The other day this painful article comparing Tesla's AutoPilot and Mercedes' DrivePilot was published:
The War For Autonomous Driving: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class VS. 2017 Tesla Model S

The main point of the article is that Mercedes' DrivePilot isn't working well and the tester also even considers it to be life threatening.

I guess that Mercedes beats Tesla when it comes to the build finish and the feeling of quality, but if what the article and the linked articles say is correct, the current DrivePilot function should be taken out of the Mercedes.

Even though Mercedes has a great deal of money, people and hardware competence, for some reason entering a totally new, software focused area is not working out for them. Or could it be for those exact reasons?

As a rule, having a lot of people and money hinders software development, but let's take a look at another hindrance. I call it "hardware soul". You may be fantastic at hardware development but it doesn't automatically follow that you are good at putting together a great combo where development of software plays a large and important integral part.

At the end of 1980s mini computers were hot and at one time I worked a lot with software development aimed at machines from Prime and Bull. When you bought a mini computer from Bull for example, you got the software bundle practically for free, such as Oracle's database server. It was said that Bull's sales people's performance was measured in the number of kilograms they sold. What was important, what was the soul, was hardware. It's been a long time since I heard of Bull and Prime, but Oracle is doing well.

When iPhone was launched, my company carried out consultancy projects for a traditional large terminal vendor. They invested in software too, but from a solid hardware background. We imported iPhones from the USA at the launch, but when we showed them to our customer to shake them up a little, they were totally uninterested and just laughed at it all. I guess they grew tired of hearing about this several years ago. By the way, I think iPhone is a good example of a combo that had a lot of new thinking when it came, both regarding hardware and software.

There are many other examples: due to their software, graphical cards and printers have created a great deal of frustration over the years. A more widely known example was when "smart TV" started out - the whole experience felt anything but smart.

Could it be that in companies with hardware soul, the software is dealt with in a step-motherly way and those employees that are seen as being the least skilled regarding what is "important", i.e. hardware, are put in just to make it? Or that the "not invented here"-syndrome messes with the hardware soul so they think they are also the best at doing software on their own? Or that they hire the cheapest consultants they can find?

Anyway, there's nothing new here. A colleague mentioned this phrase that stuck with him something like 25 years ago: "You have to see software as the heart and soul of a system, not a coat of paint."

I totally realize that I'm kicking in open doors here. But let's end with what is interesting. As an organization, how can you deal with the problem of having a hardware soul when you don't want to share the same fate as the dinosaurs?

I think that just leaving the whole thing alone and letting it slowly evolve into a balanced soul is a recipe for disaster. Staying true to the hardware soul and skipping the software ambitions is probably a good way of maintaining the status quo for quite some time. But it's also like giving up, I think.

I think one easy solution that stands a good chance would be to start a new, tiny, autonomous organization and leave the old one alone. That way, the soul of the old organization will not fight back too strongly for the new initiative to succeed.

But having just one suggestion for dealing with such a large, common problem is a bit poor... On the other hand, is it really possible to change your soul? As I said in the title, is it at all possible to overcome your soul in order "to overcome a hardware soul"? It's like a teenager telling her grandmother that she looks weird in teenage clothes, but instead of getting the grandmother to relax and accept who she is, she tells her to work on getting really with it. To change her from inside, to overcome, which of course doesn't make sense.

Could that be why I only came up with one good solution and that that solution wasn't about changing, but creating something new? Is the answer not trying to "overcome your soul", but creating a new one instead?