HOME  |  NEWS  |  BLOGS  |  MESSAGES  |  FEATURES  |  VIDEOS  |  WEBINARS  |  INDUSTRIES  |  FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
  |  REGISTER  |  LOGIN  |  HELP
Blogs
Electronic News & Comment
Automotive Electronics: Do We Really Need All This Stuff?
10/21/2011

The desire to link smartphones to dashboard head units is becoming commonplace.  (Photo courtesy of Nokia, Car Connectivity Consortium)
The desire to link smartphones to dashboard head units is becoming commonplace.
(Photo courtesy of Nokia, Car Connectivity Consortium)

Return to Article

View Comments: Threaded|Newest First|Oldest First
Beth Stackpole
User Rank
Blogger
The millennial issue
Beth Stackpole   10/21/2011 8:36:32 AM
Great article, Chuck. I am one of those who scratch their head as to why we need all this electronics in cars and am guilty of having a vehicle that has all of the fancy bells whistles, most of which I don't use.

That said, the point about millennials expecting all of this gadgetry in their cars is absolutely on target and one I never really considered. Obviously, the automotive manufacturers have to anticipate the needs of their next audience. The more pressing question is will this upcoming generation get the jobs and make the big bucks so they can afford all these fancy cars!

Amclaussen
User Rank
Platinum
Re: The millennial issue
Amclaussen   10/21/2011 11:28:30 AM
How many car accidents promoted by people using phones, tablets or LapTops while driving, how many car owners will have to pay stratospheric sums for correcting problems that evade 99% of the available technicians?  What will do us, the people of the DIY camp, when we are facing automobiles that are completely 'repair-unfriendly'...  What can we expect when a manufacturer (Ford) is selling a SUV with "autopark-assist" (I certainly remember that I had to pass my first driving license exam at 18 by having to park a large patrol car inside a quite tight space -it was possible, but certainly not easy-) so that young people won't have to even know hot to park a car, and they will be free to cruise at high speed while playing a computerized device NOT intended to be used while driving!  This is madness...

Get me back to my reliable, easy to maintain, well designed car of the 90's. Just limit designers to correct their few defects and keep on improving their basi design, nobody really needs a super computer complex on wheels.

Send all these Monkey minded "car designers" to another planet, so that THIS planet return to sanity!  amclaussen.

averagejoe72677
User Rank
Gold
Re: Do We Really Need All This Stuff?
averagejoe72677   10/24/2011 10:16:25 AM
NO RATINGS
I can answer the the question in one word, NO! As more and more electronic gismos are added, they increase the cost of the car and the complexity. As the costs of new cars continues to rise, people tend keep their cars longer. Electronics do not have an infinate lifespan and at some point they will fail. OEM replacement parts are generally outrageously priced and aftermarket suppliers generally shy away from producing complex electronic assemblies. therefore the cost of ownership rises as warranties expire

. To add to the issue is the distraction these items add to drivers that are shifting their attention from controlling their car to the function buttons or screens while driving. Personally, I would just like to have a basic car that is economical and reliable without all the whistles and bells for starters, then the option to add the gismos as I like (which would be few).

 

 

endsofinvention
User Rank
Silver
bubblegum...
endsofinvention   10/24/2011 10:54:38 AM
NO RATINGS
I agree and disagree to a certain extent. I agree that there is too much infotainment bubble gum but a lot of those microcontrollers are improving things like braking, energy usage, diagnostics, fuel efficiency. I think that is progress. But I think that we are really missing the boat. What we should be aiming for with much more zeal is removing the meatbag behind the steering wheel. Get rid of the driver and a whole mutitude of good things happen. Fuel consumption plunges because the need for traffic lights is greatly reduced therefore less start-stop driving. No more speedsters, drunk drivers, distracted mobile texters, no more guys putting their make-up on using the rear-view mirror or women shaving... It's really not that difficult but no control-freak politician is going to hand over his keys...

PGillaspy
User Rank
Gold
Re: Do We Really Need All This Stuff?
PGillaspy   10/24/2011 2:40:21 PM
NO RATINGS
Simple question with simple answer, Absolutely NOT. The sensors go wrong more often than the function they are monitoring. To pass safety inspection, do I really need a dash board light to tell me the parking brakes are on. They used to test the parking brake by pulling it up and seeing if the car would roll, not anymore, they look for the light on the dashboard. So the parking brake itself works perfectly fine, but you still can't pass inspection.

