How I chose my new automobile

Nov. 19, 2018

Strange things, automobiles. They pretty much all have four wheels, an engine, a steering wheel, some pedals, a few seats…  So why is the choice so vast? According to Statista, last year in the USA, you could take your pick from not far short of 300 different models. By some estimates, there are around 1,700 different models of car driving around on the world’s roads. And: who knew that Mercedes makes 131 different models; Toyota 110; and Chevrolet 96?

And all those different models don’t begin to take account of the different colors, trim, audio specification, optional safety features and so on.

You start to ask yourself: if all these automobiles are little more than a collection of wheels, engine, steering wheel, pedals and seats – how on earth can the market sustain so many manufacturers producing so many different models? Surely, they’re pretty much all the same?

I exaggerate for effect, of course. Yep, to the untrained eye, a BMW looks like a Lexus from a distance – but their differences are mostly, not in what you can see, but what you can’t see.

And each of those BMW buyers and Lexus buyers has bought something more than a mere means of transportation. He or she has done research to find out what kind of features are available and made a judgement about whether those features are important.

Getting close

Like I did recently. I needed (wanted…?) a new car. It had to be an SUV. Well, that narrowed my choices somewhat. It had to be petrol (I should explain – I’m a Brit) rather than diesel. It had to have a manual transmission. Now, I was getting close.

But: it quickly became apparent that my available choices were far from equal. There was their reliability record. Their safety record. Their cost of road tax and insurance – and, of course, their miles/gallon. While purchase price was important to me, what it would cost me to own over the next several years was no less so.

And all that before I even began to think about the contribution that things like automatic tire deflation detection, collision avoidance, lane guidance and so on might make to my family’s safety. Not all of the contenders had the options I wanted.

I said earlier that all automobiles are the same in their basic functionality: they exist to get you from A to B. But here’s the (long overdue) punchline. They’re comparable with single board computers. They may all have broadly similar top level functionality with comparable top-line specifications that can make it hard to tell them apart. But: look ‘under the hood’, so to speak, and they couldn’t be more different.

My point, of course, is that not all SBCs are created equal. Some are more equal than others when it comes to attributes like security, reliability, cost of ownership, available options and so on. With that thinking in mind, we’ve created something called “10 questions to ask a single board computer supplier”. You probably already ask some of them – but it might give you some helpful hints about others. Happy reading!

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