Software Rules

“Turn off the radio, Hal.”  “I’m sorry, Mark, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”


A couple of months ago I got the news that my 1995 Toyota Truck with 280,000 miles on it would require an engine rebuild plus a bunch of other stuff I wanted it to continue to be a reliable daily driver and for trips to Portland, etc.

I’ll relate the reason I didn’t replace it in-kind with a Toyota Tacoma in another post.

So now, skipping over the rest of the story, I am the owner of a new Jeep JL Wrangler.

One of the things that has happened since my 1995 Toyota was built is the introduction of electronics into vehicles. My truck’s OEM radio had an on/off/volume knob and a station tuner, plus some presets. (And the optional cassette deck.)

Now I have a 7” touch screen with all kinds of features.

One of those features is a radio. But search as I might, I couldn’t figure out how to just turn it off. I could mute it after I started the vehicle. But no matter what settings I had, when I next started the vehicle, the radio dutifully came on. As a last resort, I went to the OEM “Help” page:

US Customer Service – Chrysler Brand Site

Brief Description: How do I turn off the radio?

Comments: Every time I start the vehicle, the radio comes on. How do I stop that from happening? I can’t see any setting to prevent this.

VIN: 1CHJXDG3Wxxxxxx

Mileage: 61

This is the response I got:

On Tue, Jul 10, 2018, 12:52 PM customerassist
<> wrote:
Dear Mark,
Thank you for contacting the Jeep Customer Assistance Center.

Radio mode is the default when the radio is booted up. Sadly there is no option to adjust what mode the radio will start in when the vehicle is started.  This ensures the radio is in the correct mode to allow for updates each time the vehicle starts.

Thank you again for your email.  Should you require additional
assistance, or have any new information to provide, please reply to this email message or call 1-877-I-AM-JEEP (1-877-426-5337).
Customer Service Representative
Jeep Customer Assistance Center
For any future communications related to this email, please refer to the following information:

Well, that was interesting. To be crystal clear, James is doing a great job. It is obvious he read my original query, and he didn’t just send a cut-and-paste response that is all too common. Still… just to make sure I was understanding this correctly, I responded:

Perhaps I wasn’t clear about what problem I am seeking to solve.

I am looking for how to start the vehicle and not have sound automatically start coming out of the speakers. The system does not remember “mute” for example.

So far the only thing I have found is to tune the radio to an empty frequency.

I am certain there is not an intention to force the customer to hear the radio every time the radio is started.

And get a deeper, more personal, response back:

Dear Mark,
Thank you for contacting the Jeep Customer Assistance Center.

Honestly the radio tuned to dead air is the best solution for this
concern I have as yet heard.  I can confirm that this is in fact the way the radio was designed and it is most likely operating as intended.  The radio will start in radio mode and the volume will be set to mid range to ensure the kids do not leave it cranked up too high for you.

I also feel that they dropped the ball a bit on this one as the radio will default to radio mode even if you were using a connected device when you left the vehicle outside of radio mode.

I have recorded your comments on the file for further review and we thank you for the time and effort it took to bring this information to our attention.

Thank you again for your email.  Should you require additional assistance, or have any new information to provide, please reply to this email message or call 1-877-I-AM-JEEP (1-877-426-5337).

James didn’t write design, spec, or write the software. It is clear from his response that if he did, it wouldn’t include this “feature.” And I think I can interpret his response to strongly hint that this isn’t the first time they have heard about this little issue.

So I am thinking now of the mission of Menlo Innovations and my friends there: “End human suffering in the world as it relates to technology.” Perhaps this doesn’t rise to the level of “human suffering” but – seriously?

Kudos, though to James at Jeep Customer Service for his empathetic response that shows he actually read my email.  So FCA – you got that part right. Now… let’s talk about the user experience with your software. Looking at the Jeep brand’s core values, “Freedom, Adventure, Authenticity and Passion” I’d say you came up a little short on the “Freedom” part – I just want to be free to turn of the radio.   😉

I promised I’d be writing about leadership and coaching at the end of last post. That is coming, I just wanted to get this one out of the “drafts” list first.

7 Replies to “Software Rules”

  1. Hi Mark,
    If you had a Caddilac SRX it would start up exactly where you left it when you turned it off. It even remembers which driver you were (key #1 or #2).
    I can tell you that a new Rubicon will do any challenge you can imagine in Moab! Brother Pats did it all right off the factory floor!

    1. Mine isn’t a Rubicon, doesn’t have the lockers. John B did warn me that I would probably end up there once dipped my toe in and got that first aftermarket part. *smile* I actually test drove a Tacoma a few minutes after test driving the Jeep. The best word I could come up with to describe the Tacoma was “bloated.” Somewhere along the way, it lost the feeling of being a nimble, practical vehicle. I really wanted to like it, but couldn’t.

    1. Gerald –
      I was / am really attached to that old truck, I’ve been driving it since February 1995, including a round trip from Seattle to Rochester, NY for the time I worked at Kodak. But the engine rebuild would be the ante required to stay in the game long enough to learn what is going to need work next. The truck is still in my driveway, I haven’t been home for enough time to clean it out – and because of its make and model, it has a surprising amount of market value even in its current condition. It just needs someone who likes to, and knows how to, do the kind of work it requires – and that isn’t me.

  2. I’m really surprised that the customer service representative didn’t respond with “It’s a Jeep thing.”

    I made a similar leap from a 1997 Ford Ranger to a 2015 Tacoma. My Ranger’s nickname was “Manual,” because it had no power options. The sound system was also an AM/FM cassette. Now I feel like I’m living in the future with that center display, back-up camera, bluetooth, etc, etc…. and yet my truck is already outdated!

    1. Tom –
      Yes, it is the technology obsolescence that worries me most about a new vehicle – considering that the manufacturer has the ability to render it useless with an over-the-air update of the software, that is kind of scary to me. I’m predicting, however, that across the market, we are seeing the last generation of motor vehicles that can be optimized for “fun” and still be road legal.

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