Amclaussen
User Rank
Platinum
Re: The millennial issue
Amclaussen   10/24/2011 6:20:47 PM
Beth: I've followed several of your posts, but this time I guess you're not really realizing the potential for problems that the present day design trends pose in regard to the SAFETY and SECURITY of the vehicles.-

I own a 2006 car (Dodge Stratus R/T) that already has TOO MUCH electronics and software... One SAFETY problem is that the Monkey designers at Chrysler decided that the Door Locks were using too much wiring... and decided to "save" a few feet of wire by multiplexing the door lock actuation and position on only two wires (Phew! at least they don't decided to run them wirelessly).

To make a long story short, I'm unable to close my door locks (or sometimes open them) either with the remote or the local switches at the doors, because the damn "Body Control Module" decided to stop working properly after about two years. This is a known problem, but the factory decided to ignore it, and pass the cost of repair to the owners (about 700 USD to remove, repair and replace the damaged module).

Just as a reference: my OLD Dodge Spirit R/T (1991), still has its door locks (and everything else) working beautifully, and it is a PLEASURE to work in its engine bay, while performing a "simple" accesories belt change in the 2006 Stratus is a nightmare of the worst kind.  Another example of the stupidly bad "design" trends in latter years cars: Design for assembly, but forget about maintenance and serviceability.

In order to perform a complete and careful Radiator service to my 2 cars (I'm all DIY), it takes a full 4 hours to do it in the Spirit, working leisurely and taking care to remove and clean the outside of the engine, transmission, air conditioning and Turbo intercooler radiators... Change all the hoses (Engine coolant, heater and the Thermostat). Perform a back flush and complete drain, and finally reinstall all and completely refill and purge the system of all air...

In the damn, badly designed engine bay of the much newer Stratus, the SAME procedure required me four DAYS! (not hours).  I was unable to take out the old coolant without some spillage, because they now use a drain plug, not a drain valve, but the Monkeys designed the plug to be placed above the lower chassis brace, and then placed a measly 2" hole in the frame member to have "access" to the plug, but even the most strong person won't be strong enough to grasp the thin and small ridge on the plastic plug with two fingers and then be able to turn it out. (I used a miniature adjustable wrench that I was able to pass tru the 2" hole, and then turn it with a larger adjustable wrench, and start praying that the thin "handle" on the plug does not break!). To inmortalize the damn design work of the Monkey team, all of the hoses had their necks obstructed by a miriad of other misplaced components, and to make things more interesting, the clamps were orientated in the worst possible direction! The 4 radiators were assembled together with unobtainable rubber ties with arrow heads, to that to be able to separate them, one has to cut them, and then you have to use long bolts enclosed into pieces of rubber hose, and risk damaging a couple of radiator tubes...

But trying to refill the damn system was the real chore!  As I tried to put the new coolant into the radiator and expansion tank, I quickly found that the system refused to take more than half the total volume of coolant!  Opening the air purge plug near the thermostat housing (as the Service Manual says) is an exercise in futility (the damn Monkey team was really working overtime!), because the car design places the radiator quite below the upper coolant passages in the engine head... so, even rising the front of the car as far as a large floor jack allows, the engine head still traps large pockets of air: it still needed three quarts of gallon of the coolant.  As a last resort, I was able to get rid of the air pockets by attaching a long 1" hose to a bucket, raise myself over 7 feet above the engine on a ladder, and force the remaining 3 quarts into the system (the hose was connected to one of the nipples on the oil cooler on the base of the oil filter, and was the lowest part of the coolant circuit... By allowing the remaining coolant fall from 7 feet high, the damn air pockets were finally displaced.  The mechanic at the local Chrysler dealer told me that they fill the system into the engine and radiator assembled on the ground, and once filled, raise the engine under the car (which necessitates dropping the entire engine, transmission and front axle for that and other similar jobs! The apparent reason being that it is faster to assemble the car at the assembly line by carrying the body high in the air, and mate it to the engine-transaxle assembly carried on a belt transporter below...  Too bad the monkeys NEVER thought the engine or accesories would need some kind of maintenance some day... and because design monkeys work for a car factory, they simply leave maintenance problems created by them to others, or let people believe it is better to replace the ENTIRE car instead of attempting to maintain it!  amclaussen.

Beth Stackpole
User Rank
Blogger
Re: The millennial issue
Beth Stackpole   10/24/2011 7:10:45 PM
NO RATINGS
@Amclaussen: Thanks for sharing your story. Sounds like a total nightmare and quite frustrating to say the least, especially since you have an older, less electronics-equipped vehicle to compare it with.

