is often thought of as the golden standard, and there are some fantastic dealerships and dealer techs out there but there are also bad dealerships and bad dealer techs with everything in between, just like everywhere else.

Alan
this was a warranty job, so the entire dealership wanted it fixed as soon as possible, and here the dealerships have only 2 options for their techs- Petersons book time or actual clock time. Obviously, because this was a one off there was no book time so the techs (at one point there were all 5 on it plus the shop manager and Dodge engineer) were all on the clock, you also have to factor in the fact that they were providing a "comparable" rental per their "loss of use "clause at $145/day from the rental agency in town.
I also have spent years under the hood, having worked as a mechanic's apprentice and off road racer builder and driver with CORRA, and generally diagnose my own issues, but even my OBD2+ scanner was baffled- finding 2 faults, but not being able to decipher them, the weirdest part is that it wasn't in limp and showed no I/M's...
 
All of these discussions are many of the reasons why I drive a 1977 Jeep CJ5.
It’s as reliable as stone, and if a rare breakdown occurs, I can generally fix it roadside ( or trail side) with a hammer and chisel.
Sadly, it’s not a good canoe transport vehicle…
it's also the reason I held onto my 05 Tucson until 1022, it had the unkillable Mitsubishi v6 and GT 5 speed auto trans (upgrade for '05 only), and a minimium of electronics with manual headlights, manual heat and A/C, manual radio, and vacuum- operated cruise. finally I got fed up with chopping and boxing unibody rails and rocker panels thanks to the love of salt here and scrapped it, still got $300 for the car and $650 for the drive train...
 
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