I’m sure we’ve all been in a car that maybe beeps when you’re close to backing into something, or maybe one that has a pretty cool built in touch screen that has all your favorite songs and a map of the area around you on display. To us, these are all basic features that come with most new cars because this is the era we grew up in, but have you ever stopped to really think about how all these small non-visible computers hidden somewhere within your car manage to make our everyday lives that much easier?
The first self-powered motor vehicle was invented by Karl Benz who was a German mechanical engineer. The motor vehicle he invented was powered by a steam engine. It had three tires, two in the back and one in the front and was powered by gasoline. Benz went on to create his first four wheeled car in 1891. He eventually went on to build a new company which became the world’s largest automobile manufacturer by the year 1900. It isn’t too hard to believe that the company became such a worldwide success given that many of us would recognize the name “Benz” to this day due to the production of Mercedes Benz.
In 1968, Volkswagen came out with the first computerized car called Type III. It consisted of a fuel injection system rather than a carburetor. It opened up a very wide range of opportunities for other manufacturers and eventually the idea took off. We’ve gone from cars having small computers that contribute very little to the vehicles operation to what now seems like a computer with car-like abilities. What I mean by that is Tesla’s, Tesla has introduced us to a whole new world of computerized cars. They’re capable of operating without major components like an engine, transmission, oil, etc.
First up we have safety computers, which is considered one of the most important computers needed in our everyday vehicles. For example, you’ve probably seen or heard of the annoying little “ABS” light that could show up on your dashboard. It stands for the “anti-lock brake system” which is a small sensor you’ll find on the wheels of your car that alert you when there is a lack of traction. These sensors then trigger a motor to pulse the breaks or send more power to the wheels that still have traction. We also have air bag units that use a computer to sense an impact or sudden stop, thus deploying the air bags in our cars. A final example would be a car alarm. Cars use computers to alert you and the surrounding area if someone is attempting to break into your car.
Next, we have performance computers. One of the main rewards of having a performance computer in your car is the computer-control electronic fuel injection. This allows your car to blend air and fuel in precise amounts without being wasteful. With the price of gas only growing high these days, we can find that to be very helpful. Another feature your car may have is an automatic transmission unless you drive a manual than this may not be as luxurious for you. This computer allows your car to automatically shift up and down depending on your speed without having too manually do it yourself. Although having the skill to be able to drive manual can be rather cool, we know it can get annoying and it requires a lot more attention so having the option to drive a car with an automatic transmission can be very helpful. It allows you to be more attentive to the road rather than focusing more attention on shifting gears at the appropriate times.
A car may also be equipped with dozens of small convenience computers that have made our lives a lot easier than we may think. For example, in order to roll down your windows, lock your car, turn on your windshield wipers, or dim your headlights with the push of a button your car would need a computer. Back before the invention of these convenience computers you would have to manually roll down your window and manually lock your car. You may also find it easy to adjust the temperature inside your car to your own comfort and this is all because of computers. Your cars entertainment system is also computer-based as well, so without one you would be stuck sitting in awkward silence.
Lastly, we have diagnostic computers. Every modern-day vehicle comes with a computer called the “engine control unit” which manages your engine for you while you are driving and also records any problems in your car’s overall performance. Auto technicians have the ability to attach a scanner to your cars engine control unit and it will automatically give you access to any recent error codes. This then gives the technician an idea of what the issue in your car may be. Overall, engine control units have the ability to measure engine compression, emissions and any electrical operations throughout the car.
So, we’ve talked about the different types of computers in our everyday cars and what they do but let’s talk about how many there are overall. Each car has at least thirty to fifty central processing units hidden inside. In more luxurious cars it is possible to find at least one hundred central processing units. As for microchips, it’s common to find at least three thousand in our everyday modern cars. Some of these computers are so sophisticated that it can allow certain types of cars to drive themselves. For example, I’m sure we’ve all heard about Elon Musk and his production of Tesla’s. These cars are so advanced that they’re capable of operating without major components like an engine, transmission, oil, etc. His inventions have opened up a whole new world of possibilities for car manufacturing companies all around the world. Tesla’s are so advanced that you no longer need to be looking at the road nor holding the steering wheel in order to get from point A to point B safely. In fact, while you’re waiting for the car to transport you to your next destination, you have the option to sit back and relax while watching a movie on your touch screen center screen.
As you can see, we have made it a long way since the invention of the first motorized vehicle. Everyday new ideas are coming to life and being introduced to motor vehicle industries. For those that drive rather new cars, the features I discussed throughout my paper should seem somewhat familiar. I can tell you that I have had a love for cool-looking and fast-driving cars for a while now but until recently I’ve never looked into what makes these cars so cool. I feel as if we may take advantage of these features because of how much easier they make our everyday lives. Once you sit down and actually go over what they do for your car you might be amazed at how such small computers are capable of so much. I think it is important to educate ourselves on what makes our cars so advanced and trustable because after all, we are entrusting our lives and safety to the technology equipped into our cars every day.