The increasing amount of electronics within all cars, not just those found on the racing circuit is scary. The complexity continues to grow day by day, even in a low-end car. In most cases, it's a good thing, but could these cars be over-desgined?
Nah! The more electroincs the better. Actually, leaving entertainment and other such aside, there are many safety and engine management tasks that are handled by electronics today. Replacing and repairing these systems is easier as well. I started out with 1960s British sports cars. They were simplicity itself. On the other hand they were not particularly effecient or safe.
There is something to be said for simplicity. I had a 1970s Dodge Dart. I could fix anything on that car, and I could practically stand inside the engine compartment. I couldn't fix anything on the last two cars I've owned.
Rob, excellent point.My wife and I have a Volvo and finding someone to make the necessary repairs when problems arise with electronics is a real pain.We did find an individual but so did every other Volvo owner in the Southeast.He's very good and everyone knows it.Basically, take a number.Automobiles become more sophisticated but in some cases, the ability of the repairmen does not.This continues to be a very real problem in our "neck of the woods".
Yes, there is a lot to be said for simplicity. I have to hand it to the automotive industry for building cars that last longer than before, but it's still hard to accept the fact that it takes a computer to fix even the smallest item on a car now.
I think plenty of people would argue that repairing software and electronics gitches is probably far more complex than any kind of mechanical fix. Obviously embedded software brings a lot to the table in terms of safety and functionality, but it's not for the faint of heart or for anyone that doesn't have the right diagnostic machinery and software expertise.
I don't know if they're overdesigned, but safety and infotainment features for production cars have gone beyond anything we dreamed of 20 years ago. Driver assistance systems now include blind spot detection, rear obstacle detection, drowsy driver detection, park assist, adaptive cruise control, lanekeeping and collision avoidance, in addition to the ten or so airbags, even in entry-level cars. Infotainment includes GPS, CD players, DVD players, and USBs for cell phones and iPods. Given the fact that none of us could have imagined these features 20 years ago, then what's it mean for the next 20 years?
The real problem today is not how complicated any individual system is in a modern car, it's the fact that all the systems are interconnected. And there are more and more of them in cars. You may think the problem is in one system, but the cause is really in another system interconnected thru two other systems. Not only that, but often with a failure in one system, you cannot even get far enough along to troubleshoot. My dad was a mechanic and a regular problem with 1990's era vehicles was the car would die on the side of the road: because the radio stopped working (and don't assume that things are that much better now).
Not only can the weekend mechanic not fix it, often the dealership cannot fix it. What the dealership usually does is to just start replacing things. If they ate the cost of this method, things would improve rapidly, but they don't (we do).
When the economic or legislative pressures on the car manufacturer's hit a breaking point, they will start to add better diagnostics to cars (i.e. OBD didn't happen until mandated).
Good point about OBD, 3drob. Increasingly, if you take your car to a neighborhood mechanic for a serious engine problem, they don't have the software to recognize the problem and make the fix. This forces people to bring their cars back to the dealerships in many cases.
I think in many cases, it's the kitchen sink syndrome. Some of the stuff appeals to the gadget folks who like a lot of bells and whistles, but many of us just want the basics, albeit, the basics to be delivered in a state-of-the-art way. The problem is, the car companies' car packages bundle things together so you often have to opt for the whole electronics she-bang even if you're just looking for a killer stereo system and don't care about GPS or voice control or even a passenger infotainment system.
Exactly right, Beth. With all the features that are available today, there would be far too many permutations if they let you pick whicever ones you want, so they bundle them. Then you end up getting a lot of features you don't want.
In Aviation It is expensive to certify software. so we use old school logic and analog circuits to this day to make cheaper products. In the Automotive industry to certify software is a simple matter. Still expensive however the volume that automotive has makes the expense managable. The reason for the high tech gadgets is cost reduction. A lot of the circuits in your vehicle can be reduced to single chip or single board circuits due to microcontrollers. Dont forget that most microcontrollers are only 1-10USD a piece. so why not show these gadgets to consumers to increase the hype of new tech and force you to sell your used car for a new one? also keep in mind that new features could mean that the automotive industrie is compensating for some known saftey issue. when you reduce the weight of your vehicle you add more airbags or better bumper to compensate due to a harder deceleration of the vehicle during testing. Simple logic really. When a car dealer tells you that the engine is designed to drop in the event of a catastrophic accident this means that their firewall is much thinner then before and the support for your engine just lost a few pounds too. No safety added really just fuel efficiency and more expensive accidents.
Ervin, you are right. Most of the mechanical components in automobile are replaced by chip based systems which can make the working principle easier. Now a dayís in car the dash boards are completely automated with micro controller based chip sets and sensors. This includes the pre driving tests like wheel pressure, radiator temperature, brake condition etc. So other than driving, the driver wonít to be bothered about any other things.
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