Smart car software update: chronicle of an unacceptable journey.

I recently posted about my very unsatisfactory experience with service personnel while attempting to get a few problems fixed on my Renault Megane.
The mechanics had no clue about how to fix them, but a factory reset of the on-board computer (like on current personal computing devices) did the trick.

I inferred from this fact that updating the software, again like in personal computing devices, was the way to go to avoid facing the same problems in the future and started my long journey to accomplish this.

I followed the manufacturer instructions and downloaded the software downloader on my notebook, inserted in it a 8GB USB flash drive previously initialized in the car and, after a byzantine procedure requiring web interaction to select the updates that then the application would fetch, I started downloading.
Again. And again. And again…

What looked strange is that the download counter made it to the full size, but then continued!
After a few dozens attempts all failed in the same way and with no success in sight I decided to get in touch with the country support.

As a reply to my first contact I received a cut&paste of the standard procedure.
This is a fairly common practice in every sector and makes a lot of sense because most people is not reading the manuals.

Unfortunately I was already following the standard procedure so I replied back with more data including the fact that to get 5.4GB of updated maps the tool had downloaded already over 113GB (from a non-Renault domain) without success.
The solution proposed was to use a larger flash drive.
I could not obtain from them an answer about why to get 5.4GB an empty 8GB drive was not enough.
And a 16GB drive was not a fix for the problem anyway.

During the fruitless exchanges with the support I kept attempting the download until it finally worked. On the 8GB drive.
I believed that even if this was not communicated to me they had fixed whichever issue there was and I was happy with that.

A few months later I found out that it was just one lucky astral alignment.
The situation is back where it was: tens of downloads attempts needed to get an updated version of the maps and failed downloads leave the flash drive in an inconsistent state where the car tries the update anyway only to fail after a few minutes.

I was guessing in my earlier post that the challenges I faced were due to the time needed for the knowledge to move from the top of the manufacturer organization to the service people.
But from my experience attempting to do the software update it looks like I was wrong: even at the country level the manufacturer appears unable to support the smartness they are putting in the vehicles.

According to the discussions I had with a few colleagues in the office other manufacturers have a much smoother user experience.
In my opinion Renault really needs to evolve quickly to stay relevant.

Smart cars without smart mechanics in the long run are not going to work as a business model.

A few months ago I started to drive a 4th generation Renault Megane in the (Italian) Bose trim:
in this version you get almost as many gadgets as possible.

While they all work driving the car is a very enjoyable experience for the vehicle class, but as soon as problems started to appear and I was looking for a fix, I realized that the support personnel was left behind in the product evolution.

After a few months the electric massage seat and the lumbar support stopped to work, some time later the rear cam did not disengage anymore as soon as moving forward, after some more time parking sensors stopped working and also the lane assist stopped to produce the sound feedback, finally the HUD was resetting the position to default every time I was turning off the engine.

I an attempt to get the issues resolved I have contacted 3 different mechanics from the official support network getting vague statements about what the problem could be, but all of them agreed that it would take multiple days to get it fixed. One stated “for electric problems you need to plan at least a 3-days stop”.
I tried contacting the online support describing the issue and all I got back was the link to the list of services.

None of the mechanics offered a replacement car during the troubleshooting and repair even if the vehicle is well within the warranty period: very upsetting.
I started planning the right time to bring the car in when I could stay without it for an extended period of time when, by pure chance, I ended in a menu of the car computer that offered a reset to factory defaults.
Having some past experience with consumer electronics I decided to trigger it counting on the fact that worst case if the car stopped completely I could call the service to pick it up free of charge.
With my surprise all of the problems I was having suddenly disappeared.

How it is possible that not only 3 authorized services had no clue about this basic troubleshooting, but also the online support did not come up with the advice to reset?

In my opinion putting cars ahead of the support structure is not a safe bet.
Not for the for the manufactured nor for the consumers.

Honda Civic 1600 i-DTEC: first contact

Yesterday I picked up the new car and I made a hundred kilometers inside Milan and on the streets of the Brianza area.
Not many, but enough for a first impression.

The engine is very “electric” in the power output, no excitement (unlike my former 170cv Alfa Romeo 147), but in fact is present when is needed.
It provides a clearly superior performance compared to the 1500dci in my 2008 Renault Laguna: today it has 100,000 km, but I don’t recall it being different when new.
All of the stories that Honda told to the car magazines on the reduction of internal engine friction must be true: the engine brake is almost non-existent even in comparison to the 1500dci.
Fuel economy, even with the brand-new engine, seems very interesting (5.6 liters per 100km at the moment)
The start & stop is not intrusive: kicks-in if you are in neutral with the clutch disengaged and not moving. You do not need your foot on the brake as, for example, on the Mercedes class A (tried yesterday the 200CDI)

The visibility in the rear mirror is almost nonexistent for the maneuvers, but adequate for the march.
Parking sensors are installed and welcome (even if I need to turn them off to enter my garage or they will drive me insane) and the rear camera appears quite accurate.
Also convenient is the repetition of the directions from the sensors in the camera screen.
At the moment I find it difficult to take measurements of the front: the car is almost all behind the driver and the bonnet (hood) is very short. The uncommon shape of the dashboard also requires a bit of practice to figure out where the car ends.

The driver seat seems comfortable, but with the standard velvet upholstery is too hot even with the air conditioner on.
At least in the Italian summer (outside temperature during the test was 34 celsius)
Seat comfort to be verified in a long trip.

Suspensions are fairly soft and absorb well the harshness of the road.
The combination with wide tires (225mm, the main source of noise ) leads to a dynamic behavior that inspires me little confidence at the moment: the car body moves quite a bit for a european car.
The steering wheel is very light and uncommunicative (again for a european car).
For now, on the whole, the Laguna with Dunlop SportBluRespose and shocks 100.000km-old has a better dynamic.
On the dynamics the former 147 with sportpack and oversize rims is clearly unmatched, but this is true also about the high level of discomfort when driving provided by that Alfaromeo.

The shift stick (is a manual car) requires a little of attention to get the gear in.
A short lever in a forward position invites more to a relaxed driving than to the search of fast shift performance.
The Laguna’s shift command was perfect from new and is better than the civic even after the relatively long use.
Judgment in this area is suspended pending the completion of the run-in.

The satnav: at the moment I’m not in love with it and I prefer the tomtom with IQroutes, but perhaps with the use I’ll change my mind.
Is good to have the GPS antenna on the roof because it provides good reception.
The navigator is integrated with the radio and the screen is shared with the rear camera and with the video input.
The repetition of turn directions (pictograms without map) on the screen of the trip computer inside the normal driving viewing area (without taking his eyes off the road) is a nice addition.

Hyundai ix35 driving experience

I was in Germany last week and  opted to get a car as the customer was 200km from the airport.

I had a compact car booked but it was not available when I landed so I got the ix35 for the same tariff.

Getting out of the parking was the first challenge as it was impossible for me to guess the external size of the car and the position of the wheels.

Consumption was quite relevant (521km with 59 liters of diesel) and the comfort at high-speed quite low due to high noise and significant vibration making cruise speeds over 120km/h very fatiguing. The car only had 24.000km.

Steering wheel with a very large dead zone and a high sensitivity to lateral wind.

Ok the bluetooth integration and the visibility in the rear mirrors.

At the end of the trip I was really happy to get back to the comfort of  my 92.000km Renault Laguna