Thursday, October 04, 2007

Things that make you go Hmm

Here's a conspiracy theory for you.

I put over 30,000 miles a year on my car. (Our other car usually gets at least a 15,000 mile workout every year as well.) It's not as much as some people I know, but it's still much more than the American average of 12-18 thousand. Well, Volkswagen has this service guideline that suggests regular service every 5000 miles and a major service checkup at various intervals. I'm approaching the 120,000 mile checkup very quickly. I got a letter in the mail the other day saying I was due for it. The letter didn't come from my mechanic, or even the dealership I bought the car from; it came from corporate Volkswagen. According to even the most aggressive average standards, I'm not due for that checkup for another two and a half years. So how did they know?

The answer is simple really: computers. Companies like GM are pioneering the installation of GPS systems such as OnStar and the like in every one of their vehicles. For a small fee, they provide services like diagnostic evaluations, map directions, theft recovery assistance, etc. But besides those pay-type services, most car computers have some sort of remote capability that allows them to track their vehicles. (Don't worry; I'm not going into any kind of Big Brother thing here. If you still think Big Brother doesn't exist, you need to wake up. But that's for another post.) The remote capability is how VW corporate knew I was going to need my next checkup. Nothing too complex here. They want to remind you so you come in and frequent their establishments. They even provided a coupon.

Here's the conspiracy theory... Since all new cars come with these computers--- that besides being directly connected to a far-off database, also act as the functioning brain of the engine --- couldn't the car company also control the actual performance of that engine? Follow me for a minute. 99% of all new cars are run off an advanced central computer. That computer regulates fuel mixture, spark consistency, exhaust pollution exposure, transmission shifting, braking, cooling, even cylinder use and cruising rpm. Some car makers have started to refer to them as "smart" computers. These computers have become so advanced, they go beyond the old ones the mechanic used to plug into for diagnosing a problem. Sometimes the mechanic enters certain codes or commands and the computer adjusts and fixes the engine itself. The technology is mind-boggling; really.

So with all this technology, how hard would it actually be for the car companies to simply cause a car to lose a little performance, prompting a service call to the garage. Or to tweak a few things and cause a part to be replaced. Just a little hiccup here or a cough there are all they need. They target the people that regularly use the dealership's service garages, and they are guaranteed the income from the service. All in good safety of course. They don't want anyone to get hurt; that would be unethical.

Not that crazy a thought, or impossible. The technology is there, and so is the greed. So what do you think?


Blogger Laura said...

Sam.... You are crazy! You and I have always known that, but I just thought that I would remind you again! I guess that car companies could really do that if they wanted, it could be another form of population control???

1:48 PM  
Blogger kimw said...

Dirty rat-bastard car companies. I wouldn't put it past them, even my beloved Volkswagen.

8:44 AM  

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