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too much useless stuff
ndjalva   10/24/2011 5:09:36 PM
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.

Jerry dycus
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Re: Operator Assist vs. Entertainment
Jerry dycus   10/24/2011 4:23:48 PM

    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.


Ivan Kirkpatrick
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Modular Design for Plug and Play
Ivan Kirkpatrick   10/24/2011 3:40:16 PM
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.


User Rank
Re: Do We Really Need All This Stuff?
PGillaspy   10/24/2011 2:40:21 PM
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.

User Rank
Automotive electronics
uniquity@uniquitypsych.com   10/24/2011 12:10:17 PM
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.

User Rank
mr88cet   10/24/2011 12:08:05 PM
Heck, why would a engineering geek turn down auto electronics?  I for one like my "geekmobile" with all of its electronic gizmos!

User Rank
endsofinvention   10/24/2011 10:54:38 AM
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...

User Rank
Re: Do We Really Need All This Stuff?
averagejoe72677   10/24/2011 10:16:25 AM
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).



User Rank
Re: Distracted Driving
JJPEngr   10/24/2011 9:47:36 AM
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.


User Rank
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.

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