For starters let me say, I love technology and progress in general. I lived thru some drastic changes since I started working on cars, officially since 1976.
We are on the verge of a major shift and change of the electrification of the automobile. Just to clarify things, I have been driving hybrids for over 8 years now and the progress is or has been amazing. There are a lots of incredible achievement in most cars, except we are reaching a disturbing trend by stuffing modern cars full of electronics, and high tech sensors for the sake of minor improvements. We have this gigantic hype called self driving cars in general.
We already have ADAS (automated driver assistance system) except it’s like a run away train. The cost of servicing or repairing this fragile systems is completely out of hand or reality.
Did you know, if your car has ADAS system, then in the event you have to remove your bumper or your mirrors or anything within the system it must go thru a costly system calibration? In the event you nudge the front of your car on a snow bank or anything else, the system must be calibrated again or you will have the annoying warning on your dash.
I have seen an invoice for a Porsche Macan after an accident, alignment with ADAS calibration at 900 dollars. So how much are you willing to sacrifice for your assisted driving, is the real question.
Let’s start with the evolution of headlights for comparison sake. The halogen light bulb used to be say 10 dollars H4, then we went to high pressure H7 bulbs 15 dollars. Next step was the HID system, which uses a special high voltage bulb with mercury salt, has been say 140 dollars. Additionally there is a module which may cost 500 to 1200 dollars, plus in all the German made cars, there is a mandatory self levelling light system on top.
Now we progressed to LED headlights, which theoretically should need no parts, except when thinks go wrong. We just had a relatively late model Mercedes, S550, 2015 with the headlight on one side dropping out at randomly. It needed 2 modules, approximately 1200 dollars, but to get to the headlights, you need to remove the front bumper, the front grill, the inner fender linings, and a lot of components. Check the photos out at next.
Head Lights Replacement on Mercedes Benz S550
Let say you damage any of those high tech headlights, you can buy them for 3450 dollars each + the modules for 1200 dollars on top plus installation that is per side.
Let me elaborate a little further, in order to install those modules you must have the proper diagnostic equipment, so you can scan the QR code on the headlight and then you can download the proper coding for that particular headlight into the diagnostic equipment and run system calibration. Then the lights will finally light up and work again.
Today’s modern cars run a hundred million lines of codes to be able to interact with the driver behind the scenes. We are just about add a tenfold increase of electronics to this already super complex vehicles at what cost, may I ask?
Did anyone ever asked, how and whom is going to pay when things go wrong? I just thinking, when we went from a 15 dollar light bulb to the LED lights, what was the percentage of the real improvement? Like 40 or 50 percent better or say 80 percent better, at what cost?
I’m afraid, we are jumping on the self driving car bandwagon, what will it cost to have this fully automated sensor and specialty camera loaded cars to fix if things go wrong?
We should perhaps slow down and ask some serious questions.
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