back to article Software, not wetware, now the cause of lousy Volvo drivers

Volvo has issued a recall for cars that have buggy software. The code flaw means that engines in about 59,000 2016-model series 60 and 70 cars sometimes stop, for no apparent reason. The engines then restart. Volvo's not said anything about the circumstances that trigger the stop-start problem, so we don't know if it can …

  1. Ole Juul

    Stingray thieves

    The app beams credentials to cars over Bluetooth, . . . There's no word on how this works when your phone battery goes flat.

    But how does it work when somebody on the street walks between your house and your car with a repeater?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Stingray thieves

      But how does it work when

      Not an issue. Stingrays and other GSM (not bluetooth) impersonation systems work by having the correct crypto keys from the relevant GSM provider. In fact, they cannot work without the active assistance of the GSM provider.

      In this case, the keys for the connection are not on offer so if it is correctly implemented a MiM or radio intercept will not give you access.

    2. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: Stingray thieves

      No it's much simpler than that: when your battery goes flat you just pair another phone using the code 123456.

  2. petur

    No no no

    Pretty sure it's the drivers...

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: No no no

      Although in this case it's possibly the *following* driver rather than the volvo driver...

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: No no no

      It's probably happens when you listen to music other than ABBA.

  3. Oengus


    With the issues I have seen trying to pair a bluetooth device to a phone I wonder how much fun we will getting the car to pair.

    If it is an onerous chore to take the keys out of your pocket won't it be an even more onerous chore to take the phone out to "beam" the credentials to the car.

    Also if I have two cars in the garage, both paired to my mobile what happens when I drive off in one and the wife drives off in the other without realising that she has left her phone behind...

    1. gollux

      Re: Pairing

      Maybe you just discovered the mysterious cause of the engine stopping and then restarting. Looking forward to future hilarity. Welcome to the IoD...

    2. mathew42

      Re: Pairing

      I've wondered this about cars with keyless ignitions. Would it be possible to leave your jacket next to the car and drive off? What happens then?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Pairing

        Mine makes a loud chirpy alarm noise and puts a big yellow picture of a key on the dash display when the key goes out of range with the engine running. But it still lets you ignore it and drive away.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pairing

          Whilst working at a big Indian owned british car maker, one problem we had was delivery lorry drivers losing the spare key fob somewhere in the car without realising. The dealer would assume only one key was delivered and then authenticate a new spare key, but then would not be able to lock the car because the original spare was still in there somewhere. They would then spend hours resetting the ECU / security system to try to get the car to lock!

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Pairing

        What happens then is that you don't dare turn it off until you get back to where the key is.

    3. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Pairing

      Oddly enough, pairing to in-car systems seems to be a rather simpler and more reliable process.

      Presumably, since a car is really bloody expensive and a right PITA to update, they actually test the fucking things.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Could we please stop this hands-free-everywhere nonsense ?

    Convenience is a good thing, but not when it is tied to a platform as insecure as a mobile phone.

    Oh well, I know I'm pissing in the wind, so I'll just wait for the inevitable massive phone hacks followed by a rash of stolen cars with insurances refusing to pay because car was not locked. That's when people will get the pitchforks out and cry about how they didn't know. Then they'll have learned a lesson.

    Until next time, that is.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have you tried ..

    .. switching it on and ..


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Another solution looking for a problem....

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Sigh:

      Or another source of problems that will need a solution.

  7. Scott Broukell

    While they are at it . . .

    . . could they (Volvo) fix the problem with the indicators on the cars they make. I cannot recall ever, in over fifty years of driving, having seen the bloody things working!

    1. JamesPond

      Re: While they are at it . . .

      I think you'll find this is due to indicators being optional extras, especially on BMWs and Audis, but because they don't add to how fast the car looks, they are not a common purchase by these 'drivers'.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: While they are at it . . .

        VAG (Volkswagon Audi Group) seem to be going all out to make rear indicators obsolete.

        After all they can't get much smaller can they?

        I saw an A4 the other day and the indicators were about 10% (if that) of the rear light cluster.

        Easy to say 'Sorry Gu, didn't see your tiny indicators'

        Is there a minimum size for these things?

        Where are the safety people?

        Pah, total and abject failure

        1. kiwimuso

          Re: While they are at it . . . @Steve Davies

          "Where are the safety people?"

          The safety people are too busy drooling over the latest bit of auto electronic idiocy to be worried about safety.

          A touch screen to control the entertainment, aircon, etc? How safe is that I ask. With no physical knobs which can be mostly operated by feel, one will now have to take ones eyes off the road to see where on the screen you are manipulating the icons or whatever.

          If this is safe, why do all independent satnavs come with a warning that you should operate them safely, and not while the car is moving? Yeah, like that'll happen as well.