I'm in full agreement that the trend towards texting, Web browsing, and all other kinds of entertainment that happens while driving is a serious danger. I totally hear you on the safety front. But I do think that the trend will only continue given that the more connected our society becomes with smart phones and WiFi hot spots everywhere we turn, the more connected we expect to be. I'm not sure auto makers can ignore that trend, but they better be sure whatever solutions and fancy features they come up take all of these safety concerns into account.

Good luck on that radiator service.

jmiller
User Rank
Platinum
Re: The millennial issue
jmiller   10/24/2011 10:50:34 PM
NO RATINGS
It just sounds like there's more stuff to break and it'll be more expensive to fix.  I'm sure we've all got a favorite grandfather or uncle that used to be a grease monkey who's said for years how cars are just getting to complicated with too much stuff that we don't need.  No longer can we get under the hood and fix it ourselves.  It costs $500-$700 just to touch a care with something wrong anymore.  Whatever happened to hand operated windows door locks?  I for one would rather have a reliable car that's easy for me to fix.  Ever tried to find which fuse to fix on one of these new cars.  I had to look at 3 different fuseboards and it still took me 2 hours.

Dave
User Rank
Gold
Re: The millennial issue
Dave   10/25/2011 12:24:31 PM
NO RATINGS
I agree. A replacement EBCM unit in many GM cars will cost you $1200 to have it replaced at a dealership. The sad thing is that they fail after less than 8 years of operation.

And while it is nice to have in a high-horsepower vehicle, it is rediculous to think that we need this is a 100 HP economy car. This is the type of thing that the goverment is mandating for new vehicles, making future repairs far too expensive for the unfortunate middle to lower income buyer.

Then again, many cell phones have features that we pay for and never use. How many people will talk to their phones while at work or even in a store? Enough is enough!

failureindesign
User Rank
Gold
The elephant.
failureindesign   10/21/2011 2:32:50 PM
There already exists two classes of vehicles designed specifically for the inattentive who prefer to chat, text and/or Facebook instead of paying attention to the road: cabs and limos.

We moan and groan and create endless road-side memorials [a further distraction no less] to the "victims" of driver inattentiveness. We spend countless hours and taxpayer dollars investigating these accidents and ways to prevent them; the result being numerous reports, recommendations, bills, laws, etc. etc. etc.. Some ban the use of cell phones. Some ban texting. That 7" DVD screen in the dashboard is supposed to be disabled when the vehicle is in motion; except any half decent installer can enable it full time for a nice tip. In fact some design several semi-critical interfaces using an Atari-like joystick and expect the driver to take his eyes off the road at 80 MPH to change radio stations, select another CD or change from defrost to cabin. Chevy bragged in a recent Facebook ad that their new trucks will have a built-in router so the driver can run his whole office from the cab of the truck (presumably at 80 MPH again while balancing his coffee in one hand and typing on the laptop with the other). Apparently they expect the knees to come into play for steering and acceleration/braking. I'm all kinds of excited at the prospect of this fellow sharing the road with my children (who now drive).

Let's cut the crap. If you want drive, drive. If you want to play or chat or Facebook, call a cab or the limo service.

The car companies are equally to blame here and I am amazed no ambulance chaser has thought of this yet. By including systems specifically designed to distract the driver from his primary purpose (safely negotiating the roadways from point A to point B), the car company has implicitly made itself liable for distracted-driver accidents. If an adult serves alcohol to a minor and allows them to drive away, that adult can (and should) be held liable for any and all events that ensue. I don't see why we should cut the car manufacturer's any less slack.

And the solution is oh so simple. And I'm not talking about systems that automatically interface with your cell phone so you can keep yakking with your stock broker or yelling at your girlfriend while you're driving. If you need to use the phone, pull over or wait until you get there. If your life is so complicated that 60 seconds is going to be a deal-breaker, you need a new life.

The solution is to line the roof and glass with a wifi / cell - proof material that renders all of these gadgets mute. Oooh. You might miss the latest Gaga tweet or what IBM stock did in the last two minutes. Big freaking deal. Nobody died while you were distracted either. Less time spent investigating accidents and explaining to Mom that her daughter is in pieces in the morgue. Less time making endless studies and reports and legislative wrangling to pass bills restricting the use of distractions (ie, cell phones, etc.) that most will ignore anyhow.

If you think you are so valuable that you can't be away from the phone for a few minutes, tell the boss you want a limo. It might be a valuable lesson in perception. LoL

Don't fret. I realize this opinion is very unpopular in the current "Only I, me and myself count!" culture. In fact I suspect more than a few are already headed for their elephant guns. So, ta ta.

