The cables in question will be exposed to temperature extremes (0-100 F in ambient swing alone). The insulation of these cables will have to stand up to that, as well as engine heat, and do so for a design life of a decade or more. No cracking or degradation of the insulation will be acceptable.
Your imagination is correct, Rob. Even in non-accident situations, the use of higher voltages adds an additional layer of engineering, as Chuck points out, in the form of isolators. Supposedly, a high-voltage isolator fault was at issue in the recent Fisker Karma car which "died" when it was brought out to Consumer Reports's test track.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.