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.

Content of my reading list by amazon (part 5 of 9)

Below you’ll find the fifth part of my reading list and, when available, the related comments I made at the time.

I did a small mistake and got 4 and 5 reversed 🙂

You can read why I’m doing this and can also the first , the second, the third and the fourth part of the list that I’ve already published on this blog.

Sunday, Mar 7 2010
The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling by James Hillman

Kinds of Power by James Hillman

Thursday, Mar 4 2010
Human Factors in Safety-Critical Systems by Felix Redmill, Jane Rajan
While the title suggests this book as with a limited audience I think that every worker should read it.
The analysis of how people interacts with systems and organization can be applied to non-safety-critical scenarios too.
This knowledge will help both individual contributors and managers.

Saturday, Feb 13 2010
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr., Mary Doria Russell

Thursday, Jan 7 2010
Oscar and the Lady in Pink by ERIC-EMMANUEL SCHMITT
At the first reading, several months ago, I enjoyed this little book but recently I discovered that I almost forgot all the content, so i decided to read it again.
I’m really happy with that decision: while the book is small and written with a very easy and light style the content of those few pages is extremely dense.
It’s uncommon to read in less than 80 pages so much about the meaning of the life and of the death.”

Wednesday, Jan 6 2010
Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque by René Girard
I think that the book requires a fresh reading of the analyzed novels in order to provide the full benefit of the offered analysis, but at least 75% of the content can be appreciated in any case.
The value offered is not limited to a greater understanding of the literature but, as it continuously relates back to the real world, it can be at least partially applied in daily experience.
I’ve actually read the italian translation.

La vittima e la folla by Renè Girard
The perspective that the author offers on the myth is extraordinary ad helps to see in a different light most of the recent theological thinking that describes the gospel as mostly mythical and fictions.
It’s a book easy enough for people w/o a background on philosophy or theology , but a minimum of classical greek culture would help for sure.

Friday, Oct 23 2009
Milano Calibro 9 by G. Scerbanenco
I liked a lot these short stories.
Dark as is usually Scerbanenco but with a twist of irony that is not very common in the novels

Saturday, Oct 17 2009
Traditori di tutti by Giorgio Scerbanenco

Tuesday, Oct 13 2009
Ladro contro assassino by Giorgio Scerbanenco