 

JJPEngr
User Rank
Iron
Re: Distracted Driving
JJPEngr   10/24/2011 9:47:36 AM
NO RATINGS
Good comment! I agree. My wife has been rear ended twice and I have been rear ended once this year by distracted idiots. Fotunately, there were no injuries, but the car repairs are aggravating.

Let's get them back to driving and not playing with all the irrelevant toys in the car. Somewhere we went wrong with having to constantly know who is doing what. Who cares?? We went for years without all this infotainment crap.

The safety features like lane warnings, rear vision and other aids are god and improve safety, but the office on wheels needs to be limited.

 

jmiller
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Distracted Driving
jmiller   10/27/2011 11:27:38 PM
NO RATINGS
Some states are starting to inact laws for distracted driving but until there is some real teeth to the laws I am afraid more and more accidents will be caused by distracted drivers.  It's too bad that there are so many features that are focusing on being able to do more thatn just driving rather than improving the way that we drive or the performance of the vehicle while it drives.

 

jmiller
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Distracted Driving
jmiller   10/27/2011 11:27:39 PM
NO RATINGS
Some states are starting to inact laws for distracted driving but until there is some real teeth to the laws I am afraid more and more accidents will be caused by distracted drivers.  It's too bad that there are so many features that are focusing on being able to do more thatn just driving rather than improving the way that we drive or the performance of the vehicle while it drives.

 

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Distracted Driving
Charles Murray   11/16/2011 10:03:48 PM
NO RATINGS
To jmiller: I definitely agree with you. The distracted driving laws don't keep up with the reality and the efforts by automakers seem to ignore the fact that people will continue to use their iPods and other such deveices in the front seat.

jmiller
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Distracted Driving
jmiller   11/27/2011 8:31:01 PM
NO RATINGS
Hopefully, future legislation will target distracted drivers and increase the penalties for accidents caused by distracted drivers.  As much as I hate to say it, there may need to be more regulation on car makers and what they allow or what they set their vehicles up to accept. 

I don't think too many people would by a car that they couldn't make a call in while it is in drive but wouldn't that drastically cut down on the number of accidents caused by distracted driving.

Jack Rupert, PE
User Rank
Platinum
Operator Assist vs. Entertainment
Jack Rupert, PE   10/21/2011 3:27:17 PM
NO RATINGS
The simple answer is no, we do not need all this stuff.  I think it breaks down to two simple directions: user-assist vs entertainment.  It's one thing to have the additional technology make driving easier or safer.  A GPS, for instance, tells you exactly where you are, where you want to go, and the street you just missed.  I can't count the number of times prior to GPS that I've seen someone driving with an unfolded map over the steering wheel.  I made sure they were either well ahead of me or well behind me.  Similarly, such technology as blind-spot annunciation or backup cameras help the driver see things they may not have been able to see and prevent accidents.  On the other hand, if half the companies out there ban Facebook from their work computers, I really don't see a driver needing it.

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Operator Assist vs. Entertainment
TJ McDermott   10/22/2011 12:14:10 AM
Entertainment can be old school too, Jack.  It doesn't necessarily mean electronics.  I'm working a system installation in the field with two coworkers right now.  Coming back to our hotel Thursday night, we watched in amazement as the lady driving the car to our left dealt playing cards on a lap board as she drove.  This was at night, so she had her ceiling light on so as to see them.

In a previous article, I commented that the electronics lifetime will not match the life of the car.  I strongly feel the automakers need to step out of electronics and instead provide power bus access only.  5V USB, and maybe some 120V outlets, for the devices that assist (such as GPS).

Jerry dycus
User Rank
Gold
Re: Operator Assist vs. Entertainment
Jerry dycus   10/24/2011 4:23:48 PM
NO RATINGS
 

    I agree with most here that we are well beyond too much elerctronics and other things car companies do to justify their jobs.  So we get serious bloat.

    Just removing the wiring harness from a driver's door weighed 37lbs!!

     Just what kind of servicing will these need 10 yrs down the road? Won't most of the tech be obsolete?

       I design on the KIS method.  If not needed for the design purpose, it's not there. And design something that does 2-3-4 things. This also helps my other design principle, desiging in lightness.

        In my vehicles comes with just a space where the customer can have whatever they want put in.

        Copper and other materials like it will become increasingly costly with fuel economy becoming more important, they'll have to cut back at least on it's weight.

           The one poster I think has it right, just run a DC and signal bus, load controllers to most everything, cutting all those other wire runs, connections more importantly.  And the parts need to be standard. I've seen too many parts that can be made for $1 cost $30+.

