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Topic Title: Electronics in cars
Topic Summary: Do we need electronics in cars?
Created On: 19 October 2011 12:21 AM
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 19 October 2011 12:21 AM
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kingsley

Posts: 4
Joined: 16 September 2009

Car's now adays have more electronics on them than did about half a century ago. Even with the most basic models, you will find plenty of sensors, ECU (Electronics control Unit) and actuators which helps to monitor and control the car electrical and electronics systems. With the increase in systems such as X-by-wire, Flex Ray and CAN (Controller area Network) protocols , automated sensors, telemetric, automatic braking, tire pressure monitoring systems, voice control through the radio using a BVC (Bluetooth Voice Controller) or parrot card, cruise control, and so many other electronics systems .

Eventually, the vision is that cars in the future through electronics and nano technology, will become autonomous and communicate with themselves via a wireless network and radio communication (or another method) and be able to drive you to your destination through using intelligent vehicle technologies while you relax. Hmm, I don't know if I feel so secure putting my full trust in my car to get me home quite yet.

Although these systems help to make the car more efficient and reliable, reduce C02 (Carbon Dioxide) emissions and meet many government laws around the world, they also create other problems, which we sometimes forget about.

Do you think all of the electronics in cars are necessary? Why do we need them?
What about the impact it having on small garages who do not have the trained technicians and tools to diagnose and fix your electronics issues?
 19 October 2011 10:09 AM
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eclectica

Posts: 63
Joined: 16 August 2010

Hi kingsley,

Electronics in cars are a necessary evil I think! They are great until they go wrong or get wet/salty or too hot!
Car manufacturers have significantly increased the quality of connectors over the years (maybe not the same degree as used on minehunters and subs) so reliability has improved.

I think more attention could be paid to system behaviour when a sensor fails, and having dual/triple redundant sensors for more systems where performance is significantly reduced if a sensor/subsystem fails. A good example of this would be an electronic air intake speed sensor on a turbo car. If the thermistors in it fail then the car either does nothing, or enters 'limp' mode - clearly limp mode is preferable, but very inconvenient if you are driving from Scotland to Cornwall.

The other thing is everyone seems more and more 'gadget' oriented and the younger generation seem totally obsessed with mobile phones/smart phones/apps/facebook etc. (IET forums?) so this contributes to the overall complexity of the car electronics with displays on car performance etc. Usually they are separate from the engine management systems I believe so as to have no mutual detrimental influence.

Garages having to upgrade to the 'latest' pods to enable access to the engine management system is a very significant cost - as our local garage would testify. However, more and more diagnostic data is available about how the car has performed and what has been going wrong - which should in an ideal world lead to greater reliability (assuming regular servicing and inspection is occurring) and preventative maintenance before complete failure - maybe?

Just my 2cents...

Regards
M.

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The meaning of life is a blank sheet; write on it wisely. ~ M.Cutler.
 19 October 2011 10:43 AM
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ectophile

Posts: 546
Joined: 17 September 2001

I think your second-to-last paragraph largely answered the question.

Modern cars are more powerful for the same engine size, while being more economical, producing less pollution and being easier to start on cold mornings.

We have added safety features such as ABS and airbags.

We have useful gadgets such as instrument panels that tell you how many MPG you are getting, or how many miles you can do before running out of fuel.

Why would we want to go back to the 1970's?

-------------------------
S P Barker BSc PhD MIET
 19 October 2011 10:56 PM
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kingsley

Posts: 4
Joined: 16 September 2009

You are right that modern cars are more much safer with safety features such as ABS, ESP and other real time safety critical systems.

I am not advocating that we go back to the 1970's or we stop adding or using electronics to improve safety, comfort and/or performance for the driver/occupants. Ultimately, as car engineer's safety, comfort, reliability and enhanced performance is what we aim to give to the car user (s).

As engineers, we know that electronics play a major in the world we live in now and it is probably the single biggest growth area in the automotive OEM and Tier 1 supplier industry.

I just mean when you start to examine some of the more advanced electronics system in some cars, you really start to see how complicated they really are. Also, the more electronics added to cars the more things which are likely to go wrong. As a result of more problems the more cash you may be spending to solve these problems. And also with it could mean that the less freedom you have to modify the standard systems car the way you want if then OEM wants.

