Automotive Electronics for Safer Driving

In this age of information and technology, everything around us is smarter. New digital and electronic components make our lives easier and safer at home, in the office and on the road.

Some of life’s bells and whistles, like nose hair trimmers, are no more than budget-grabbing gizmos. However there are many intelligent tools that can bring convenience and safety to our daily tasks.

Our enormous world of “smart” technology is ruled by new automotive electronics. Anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and other indispensable features are excellent examples of smart and safe automotive electronics.

Recent developments within the automotive industry have brought about a huge increase in the number of electronic devices installed at assembly plants. To give you an idea of how quickly cars have evolved electronically, the Apollo 11 space craft traveled to the moon and back using a mere 150 kilobytes of onboard memory. It’s remarkable to consider that the typical CD player uses a whopping 500 kilobytes, simply to keep our favorite songs from skipping. Enjoying uninterrupted music is a small fraction of how electronics have impacted a car’s performance in order to benefit drivers.

“Telematics” is a term used for the technology involved in automobile communication systems. This word was first used to describe the blending of telecommunications and “informatics”, or information technology. In recent years, this industry has commanded increased attention from car manufacturers. In the mid-1990s, industry insiders predicted that telematics would become “the” go-to technology. It was expected to increase overall sales and, more importantly, transform the automotive industry into a major player in mobile technology.

These promising forecasts panned out to be a little less than initially predicted. As more conservative measures were considered, the initial industry projection of over $ 40 billion dollars has been whittled to about half.

By no means do these numbers indicate an abandonment of the development of telematics technology. Automobile manufacturers have, in fact, invested an average of $ 2000 on electronic systems for every vehicle coming off the line. That’s a huge increase over the $ 110-per-car budget set in the early 1970s. The spending increase is reflected in everything from better engine performance and improved entertainment systems, to security features and safety devices. All of the electronic components work together to provide drivers with more comfortable, better performing and safer automobiles.

Here is an outline of some of the more common smart and safe automotive electronics systems:

Controller Area Network (CAN)

More than one computer runs your car. There is actually a network of computers called the Controller Area Network (CAN). Like a LAN (Local Area Network) that’s commonly used in home and business computers, the CAN links computers together. In your vehicle, the CAN basically links the many separate computer systems together and allows them communicate with each other. These interconnected systems involve everything from critical systems like engine management, cruise control and anti-lock brakes and cruise control, to less-demanding applications like automatic window and seat controls.

Fuel Efficiency

Shrinking resources and soaring fuel prices have forced automotive manufacturers to increase their supply of fuel-efficient vehicles. Smart auto makers are using new automotive electronics to create cars that burn fuel more efficiently. This is most evident with the common EFI, or electronic fuel injection system. Hybrid vehicles have taken this technology one step further, with electronic devices that allow drivers to switch automatically between gas and electric engines.

Safety Devices

There are generally two categories of devices designed to protect the safety of the driver and passengers: active and passive safety devices.

* Active devices: These systems are constantly working to ensure the safety of the driver and passengers. Dynamic steering response (DSR), traction control (TCS) and acceleration slip regulation (ASR) is all examples of active safety devices. The average driver may not notice these systems at work, but they are constantly creating a safer ride by sensing the road and driving conditions and adjusting the car’s performance accordingly. Researchers consider Electronic Stability Control to have a major safety benefit in reducing single vehicle skids.

* Passive devices: These features may be more visible and seem simpler, but they are also controlled by smart and safe automotive electronics. Through developments in electronics and technology, the deployment of airbags has been improved tremendously over the years. Early-model airbags deployed too early or too late, providing little or no benefit to the driver and passengers. Today’s cars feature more advanced systems that are actually programmed to sense the conditions that can lead to a high collision impact. Airbag and seating adjustment systems can be deployed to minimize the impact and decrease the degree of injury to the people inside the vehicle.

When you consider the safety advancements that have been made in just a decade, you’ll agree that today’s cars are miles above their predecessors. Our automobiles provide so much more than a lift from point “A” to point “B”. With smart automotive electronics, every trip is as comfortable, secure and safe as possible.
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