            But I doubt big auto is ever going to simplify.  That just leaves room for some new thinking, simple, light, small 2 and 3wh cabin subcars could take a 25% share as gas hits $10/gal in 5 yrs as 3 billion new people move from the third world to the first in that time.  And good profits to those who do these right.

          

vimalkumarp
User Rank
Gold
automotive electronics
vimalkumarp   10/22/2011 12:19:29 AM
NO RATINGS
Blind spot removal/ annunciation is definitely a boon. I think we should appreciate this aspect than to think about  banning  facebook from office.

Ban on facebook sounds too harsh..!

williamlweaver
User Rank
Platinum
Define "Car"
williamlweaver   10/22/2011 12:46:53 PM
Interesting and well-written article. But I have to ask how the readers and commenters define the concept of "car". The definition keeps evolving through time. I would suspect that back in the early Henry Ford days, "Car" was defined as "status" (and maybe that hasn't change too much today). "Car" soon changed into "freedom" -- that ability to travel between home, work, food, worship, family and vacations. Then "Car" changed into "power" -- more and more horsepower under the hood. Even though the average buyer didn't understand the technology behind a 350-hp engine, they were willing to pay for one. Then through the 1970's "Car" changed into "efficiency" -- smaller mass and larger mpg. Then through the 1980's and 1990's "Car" turned into "minivan" -- kids to soccer, ballet and baseball. 

In this century, "Car" is defined as living space -- at least for 2 - 3 hours each day during large commutes and traffic. Environmental control, Information and Entertainment are paramount. Those "car" companies that understand this will win -- and continue to find new and efficient ways to deliver these things in safe and inexpensive ways. For starters, in 2011 why are we still routing pounds of copper through the chassis? We have several great examples of spread-spectrum optical systems that distribute information along a thin fiber. Going back isn't going to happen. Designers need to find new and better ways to move forward.


mr88cet
User Rank
Silver
Geekmobile
mr88cet   10/24/2011 12:08:05 PM
NO RATINGS
Heck, why would a engineering geek turn down auto electronics?  I for one like my "geekmobile" with all of its electronic gizmos!

uniquity@uniquitypsych.com
User Rank
Gold
Automotive electronics
uniquity@uniquitypsych.com   10/24/2011 12:10:17 PM
NO RATINGS
I am 73 years old and I have been driving since is turned 16.  We have three vechicles.  A 1990 Chevy pickup, a 2009 Toyota Matrix, and a 2010 Mazda 5.

The newer cars have more and more features.  Some are useful to us, and some are not.  My main concern is not how many features are added to a car, but how little functional design is used.  All of my vehicles have problems with interior and exterior lighting, along with the placement of sources of information and the location of controls.  Many of the displays on the pickup are hidden by the steering wheel.  The instrument display is very hard to see during daylight.  It is almost impossible to see the speedometer at times.

On the cars, the digital displays cannot be read in bright light.  The Matrix cruise control uses a lever near the bottom of the steering wheel.  It is easy to use without having to take my eyes off the road.  The Mazda uses several buttons on the steering wheel.  I have to look at them to make sure I am pushing the correct one.

On exterior lighting most cars have the front turn signals as part of the headlight assembly.  During the day many of the turn signals are not bright enough.  At night the bright headlights block out the smaller, and dimmer turn signals.  Rear turn signals are often small and dim.  Most new cars have a built in dimmer for the dashboard light that works when the headlights are on.  Why can't such a system be used on the exterior turn signals?

My main concern about cars is function and safety.  Apparently  the main concern of designers is style.  The Matrix has day time running lights, and automatic headlights.  On the Mazda there are no daytime running lights or automatic headlights, but the instrument panel lights go on when the car is running.  Sometimes when you see the lighted dash at night it is easy to forget that the headlight have to be turned on.  For while it was common to see amber turn signals on the rear.  Now more and more of them are red, and at least to me, less visible.  If they are amber, they do not use amber lenses, but amber bulbs, which are not as visible.  I really would like to see more standards about the color, brightnes, and location of exterior lights.

Ivan Kirkpatrick
User Rank
Platinum
Modular Design for Plug and Play
Ivan Kirkpatrick   10/24/2011 3:40:16 PM
NO RATINGS
It should be possible to have a LCD touch screen interface for the controls.  Add in a new module and it would show up on the LCD, including all necessary software and updates.

A standard set of modules would make up the engine controls and environmental controls.  another one woud handle the lighting, off and on, day night sensors and rain.  

