No matter how you call it, every car change brings us new systems and functions.
No matter what you do, this trend will keep growing too, thanks to the electronics revolution in the car industry, or as some like to call it, the electronics invasion.
Funnily enough, we all point far more to the electronic glitches, to the famous dead-computer blue screen, than to the enormous time-, cost- and life-saving systems we are getting cheaper and cheaper, from those daily criticised electronics.
We all forget too easily the mechanical and hydraulic failures we used to have a few decades ago, as drivers or as kids in dad's or mum's car.
Despite the usual moaning about electronics and computers glitches, who is ready to get rid of his/her computer, or car electronics, and get back to the Spartan rides and filing cabinets?
Who can imagine any customer asking for a traditional engine instead of an electronically managed one, with all the latter's power and torque advantages; weight, noise, vibration, consumption and pollution reduction; longer and longer service intervals; neater presentation under the hood...
If electronics were so incorrigibly flawed, how come the markets did not revert yet to the full mechanical-hydraulic systems, away from electronics? Aren't we living in supply-and-demand markets?
Of course, the supply is only offering more and more electronically controlled systems. But if there was really a significant market for "electrophobic" cars, how come no car maker grabbed such an opportunity?
Since the eighties, we started the electronic x-by-wire march, where x can represent drive (drive-by-wire), steering (steer-by-wire), braking (brake-by-wire), or any system based on sensors collecting data (speed, temperature, pressure, force...) and software analysing it and sending the appropriate electronic "orders" to actuators executing them, by mechanical means at the end.
This era started gently, with electronic engine management systems integrating the drive-by-wire, or simply put, the electronic connection between the gas pedal and the injection system (instead of the cable). Then came the gradual integration of ABS, traction control, ESP, hill descent and hill climb control, arriving today to the automatic brake discs drying and pressure building according to driving conditions, lane change warning, etc...
One thing is certain: we will always need a "hardware", like a brake pad and a disc to stop the wheel, even if we replace the hydraulic pipes and the brake booster by some electronic devices.
The same applies to the steering-by-wire. Even when we will get rid of the mechanical link between the steering (or a joystick or whatever we steer the car with) and the wheels, we will always need some "hardware" to push mechanically the wheels right or left, and son on. Hence the word mechatronics.
A lot has been written, and even more will be written about the electronics revolution. All manufacturers, and especially suppliers are working on more system integration through electronics. ABS, TC, ESP and many more sophisticated functions are being integrated in one major system, with sub-systems controlling more functions, making every sensor work for several "bosses", avoiding duplication.
One of the major players in this field, Siemens VDO Automotive is displaying several pioneering technologies at the 61st Frankfurt motor show (15-25 September). Except for the MS 2100 portable navigation system, which is launched to the market, the other technologies give us a clearer view about completely new systems promised for production with the next few years.
Since Siemens VDO Automotive is tempting us, let's have a look at our next cars contents.
For a brief presentation on each of these technologies, click at the following:
About The Author
Automotive editor at Al Hayat daily newspaper in London (1988-2000). Editor/publisher of Motion Trends auto magazine and media services (English and Arabic) since Oct. 2000. All Motion Trends content is copyrights free, with credit and hyperlink to www.motiontrends.com.