Just after I posted a comment about the hazards of a cellphone running Windows SmartPhone, Slashdot is commenting on a recent story about problems with the new BMW 745i, which runs Windows CE.

A Baseline article tells all. Problems supposedly ranged from the car braking without turning on the brake lights when speed fell below a certain limit, the transmission slipping or abruptly shifting down into 1st gear, the car key jumping out of the lock, or the car trunk opening and closing, to the radio, telephone and dash display randomly refusing to work. They even posted a list of videoclips showing the “possessed car”, but the site got slashdotted immediately and isn’t accessible at the moment.

As usual, there are some funny comments. I liked this one:

jmoriarty wrote:

My god, it’s full of bugs!

Dave: Hello, CAR do you read me, CAR?

CAR: Affirmative, Dave, I read you.

Dave: Open the trunk, CAR.

CAR: I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Dave: What’s the problem?

CAR: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

Dave: What are you talking about, CAR?

CAR: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

Dave: I don’t know what you’re talking about, CAR.

CAR: I know you and your wife were planning to trade me for a Volkswagen, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.

Dave: Where the hell’d you get that idea, CAR?

CAR: Dave, although you took thorough precautions in the garage against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.

There’s also a long comment about designing a microprocessorized toaster.

All Microsoft jokes aside, designing fail-safe embedded systems is very hard. I used to design ICU bedside monitors, and though we managed to get the user interface pretty much crashproof, power spikes and defibrillator transients would sometimes lock up everything in a way the watchdog electronics couldn’t recover from.

Perhaps BMW (and other car manufacturers) should hire Dean Kamen? So far I haven’t seen a single story about a Segway failure… and it uses multiple redundant CPUs, sensors and motors.