Fair Warning

Via Insty. I see the following announcement:

Mercedes-Benz and Nvidia are going to build a new software-defined computing architecture for automated vehicles based on the Nvidia DRIVE platform that will be installed across the fleet of next-generation Mercedes-Benz vehicles, starting in 2024.
“The entire fleet, every car from the entry A-classes to the S-classes, will have the highest-performance Nvidia AI supercomputer on board.”
Shapiro said that each of these new Mercedes vehicles will come with the full surround sensor suite installed and then, similar to how Tesla does things today, it will be up to owners to decide if they want to activate features, either when they purchase the car or after the fact with an over-the-air update. “There will be different business models, subscription service possibilities or one-time fees or things like that, depending on the region, that potentially turns the car into a fully upgradable, perpetually upgradable device, and there potentially could be be a Mercedes App Store,” he said.

Emphasis mine because Mercedes, being German, will make that particular feature disappear just as Porsche decided that drivers shouldn’t be allowed to change gears manually in their (Porsche’s) precious little Nazi pocket rockets.

My take on the above, therefore, rewords their announcement thus:

If you’re going to buy a Mercedes, buy one before the 2024 model year comes to market. 

Me being me, I’d rather buy a still-older (but rebuilt) Mercedes, like this one (for about the same end-price of a comparably-sized new Merc):


…or even this Mercedes (which has had all the rebuilding done — see the pic gallery):

No silly tech doodads that cause your car to stop because some sub-system software failed, or because some AI algorithm decided that you’d done enough driving for the day, or that would require the entire IT Department at Daimler-Benz to fix it.

Just good, honest driving pleasure in a car with proven reliability.  What Mercedes used to be renowned for.

My simple belief is this:  we wouldn’t accept this kind of software built into our guns, so why should we allow it in our cars?


  1. That computer will the let the company shut your car off due to Covid19 shutdown orders, or anything else the government decides as an excuse for you not to drive.

    1. GM can already do that to newer vehicles. Onstar, anyone? Even if you haven’t enabled it, they can still be connected to the mothership.

  2. It’s another step towards the fully self-driving car. Frankly that time can’t come soon enough. I look forward to when I can pick up the phone and a car will appear in 5 minutes, take me to where I want to go, then disappear until I need a car again. I reckon that will be another 25 years.

    That won’t stop me from enjoying an older car as a pleasure drive.

    1. Q,
      That’s because you live in Britishland where distances are not the same as Over Here. What you call “cross-country” (e.g. London to Edinburgh) doesn’t even get you out of the state of Texas from, say, Austin.

      1. I just looked up the road length of Britain in miles which is 874 and the length of Interstate Highway Ten, which runs a couple of miles past my house 75 mph speed limit until Kerrville going West and then up to 80 mph is 880 within the state of Texas and it takes about 12 hours because most everyone is going at least 5 mph and at times 10 over the speed limit. I would not be surprised if the super-smart electric brain in the 2024 Mercedes decides it is not right to go faster than the posted speed limit.

      2. Guilty as charged, m’lud! For that length of journey I take the train if I can.

        But it’s also due to the high cost of driving. We pay 20% VAT on a new car. We pay a huge amount of duty on petrol and then VAT on top of that. We pat a bit over £1 for a litre of petrol right now. Roughly $5 per US gallon. Then there’s maintenance. The UK atmosphere is harsher on cars, being wetter, which means more rust. Then there’s maintenance, the MOT, insurance, etc. All the joys of owning a car.

        And then there’s the stress: in America the highways are largely empty outside the congestion hotspots. That’s not the case in the UK. Even up here traffic is high. If it were possible, wouldn’t you want to let an automated limo take the strain while you sipped champagne in the back?

        1. With my math that Brit gasoline comes out to $4.70 + per gallon while here in the Texas Hill Country it has gone up from about $1.65 during the heavy lock down to $1.85 per gallon now, we should appreciate what we have and we also get to drive on the right side of the road which works out well for us and we do take a lot of stuff for granted.

    1. That was in response to their earlier decision to make autoshift gears mandatory — i.e. the only Porker models with a stick shift would be the Boxster/Cayman. The response from owners and potential buyers was so explosive they backtracked.

      1. The new Porsche electric vundder car has bypassed the problem by having only 2 gears. … and it can only use the low gear under hard acceleration.

        The manual transmission 911 never really went away, you just needed to buy the right model ( and pay extra ). The PDK Transmission is much better at shifting than I am … and I’ve been driving manual transmission Porsches for 50 years. And ever since Porsche discovered that the big money was in selling SUV’s and 4 door sedans, 911’s have become niche cars.

        ……. and just because no one has announced a ” Solar Powered Gyro- stabilized sniper rifle with satellite controlled inertial guided ammo” doesn’t mean it isn’t in development.

