25 February 2010

Toyota's electronics

I imagine that there are different possible ways of transliterating Japanese characters into the Western alphabet, and that at some point in recent history the "Toyoda" family went one way while the company that shares their name, "Toyota," went the other. Here's what a blogger says, but of course you will take it with the proverbial grain of salt.

At any rate, the testimony of Akio Toyodo, and of other high-ranking Toyota execs, was the center ring of yesterday's Congressional circus. This isn't a policy inquiry: more like a public shaming.

I have to say that, in accord with some of the members of the House committee involved, I have some curiosity as to whether this is a software problem. Toyota seems convinced it is a mechanical matter -- sticky gas pedals and so forth. But there is a lot of software involved in cars nowadays, and in particular there is a lot involved in the act of braking a hybrid.

There is (a) the software that does the pumping for you, making for anti-lock brakes, and (b) the software involved in converting the energy exerted in braking into electrical energy, thus re-charging the batteries, and (c) the software involved in the anti-slip. I suspect it is possible that these systems are interacting in some unexpected way in the few cases that have caused all the furor.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.