Sunday, February 27, 2011

New car, part 2

In my last post I wrote about Consumer Reports, partly as it related to buying my new car.  While I wrote that I was struck by two related testing issues.

My latest car, a Ford Escape Hybrid, has Sync in it.  Although I've identified several bugs with it, and the voice recognition needs to be improved (especially when there's lots of road noise), I have to give them credit: it's a very slick piece of software with plenty of nifty features.

Back in 2004 I realized that, at least in America, cars were not going away anytime soon, although they would certainly need to change.  Gas prices would have to go up as emerging markets like China and India increased their energy requirements.  So I bought a Prius in February 2005 and have loved it ever since.  But it now has close to 200k miles on it - I'll probably need a new car soon.  So I've been considering an all-electric car like the Volt.  In my preliminary research I found a great article that pointed out the huge amount of electronics and software in this vehicle.

I guess the point of this post is that software in vehicles is going nowhere but up.  The integration of phone/MP3/bluetooth that Sync offers, management of electrical power generation and consumption in hybrid and electric cars, onboard navigation, or even future features such as automatic driving: this will all require huge amounts of electronics and coding, and therefore LOTS of testing.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New car, part 1

As I said in my previous post, a lot of things were taking up my time last fall.  I'd like to relate three of them right now.  Bear with me - there is a test-related payoff.

I bought a new car in October.  After a lot of thought and research, I decided on an Escape Hybrid.  I've written before about my Prius, it has never given me trouble, so I decided to try the SUV version of a hybrid from Ford.  I did a lot of research before I committed to buying it, and so far - four months and 7000 miles later - I'm happy with the results.

My water heater sprung a leak last fall, and I finally bought a new one in November.  Again, I did a lot of reading up on water heaters, and for better or worse I know more about them than I ever thought I would.

In October my washing machine went kaput.  It just stopped working.  I debated the merits of a) paying someone several hundred to fix it or b) spending days of my time fixing it myself.  It was more cost-effective to buy a new one.  For a third time, I did a lot of reading up on the subject and decided on getting a front loader.  It saves water, it saves electricity, and it's a nifty piece of engineering.

I love Consumer Reports.  For a small yearly fee I can read articles, view customer ratings, and test reports.  The test reports are detailed, comprehensive, and informative.  I've had a subscription to their magazine, and then the website, for a decade.  Needless to say, I gave their test database a workout last fall on the three items listed above.  It truly helped out.  I tip my test engineer hat to them.