Scrap the pedals and steering wheel.  Use a side3 stick controller like a modern jet cockpit. 

Integrate onboard computers to assist the driver with collision avoidance and automatic safety features.  google already has driverless cars so make them driver assisted.  I bet it can improve safety.

The bottom line is let the computers do it.  Standardize the control and computing infrastruture across all manufacturers and we could enjoy the benefits of modularization like the PC industry has benefitted from.

I read that most commercial airplane crashes are the result of perfectly good airplanes being flown into the ground by the human pilots.  Right now 100% of the autom accidents are the result of human errors.  there might be a handful that are the result of poor maintainance issues or outright mechanical failures.  Already the high end cars have sensors that will help avoid collisions.

One thing that has to change is the auto manufacturers outrageous prices on things like GPS that I can buy as an add on for less than $100, but the cost on a new car is ridiculous.

 

ndjalva
User Rank
Iron
too much useless stuff
ndjalva   10/24/2011 5:09:36 PM
NO RATINGS
I can remember many years ago talk about fiber was to remove all the metal in the fancy electronics now onboard... what happened to that?

My volvo uses fiber to operate the trailer controls so why not all the other "crap"

I can only see EE departments working in reverse.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
do we need all of this stuff
William K.   10/24/2011 11:01:23 PM
The reason for all of the features is called "oduct difeentiation" , which ismandated by marketing wonks, not actual humans. It has been amazing to see that the safety agencies have not come out against this constant addition of distractions. It has become clear that money talks, or at least gets them to listen. Tat is indeed the accusation that it sounds like. And for those who would equate a car to a parlor, and claim that it is just lliving space, I would offer that they are not aware of the complexity of safe driving.. The fact is that safedriving is a full time task and should not be just one item on the multitasking list..

prichiuso
User Rank
Silver
Design Monkeys
prichiuso   10/25/2011 2:35:44 PM
The worst design engineers in the world are auto and small appliance designers.

mreynolds179
User Rank
Iron
RE: Do we need all of this stuff?
mreynolds179   10/26/2011 11:39:00 AM
NO RATINGS
It's interesting this was posted last week as I had this topic on my mind at the same time.  Recently my VW Jetta was been experiencing issues with electronic functionality in the drivers side door.  I did some investigating and found that  "german engineering" had failed in making the wiring in the door harness too short which led to multiple wires inside the harness breaking from the stress of the door opening and closing.  Of course this was not a service recall so all cost was out of pocket and I decided the $600 price was too high and did the labor myself.  All of this led me to imagine my next project, a de-engineered vehicle (this coming from a mechanical engineer).  I want 90's reliability, ease of use, simplicity, but with some of the key safety features of today (google "Million Mile Joe" and his 1990 Honda Accord).  And yes i realize there is some give and take between those features, but surely there is simplier solution!  Who knows if I will ever start this project but judging from some of the other comments, I am not alone in this idea and hopefully someone will take action.

jmiller
User Rank
Platinum
RE: Do we need all of this stuff?
jmiller   10/27/2011 11:13:34 PM
NO RATINGS
It seems like it's always $500-$700 for some electrical situation where the wires wer too close or something that "never happens" actually happened.  Just happened this summer.  My son was moving the seat forward on my wife's vehicle and sure enough it shorted out with the seat as far forward as possible.  Which is too short for me.  And it costs $600 to get it fixed so we need to get it fixed to get the seat back.

Later in the summer it was a power moon roof that of course shorted out while open.  Can't be fixed.  Need a whole new moon roof.  Can't just replace the motor or gear box.  How frusrating

missnoitall
User Rank
Iron
Simplicity
missnoitall   10/28/2011 6:15:21 PM
NO RATINGS
I am ever so found of the 1967 VW beetle I used to own.  Its worse feature was it's 6 volt electrical system (well, they don't do that anymore, do they?...something about I2R...).  My fondest memory was a quirky problem I had following some routine maintenance.  I began to notice that if you kept your foot on the brake pedal and turned off the ignition switch, the car kept running until you released your foot pressure!  Oh, was that ever fun to figure out!  The cause?  Well, my last mainenance work replaced a burned out tail light bulb.  By chance I retraced the effort and discovered that I used a single tab bulb instead of a double tab, dual filament bulb.   The center tab on the bulb shorted across the two tabs in the bracke light socket and delivered six volts from the brake light circuit to the ignition circuit, thus defeating the key switch disconnect function while your foot was on the brake pedal!  In todays cars, this kind of error would blow out more electronics then that 66 bug cost brand new.  Don't you just miss the simplicity of it all?

terryatsbe
User Rank
Iron
too many fluffy features....
terryatsbe   11/8/2011 3:38:48 PM
I sadly had to replace my beloved '98 Saturn SL2, a fender bender resulted in damage far above the value of the car.  I bought a Chevy Cruze ECO.

