Gentlemen, Please Reboot Your Engines

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You're driving along at 65 m.p.h. on the Santa Monica Freeway. Suddenly your dashboard starts flashing this message: FATAL ERROR 60438. YOU WILL HAVE TO REBOOT.

Ummm what now? Pull out the instruction manual? Call the help center on your cell phone? Where's the reboot button, anyway? Of course, this is just a bad fantasy, but as software makers vie for space on (and behind) your dashboard, "operating system" is taking on a whole new meaning.

This past August, General Motors announced its "Web vehicle," featuring voice-activated access to the Internet right from the driver's seat. To bring the Web vehicle to market next year, GM has turned to Sun Microsystems, maker of the Java programming language and operating environment. Sun CEO Scott McNealy probably shocked a few Detroit executives at a press event when he said he "often refers to the automobile as nothing more than a Java browser with tires." MORE >>