My latest car which I bought a year ago, developed a problem with its battery. All modern cars have automatic stop and start functionality of the engine, that stops the engine when the car stands still and this way save fuel and limit pollution. It also starts the engine with no delay when the car is supposed to roll again. This requires a fresh battery, so if the battery isn’t properly charged, this functionality is switched off. My car -very smart- shows in the display when this functionality is on and off, in case I wouldn’t notice that it keeps the engine running at a traffic light.
After a day of not using the car, this functionality would switch of, and after a weekend of not using the car, it would display a warning that the battery was low and the car was about to switch to ‘power save’ mode. This happened after having driven from Sweden to Holland and back, so no doubt the battery should have been completely charged.
When I turned in the car at the garage, it would take a few days to analyze the problem. Of course, they’d have to charge the battery first and then let the car stand unused for a few days to see why it was discharging. However, the next day, they informed me that the car was already ready for picking up. Their solution: a software update.
When thinking about it, why not? External battery charges have already had different charging programs to power charge an empty battery, top off a fresh battery and reconditioning a faulty battery. Why would a modern car limit itself to the standard set up of a generator directly powered by the engine, just flat out charging the battery without further consideration?
This software update seemed to solve the problem and had some other nice effects as well. The driver info system had a weird bug that miscalculated the average fuel consumption. It informed me that the car used twice as much fuel as it actually did. (A separate app called ‘driver performance’ showed more realistic figures.) The most annoying thing was that the estimated range before having to refuel was based on this faulty calculation, which could mean that it warned for an empty tank while the scale showed it was still half full. Which indicator to trust? This problem is fixed now and the average fuel consumption is now rather similar between both systems. And the estimated range seems to be much more realistic too.
Even nicer was that the autopilot was significantly improved. The autopilot consists of two basic functionalities: adaptive cruise control that reduces the speed of the car in case another, slower car is in front of it (very practical in traffic jams and stop-and-go traffic!), and also a steering system that keeps the car in the lane. It uses cameras to sense the lines of the lane and controls the wheel to stay in the middle. This system needs much more babysitting, since it doesn’t always sense the lines (and disengages) and in curves, it didn’t steer that smoothly.
Now with the software update, it seems to hold on the lines longer before it disengages, and also the steering itself is so much smoother that I often hardly feel it in my hand when I have it on the wheel (which is always!).
I would likely get this software update anyway at the next service. I wonder what future software updates will bring!