Die, agnostic tool
‘‘ COMPUTER says no’’ is my favourite line from the wickedly clever Little Britain television series, because it’s such a telling reflection of modern life.
Computers rule the world and if you cannot get along with the little black boxes, or at least arrange some sort of nonaggression pact, life is not fun.
My time on the road over the past 25 years has been riddled and riled by computer problems of all sorts, from recalcitrant cars through to laptops that needed major intervention by a manchild named Nick at the other end of an international telephone line. The power of the PC is rammed home to me, once again, as Volkswagen flails and fights against the surging tide of bad news in Australia about its Golfs and DSG gearboxes.
Those dramas are nothing new to anyone on the
Carsguide crew. We’ve been fielding complaints and trying to help people for years, usually battling the arrogance and denial that led Volkswagen Australia to where it is today.
But, as I face a fresh tide of incoming emails this week, I get to thinking about the power of the computer and how it could quite easily have contributed to the VW dramas. There was a time, not so long ago, when a quality mechanic was worth his or her weight in Sidchrome. These days, newage technicians have flooded workshops across the country and old-fashioned experience and intuition have been replaced by plug-and-play computer analysis.
No one really wants to waste time on a test drive or handson diagnosis when it’s so easy to plug the ‘‘ diagnostic tool’’ into a socket, interrogate the car and see whether any telltale
‘‘ error codes’’ pop up. The first time I saw one, a combined effort by BMW and Bosch, it was a revelation. It was obviously a key to the future.
But that future has arrived and ‘‘ error codes’’ have become both the objective and the excuse for far too many of the people on the service side of a workshop counter. Every week I get dozens of disgruntled emails and the power of the computer diagnosis is reflected in the number of people who are dissatisfied with their workshop outcome. Often they report being dismissed because their complaint or concern does not match the printout from their car’s electronic control unit.
I’m hearing ‘‘ Computer says no’’ almost every day.
Even when a real person takes a car for a real-world test drive, it can end in tears when the complaint is dismissed as ‘‘ within tolerance’’. Is that just another version of ‘‘ Computer says no’’?
Doctors are taught that bedside manner is as important as any diagnosis of illness, because it honours patients’ concerns and makes them feel they are part of the solution and not just creating a problem. Perhaps that’s a lesson that now also needs to be taught in the world of motoring, before the rise of the computer becomes totally irreversible.
I, for one, don’t enjoy the prospect of a world where— to twist another line from Little
Britain— you arrive at a workshop to hear, ‘‘ I’m the only mechanic in the village.’’
Just say no: Car service technicians take a lead from Little
Britain’s Carol Beer and her computer