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by Franki

I’ve been reading much lately about Microsoft’s push to put their software into cars. The idea of really useful computer based tools in a car isn’t a new one and if properly implemented could really be a god send. It does raise some interesting points though.

When you install Windows on your PC, Microsoft makes you agree to a user license that among other things says something to the effect of “We can be held liable for damages, but only to a maximum of the purchase price of the software.” They combine that with about a thousand more lines of terms and conditions, most of which remove rights you would otherwise have, and they call it good.

Now consider having MS Windows type software running in your car. Will you have to click “I agree” to a license agreement before you can use your stereo or GPS? If your GPS incorrectly directs you to a slum area where you get car jacked or the car itself gets trashed are they liable for damages or is that another right you’ll have to sign away when you pick up your car? Are the damages limited to the cost of the software to the car maker? Now consider what would happen if Microsoft software controls your safety equipment as speculated in an article I read recently. What if you directly have a crash because of a Flaw in the software. Who is liable then? When Ford had the problem with allegedly faulty Firestone tyres on their Explorers, the lawyers knew exactly who to go after, Ford. There was no license agreement or indemnification clause attached to the tyres. So people went after Ford, and Ford if it chose to could go after Firestone for the possibly dodgy tyres. What happens when you start mixing 3rd party software systems all though the car. What happens if different parts of the software have different licenses and damages clauses?

Open Source software may actually be exactly what the car manufacturers need. If they agree to the GPL terms, then if there is a problem, the manufacturer is the single contact point and neither you nor they need to worry about nasty license agreements removing rights. What Microsoft has yet to realise, is that they managed to luck into one of the very few markets where their licenses can give themselves so many rights, and so little damages. When you start moving to things like cars, they are not likely to find themselves as well protected by user licences. Time will tell I guess, but if the recent story about Microsoft talking to Ford about putting MS software in their cars, then I’ll have to look for a different brand of car. I like Fords, and I don’t trust Microsoft with my rights or my software. I don’t want the two combined.

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  Time  in  Don's  part  of the world is:   January 19, 2019, 7:47 pm
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