          Apart from engine management electronics I have no time for any of the other stuff. OK, I'll accept ABS as a good idea as well.

          I have just bought a near new car, a demo model in fact, which has nothing like that. It does have keyless ignition which would rather not have, but it seems we have no choice in these things. Why is pulling a key out of your pocket more onerous than pulling a phone out of your pocket? It also has a reversing aid, not a camera, just some sensors which but a virtual image on a screen. Problem is, the screen (as is the trip computer) graphics are in a very dark blue colour, virtually impossible to see, as I found out on a test drive, in bright sunlight.

          It also has the function (I can't remember what it's called) of stopping the engine when the vehicle has come to a stop, and your foot is on the foot brake. Nice you think - and also bloody dangerous. If you take your foot off the brake then starts again, so presumably you hit the car in front.

          Fortunately, it is able to be turned off. Ditto stability control.

          I am of an age where I was taught to drive properly, not just blindly use the accelerator and brake pedals without thinking, and to ensure that you don't lose stability, you don't drive the car such that you get into that situation. And don't get me wrong, although not a young hoon, I don't muck about either, but I know the limits of the car, and my own abilities, such as they are, and drive accordingly. And ANTICIPATE!!!!

          I also use the hand/parking brake when stopping on a hill. I NEVER use just the foot brake unless I know that I am going to move off almost immediately.

          To sum up my rant, more electronics is just more things to go wrong. Having been in IT since 1966, fortunately now retired, I have seen too many messes in computer software/hardware to be comfortable with them running my life completely. I would prefer that if something is going to go wrong, that it was my fault, not something over which, I have no control.

    2. PeterM42

      Re: While they are at it . . .

      . . could they (Volvo) fix the problem with the indicators on the cars they make. I cannot recall ever, in over fifty years of driving, having seen the bloody things working!

      Actually - I think it is a fault in the driver module. You know the pr@t in the driver's seat.

  8. Otto is a bear.

    What about battery life

    I'm wondering what all these wonderful hands free, always on devices being added to a car do to the battery life, time was you turned you ignition off, and everything turned off with it, now you have to remember to drive your car every now and then to keep the battery charged because god help you if it goes flat. Apparently my ultimate driving machine can't cope with that, and has to be towed to a dealer to restart it. (It's a soft top, I don't drive it in the winter)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about battery life

      I'd suggest a bluetooth device will take a tiny amount of power and probably wouldn't flatten the battery in any reasonable time.

      A more sensible person with a second car might consider checking out if the accessory sockets are still live after the ignition key is removed and then buy a solar charger if said vehicle is kept in daylight or a maintenance charger if it's kept in a dark garage.

      1. Hairy Scary

        Re: What about battery life

        That's exactly what I do when the open top car is off the road over winter -- the accessory socket is live with the key out and it is plugged into a solar panel on a long lead to reach outside, or in the usual crappy weather, to a charger every few days.

        It does say in the makers' instruction book "If the car is not used for at least three days then connect a maintenance charger to maintain the battery" that shows just how much modern electronics drain batteries although normally it can sit unused for a week (while waiting for the rain to go off) without using a charger and still start nae bother.

        1. Yugguy

          Re: What about battery life

          "If the car is not used for at least three days then connect a maintenance charger to maintain the battery"

          Well that's fucking bollocks then. What the buggering fuck do they expect people parking in long-term airport car parks are going to do?

          Fuck modern cars frankly.

          1. Hairy Scary

            Re: What about battery life

            I wouldn't leave that car in an airport car park if I wanted it to be there when I come back so that's not an issue.

            It's not a car for daily use, it's for having some fun in the summer. The user manual does also say that if it is not going to be used for some time you can switch off the battery isolator switch (if fitted -- optional extra) but you might lose a bit of performance till the ECU adjusts itself again next time you run it.

            1. Yugguy

              Re: What about battery life

              @hairy As the post below indicates, your car is very likely not the only model that would come across problems. It's something I have wondered - what do all these frankly pointless "innovations" like headlights that stay on for minutes on end after you lock up really do for your battery life. I had wondered if new cars had more heavy duty batteries to compensate. And it's something I will have to ponder this year as I will have to upgrade to something new this year.

              1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

                Re: What about battery life

                Yep - I am trying to find out this sort of stuff because a car upgrade is needed (twins arriving later this year, so a car with sliding rear doors is on the shopping list*). We have enough money to get a reasonably new (~5 y.o.) Toyota Previa or Kia Sedona***, but these are new enough to have the gubbins that drains the battery. Trying to find out whether it will be practical to leave these things for a few days is really difficult, and I don't fancy lugging one of those huge booster packs around.