I bought it, I'll make do. But the only thing I like better about it is the fuel economy, and the Saturn did very well at that.

Hey, I'm an electrical engineer, and I understand neat electronics.  But this thing has buttons and switches all over the place.  Took me too long to figure out how to get my favorite AM radio station.!  Cars should be simple enough to sit in, turn on, and go.  Shouldn't have to learn how to play them like a piano.  I didn't want something where I feel like I'm sitting inside an entertainment center.... but that's what I bought.

Saturn:  Crank windows were just fine.  The radio had two knobs.  Tuning and volume, and I could find them without taking eyes off the road.  Comfortable seat, shift lever in just the right place, perfectly spaced gears, could hear the engine without being obnoxious.  Good visibility,  best car I ever owned.

Cruise:  Can't push start it, goes into "I'm stolen mode".  Can't hear the engine, have to use tach to shift. That's a distraction. Been driving only std. shift cars since the 60's.  Jeese, even the inside lights slowly fade out.  I'd think a tremendous amount of cost could be saved.  And GM could include at least a compact spare tire.  Wide window posts and big mirrors create two bad blind spots.  Keys that cost $200 to replace. Big! can't keep a spare key in your wallet.  I could go on and on.... but this artical is spot on!!

dgtech
User Rank
Iron
Cost and safety are the factors I weigh...
dgtech   11/8/2011 4:42:10 PM
NO RATINGS
The only justification for these devices (given the added cost) is safety! The idea that a new automobile costs about what I paid for my 15 yr. old 1100 sq. ft. brick house, 35 years ago, makes little sense to me. Convenience and comfort are nice, but not worth the price.

My first car was a 1970 Chevelle which cost $3000. At that time A/C and an automatic transmission were great...

Oh, by the way, I'm not 'anti-technology'. I have been employed as a technologist for a high-tech industrial manufacturing company for those same 35 years. I grew up on a farm and went to a one room country school house with no running water, and today I enjoy packpacking.

Just a different perspective.

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Cost and safety are the factors I weigh...
TJ McDermott   11/8/2011 5:04:58 PM
NO RATINGS
dgtech,

I agree with you, but I think your analogy is invalid.

Median cost of a new house in 1976 was about $43,000.

Median cost of a new house in 2011 looks to be about $240,000.

(data from US Census).

Average cost of a new car in 1976 was about $5,500

Average cost of a new car in 2010 (sorry, best I could do) was about $29,200.  Let's just pretend it's 2011 cost.

House costs are 5.58 times more expensive compared to 35 years ago.

Car costs are 5.3 times more expensive than 35 years ago.

Close enough to call it equal, with the rough numbers I could get.

You can make the comparison only if you could transport your 2011 car back in time to 1976.

dgtech
User Rank
Iron
Re: Cost and safety are the factors I weigh...
dgtech   11/9/2011 2:59:53 PM
NO RATINGS
Yes, so I had thought of the whole 'inflation factor' over 35 years, but the average size of a house in 1976 vs 2011 has changed considerably - not so much with a car. In fact they have gotten smaller, for the most part. Realize a house today has 2, 3, or 4 bathrooms, eat-in kitchen (plus dinning room), living room (plus family room), guest bedroom, den, laundry room, sunroom,  2 or 3 car garage,...   Makes me wonder when the 'auto-bubble' is going to pop?

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Cost and safety are the factors I weigh...
TJ McDermott   11/9/2011 3:14:43 PM
NO RATINGS
In that time, cars also advanced, just differently.  MUCH better safety features (they can't be lumped in with the entertainment options we've been discussing here).  Much better longevity as well (in general).   Emissions are way down too.

People wanted more room - house size grew in the time span.

People wanted more comfort - cars got power windows / locks and AC in every car in that time.

 

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Automotive electronids-who wants it?
William K.   11/10/2011 7:17:18 PM
NO RATINGS
I wonder who is it who really wants all of these things. Instinct tells me that it all comes from the marketing department and a group of 16 year old boys. In summary, it does not look like there are any rational beings involved with the decisions as to what gets included in the new cars. I can say that absolutely it is nobody who thinks like me.