If you are in Africa or some parts of the Middle East which probably do not produce many cars of their own and import the majority of their cars on the road, when you have electronics issues on your car it becomes more of a burden than it would in this country.

I used to work in my local garage which many of us only had only mechanical skills. Whenever customers came in with electronics problems on their car, we were often were lost on how to solve the issue. We were a small garage and so we did not have many of the equipment needed to diagnose the probelms through the OBD port with an OBD reader. Because we did not have the right equipment which at that time cost in the £1000's we could not help our customers and lost quite a bit of money. Of course things are more different now as already mentioned by eclectica.

I just think that some electronics in cars is put in for convenience) and others are necessary which you and eclectic have both said.

Also, I think what would help which has already been mentioned by eclectica is that they could improve the system behaviour and try to standardize more systems .
 19 October 2011 11:02 PM
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kingsley

Posts: 4
Joined: 16 September 2009

You are right the modern the generation is a lot more gadget orientated.

Yeah in an ideal world more data gathering of diagnostic information should help the car but only if the person is able to do something with the data.

I am sure it does help when you service and look after your car correctly.
 12 January 2012 12:11 AM
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neilbuss

Posts: 26
Joined: 06 June 2008

I do feel that cars overall are more efficient with built in electronic systems. The elec tronic systems have improved over the years in terms of their reliability.

Typical efficiencies are:

Improvement on fuel consumption
Improvements on CO2 output
Quieter Engines
More power for the same engine size
Safer braking ABS
Safer suspensions (Active Suspension)
Better clear instrumentation
In car communications and safety
SAT Nav
Electronic gearbox
Improved lighting
Incar automation

My big problem is if anything goes wrong in that you need to take it to the garage to be plugged into a diagnostics computer. I do feel that there needs to be more onboard diagnostics systems built into the cars software and electronics, so that the user can be put back in control again and get the problem rectified cheaply. I also feel that they still have not developed diagnostic systems to be totally clear on detecting faults clearly. There needs to be some developement in the diagnostic systems to detect a fault along side the systems, which are becoming more complex especially on prestige cars.

Regard

Neil
 12 January 2012 01:21 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

One of my previous managers once described me as "dedicated to low-tech". I also used to do all my own car repairs, to the level of stripping down and rebuilding engines. I don't understand any of the cars I've bought in the last 20 years despite being an electronics engineer.

But I still bless the electronic systems in them. My car is 10 years old, my wife's is 14, both have about 180,000 miles on the clock. Both start faultlessly every day. The days when there was a real sense of surprise that a car started first time are long gone. My previous car did have an issue when several sensors failed simultaneously (we believe through a power surge during jump starting). But to be honest my local garage and I got to the bottom of this a darn sight quicker than I ever got to the bottom of the carburration problems on my old Escort. The other surprise, looking back, is that my impression is that servicing prices have actually fallen in real terms since I started driving in the late 1970s (although I wouldn't swear to this, this is based on memories and a back-of-the-envelope calculation).

I can understand the frustration, in my case I often just feel a bit of a fool that I lift the bonnet of my car and have no idea what's going on. But actually the electronics does work incredibally well (particularly given the horrible environment it works in) and does make our lives much easier.

It's a bit like saying should we go back to typewriters, except that computers don't work reliably, but they're still much better than the alternative!

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 23 January 2012 09:00 AM
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jencam

Posts: 608
Joined: 06 May 2007

Originally posted by: neilbuss
My big problem is if anything goes wrong in that you need to take it to the garage to be plugged into a diagnostics computer. I do feel that there needs to be more onboard diagnostics systems built into the cars software and electronics, so that the user can be put back in control again and get the problem rectified cheaply. I also feel that they still have not developed diagnostic systems to be totally clear on detecting faults clearly. There needs to be some developement in the diagnostic systems to detect a fault along side the systems, which are becoming more complex especially on prestige cars.


OBD systems are something that certainly could be improved. The trouble is that manufacturers are reluctant to allow owners and uncertified third parties to probe too deeply into their products.

Originally posted by: amillar
But to be honest my local garage and I got to the bottom of this a darn sight quicker than I ever got to the bottom of the carburration problems on my old Escort.


I used to own a Mk3 Escort with no end of starting and running problems caused by the Ford VV carb. A mechanic replaced it with a Weber that worked wonders in comparison. The best feature of that car was the dashboard lights that warned you that the oil or coolant was low and the brake pads needed replacing.
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