                * If the car is parked on the roadside, there is a reasonable chance that one of the babies will be posted in from the roadside. People who have a rear car door open into the road whilst they contort into bizarre shapes to fasten the seats in clearly do not understand the risk they run - or give a fuck about other road users.**

                ** I know - the little signs saying "Baby on Board" are warnings about the driver of the car bearing them.

                *** Top of the list at the moment, though I could be swayed if I saw an interesting grey import.

              2. kiwimuso

                Re: What about battery life


                Now you've got me started on the rest of the crap they are installing in modern cars.

                Rain sensing wipers. Automatic headlights for a fucking start.

                I am perfectly capable of detecting when it's bloody raining and moving a lever to the turn the damn things on. It must be something to do with the fact that I come equipped with eyes and a fucking brain!!

                And so you want me to disturb my neighbours by shining my automatic headlights into their bedroom window as I turn, whereas, I could, you know, actually be considerate and turn my head lights on when I will not disturb them. And what about when I am trying to sneak away form my mistress's house late at night. Actually I lied about that last bit. It's just wishful thinking on my part.

                And I don't need a bloody reversing camera. Just give me decent vision out the back as we used to have. I have reversing gizmo in the new car I just bought (see previous post) but when reversing out on my test drive, I didn't use it. Apart form being hard to read in bright sunlight as it's blue graphics, I wouldn't rely totally on it anyway. I probably will use it to 'assist' my own eyes, as I use the reversing sensors on my current car, which just beeps at me.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What about battery life

            I already run into this exact problem with a 10 year old vehicle.

            2006 Honda equipped with (at the time) state-of-the-art celullar based vehicle recovery system. That was analog, so no there are no cell towers that it can recognize, it does what every phone does when it can't get a signal, and boosts to the max. That runs the battery down in 3-4 days.

            On a recent family trip, we left the vehicle in the airport parking lot for 7 days. I knew this would happen, so I left a booster battery in the trunk. The physical key can still be used to open, and of course the alarm goes off as soon as wel hook up the booster. But it beat waiting a couple of hours for the tow-truck.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: What about battery life

      Some of us bikers fit devices to our machines that allow us to keep the battery charged over the winter.

      Perhaps one of these might do for your soft top beemer?

      Bit don't tell the insurance company. They'll add £100 to your policy for making a performance enhancement/modification to the vehicle.

      WTF such a device has to do with increasing performance is beyond me. Unless it is to make it more usable as a vehicle? (less towing to the dealer to get it rebooted)

  9. Cynical Observer

    A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. Douglas Adams

    I can probably think of a more stupid idea - it's just that I don't want to.

    It would seem that the answer is to tell the car dealership that one does not possess a phone with Bluetooth capabilities - and that unless they wish to provide a means of working in that scenario, they are about to lose a sale worth tens of thousands of pounds.

    Used before but we should never forget that line from Mr Scott

    The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sadly your argument probably won't cut any ice, dealerships make very little profit on a vehicle itself, margins are razor thin and often won't even survive the provision of a full tank of fuel before tipping into the red.

      Where a dealer does make money is finance and manufacturer bonuses for selling a target number of vehicles. .

      1. Cynical Observer

        Refocus the point of the comment

        The argument is not about the dealership making profit - they are merely the conduit back to the manufacturer to relay a message that this is a clueless brain-dead example of some outstanding f&%kwittery ever applied to the automobile.

        Message remains the same - recipient differs. I still feel the point stands.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        margins are razor thin

        That will be why the guy who sold me my last car got the sack then. I ordered an automatic, the car that came off the transporter was a manual, and he'd already registered the car to me before checking...the number of freebies they gave me to still buy the car was amazing, but then how much less would they have got for a brand new car with 7 miles on the clock already with one previous owner?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: margins are razor thin

          Depends on the manufacturer. Someone like Renault that hasn't sold a car at RRP since 1924 (probably) the margin is thin, for a Porsche dealer rather fatter as they can generally sell at RRP. Dealer margins are admittedly a lot lower than they used to be in say the 90's.

          (I spent a couple of years auditing car dealers for a certain people's car manufacturer in that era)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And this is the company that is outsourcing their IT. Heaven help us all on the roads.

  11. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Oh I don't know - I'd be quite convenient to, uh, borrow a nice car from tome to time. After all, we are supposed to be transforming into a sharing economy...

  12. Chris Parsons Bronze badge


    Not 'the motorväg', it's either 'motorvägen' if you wish to show off your Swedish, or 'the motorway'.

    Thank you.

  13. d2

    qu'elle suprise,eh?

    Volvo, take note:

    Problems with audio, communication, entertainment, and navigation (ACEN) systems

    now account for 20% of all customer-reported problems at vehicle dealerships, according to the latest J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study...The problems most often reported by owners are Bluetooth pairing/connectivity and built-in voice recognition systems misinterpreting commands. Navigation system difficult to use and navigation system inaccurate are also among the 10 most frequently reported problems...

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