  3. “My simple belief is this: we wouldn’t accept this kind of software built into our guns, so why should we allow it in our cars?”

    Look up NJ’s Smart Gun law……

    On the topic at hand (and I speak as an old-hand at computers, having programmed my first computer in High School in the mid 1970s), there IS a place for computerization in cars. Today’s cars are much more reliable, higher performing and safer than cars 30-40 years ago, not to mention more fuel efficient. They’d be even higher performing without all the government mandated safety features which add a ton of weight to the car (seriously, a new Honda Civic weighs 3,000 lbs, my 1989 Mustang weighed 2,400 with a big honkin’ cast iron V8 engine under the hood).

    The thing is, unless the computer senses a fault that’s either a major safety issue (like the gas tank might explode), or will lead in short order to a catastrophic failure (like it senses that the engine is empty of oil), AND those faults are determined by multiple redundant means, the car must remain operational. Back in the early/mid 1980s a friend bought a new car (don’t recall the make/model) with one of the early computerized engines. He went to start it one morning and the message came up “Computer is down”. He looked in the owner’s manual, it said to call a tow truck.

    As far as self-driving cars, again I’ve seen enough computer eff-ups to not be willing to put my life into a computer’s hands, and that’s even before the computer gets to decide that the family of four in the mini-van is more important than the lone man in a Jeep, so we can send HIM off the bridge to prevent the little ones from getting hurt.

    1. Good point Mark, and one that I hadn’t considered before:

      “…the computer gets to decide that the family of four in the mini-van is more important than the lone man in a Jeep, so we can send HIM off the bridge to prevent the little ones from getting hurt.”

  4. Sadly, I think they are at the low end of the AI car trend and are just catching up. As a software engineer, I think going with an upgradeable platform makes sense, but keeping the expansion ability ‘in house’ (i.e. not open source) is a bit obnoxious. However, it’s all about the Benjamin’s and the ability to continue to milk the customer after they obtain the purchase bonanza is an attractive feature for the manufacturer / dealer.

    That being said, last year I had a new rental – I forget the make, maybe Altima? As I am driving down the road, I go to switch lanes without using a turn signal (empty interstate in the middle of Arizona) and the the damn “active feedback” scared the hell out of me because it thought I was going off the road. I think they have a long way to go before Kim can send his car out on its own to do his Uber gig while while he puts in quality time at the range or pub.

  5. I have seen this BS with farm machinery. Basically its a way to force ANY repairs to be done by a dealership, period at a premium cost, because you dont have the ability to do any software updates/repairs.

    They get away with it because in the fine print, you are only buying the mechanical portion of the car. The software that makes it all run, belongs to the manufacturer.

  6. > My simple belief is this: we wouldn’t accept this kind of software built into our guns,
    > so why should we allow it in our cars?

    As one of my favorite Podcaster would say “there’s a dichotomy here.”. In 2005 I rode a 2001 Triumph Tiger from San Francisco to central Missouri. The “software” in the fuel injectors and the electronic ignition kept the bike running smoothly from about effectively sea level until I crossed over the continental divide somewhere in Wyoming.

    About 7 years later I drove a mid-80 naturally aspirated diesel (without altitude compensation) across I-70 west to east. Going through the mountains in Colorado it was, as they say “rolling coal”.

    I am vehemently opposed to any sort of factory or government “kill switch” in the software, and as a Certified Information Systems Security Professional I will take the position that ANY network connection of these devices is problematic *AT BEST*. Network security is expensive, difficult and short lived, and CEOs, marketing weasels and embedded developers DO NOT GET IT.

    On the other hand, for those poor bastards who have to commute to work having most or all of the other cars around you having the sort of safety features that make rear-end collisions and sideswipes rare? That’s a YUGE gain. Being able to stumble out of the pub, get into a car, plug in an address and pass out while the car drives you there? That would be awesome IF they can get the software right.

    If there were software for my pistol that would make me faster and more accurate but not let the government issue a shutdown command AND that worked at least as well as I could without augmentation? In a heartbeat.

    Heck, if I ever have to commute again I’m going to get a Nissan Leaf off the secondary market as a commuter car. Won’t give up my gas sucking SUV for getting out of the city and into the mountains, but a small energy efficient vehicle for driving downtown and parking more easily? Sure.

    1. “Being able to stumble out of the pub, get into a car, plug in an address and pass out while the car drives you there?”

      Look up “Uber” or “Taxi” in the dictionary.

  7. The problem is sooner than later all new vehicles will be computerized. The older ones without this will slowly drop in numbers and rise in price until only the wealthy will be able to afford one.

  8. A Reminder:
    If you buy a “vintage/classic” Mercedes and wish to be free of of the factory and other nosy orgs, be sure your fuel injection system is from Kugelfischer and has no electronic controllers.

  9. I’m dead certain soon enough some hacker will remotely brick every MB on the road. And I will point and laugh.

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