The Gizmonic Man
User Rank
Iron
Do We Really Need All This Stuff?
The Gizmonic Man   12/1/2011 11:26:34 PM
NO RATINGS
As an industrial designer with experience in and appreciation for design engineering, I'm of two minds about this subject. As previous posters have pointed out, the advances in safety and engine management/fuel economy have been truly incredible over the last 20 years or so. ABS, airbags, fuel injection, variable valve timing, traction control--pretty good stuff. However, the yang to this yin has got to be the ridiculous increase in unneeded complexity in everything from the basic user interface between the driver and the car's subsystems, to the number of gadgets, video screens, joysticks and GUIs, web-enabled items--the list goes on and on. The basic driving experience now seems subsumed by all the stuff that drivers can do while (poorly) driving their new car.

And the resulting, almost logarithmic increase in the complexity of the car and its associated subsystems makes a simple trip to the dealership for an oil change or the replacement of something as simple as a power window motor something to dread for car buyers of the last decade. NASA learned this the hard way with the Space Shuttle--the more stuff you pack into a vehicle, the greater chance that something will go wrong with something--often while it's just sitting there, not even orbiting in space. And, like the Space Shuttle, just getting to the thing that's busted is often an exercise in frustration, time, and expen$e for today's car buyers.

I was horrified by an Acura commercial a couple of years ago, which showed a driver dealing with activities one would normally do in an office, as well as watching video, emailing, Web surfing--everything but driving. And horror stories like ones I've heard from friends--(the replacement Volvo power window motor that would't work until the main computer was reinitialized to accept it, the $600 airbag chip in the passenger seat)--have convinced me to hold onto my current car (a 1985 Toyota Supra) until there are no more parts for it anywhere in the world.

I'm by no means a Luddite--I'm an early adopter in many areas of technology--but one of them is not new automotive ownership. My HVAC controls are run by levers, not servos. My headlights cost $10 at Pep Boys. My steering wheel has a horn in the middle, not the radio controls. I have no ABS or air bags, but I'm still here. Then again, I also have no in-car video/Web-enabled/Email/YouTube entertainment system to distract me, so maybe I'm more focused on driving the damn car, like avoiding the people wobbling from side to side, fake-braking, or slowing down in front of me to read/send a text on their phone. Appropriate technology for the application--driving to me doesn't mean I have to check what Kim Kardashian is doing right now. Of course, your mileage (and interests) may vary--I speak only of my preferences--but it seems a bit silly to be checking my emails at 70 MPH (or more likely 2 MPH) on the 101.

Unfortunately, to get entry to the advanced safety and fuel economy of today's cars, it's a deal with the devil--you have to take ownership of a LOT of krep that is going to go south in the next few years--and some of it may disable some important functionality of the car when it does, like the touchscreen lifespan discussion earlier in this thread. There isn't any easy answer, as the car companies are primarily marketing driven, and the general response to questions in focus groups about new and zippy features in today's cars seems to be "Yes, more, please!"

I don't know how it's going to ultimately turn out, but I'm not very hopeful in the short term--and I'm not buying any new cars anytime soon. I'll have to see if I can get a LUDDITE plate for my Supra.

Partner Zone
More Blogs from Electronic News & Comment
Self-driving vehicle technology could grow rapidly over the next two decades, with nearly 95 million “autonomous-capable” cars being sold annually around the world by 2035, a new study predicts.
From pitchers and forwards to quarterbacks and defensemen, we offer a peek at some of the more memorable engineers in sports history.
The recent decision by the German parliament to consider a move back to typewriters may serve as a lesson, not only in the need for secure products, but also in the dangers of overdesign.
In the muscular tradition of the rubber-burning dragsters of the 1960s, start-up company Bloodshed Motors plans to put a new twist on the decades-old concept of the performance car.
Mentor Graphics acquisition of XS Embedded GmbH last week could be meaningful for automotive electronics engineers, potentially enabling them to accelerate design and verification of products ranging from infotainment packages to autonomous safety systems.
Design News Webinar Series
7/23/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York
7/17/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York
6/25/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York
5/13/2014 10:00 a.m. California / 1:00 p.m. New York / 6:00 p.m. London
Quick Poll
The Continuing Education Center offers engineers an entirely new way to get the education they need to formulate next-generation solutions.
Aug 4 - 8, Introduction to Linux Device Drivers
SEMESTERS: 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6


Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.
Next Class: August 12 - 14
Sponsored by igus
Learn More   |   Login   |   Archived Classes
Twitter Feed
Design News Twitter Feed
Like Us on Facebook

Sponsored Content

Technology Marketplace

Copyright © 2014 UBM Canon, A UBM company, All rights reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service