Microsoft Windows for automobiles? We're not a fan of the idea.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray:

I just heard on the news that Microsoft has announced a special version of Windows for automotive application. It sounds like my future cars will have computer-Internet interfaces hard-wired as standard equipment. I generally keep my cars for eight to 10 years, but my computers get outdated after two to three years. Will I now be expected to buy a new car every two to three years just to update the darn computers? On top of that, I often have Windows crash on my PC, with miserable results. What happens if it crashes while I'm driving? Will your next bumper sticker say "Get Offline and Drive!"? -- Eric

RAY: Oh, Eric. My brother's already getting "Veinous Bulgemous." I can see the veins in his forehead swelling in anticipation of a rant ...

TOM: That's right, because I'm vehemently opposed to this stuff! They call this stuff "telematics." And they say that before long, we'll all be able to surf the Web and read our e-mail while we're driving. Can you imagine anything more stupid than that?

RAY: Besides, why is Microsoft wasting its time developing Windows for cars? Both of my cars already have windows.

TOM: Think about what society will get with in-car Internet access: Instead of having your family killed by a driver who's distractedly talking to his broker on a cell phone, they can get killed by a guy who's distractedly ordering candy from

RAY: Ah, progress! My brother's right, though. We're not getting this stuff because a just and civilized society demands it. We're getting telematics because it represents a business opportunity for car companies and computer companies.

TOM: If they put an Internet-ready computer in your car, you'll need to buy monthly wireless service, right? And who's going to sell you the service? The car company -- or an Internet provider in partnership with the car company.

RAY: And don't believe the cell phone and computer industrys' baloney; this stuff is an absolute danger to everyone on the road -- and even to people on the sidewalk, in my opinion. The problem is not that a driver's hands will be distracted by the computer -- the computers will likely be voice-activated -- the problem is that the driver's MIND will be distracted by the computer.

TOM: Here's the deal: If the stuff is designed to ONLY work when the car is stopped, we might be willing to keep our mouths shut and go along with it. But if they make it so a driver can use it while he's driving, you'd better believe we're going to be campaigning loudly and obnoxiously against it.

RAY: Which is something my brother is particularly good at. Trust me.

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