MY CAR–MY COMPUTER

September 8, 2016


In 1964 I became the very proud owner of a gun-metal grey, four-cylinder Ford Falcon.  My first car. I was the third owner but treated my ride as though it was a brand new Lamborghini.  It got me to and from the university, which was one hundred and eight (108) miles from home.  This was back in the days when gasoline was $0.84 per gallon.  No power breaks—no power steering—no power seats—no power door locks—no power windows—no fuel injection.  Very basic automobile, but it was mine and very appreciated by its owner.  OK—don’t laugh but shown below is a JPEG of the car type.

ford-falcon

Mine was grey, as mentioned, but the same body style.  (Really getting nostalgic now.)

I purchased instruction manuals on how to work on the engine, transmission and other parts of the car so I basically did my own maintenance and made all repairs and adjustments.  I can remember the engine compartment being large enough to stand in.  I had the four-cylinder model so there was more than enough room to get to the carburetor, starter/alternator, oil pan, spark plug wires, etc etc.

Evolution of the automobile has been significant since those days.  The most basic cars of today are dependent upon digital technology with the most sophisticated versions being rolling computers. Let’s now flash forward and take a look at what is available today.   We will use the latest information from the Ford Motor Company as an example.

Ford says the 2016 F-150 has more than 150 million (yes that’s million) lines of code in various computer systems sprinkled under the hood.    To put that in some perspective, a smartphone’s operating system has about twelve (12) million lines of code.  The space shuttle had about 400,000 lines.  Why so much software in a truck?  According to the company, it’s part of the Ford Smart Mobility plan to be a “leader in connectivity” mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data analytics.  Ford says it wants to be an auto and mobility company—in other words, hardware is becoming software, hence a moving computer to some degree.  This is where all up-scale cars and trucks are going in this decade and beyond.

If we look at vehicle technology, we get some idea as to what automobile owners expect, or at least would love to have, in their cars.  The following chart will indicate that. Quite frankly, I was surprised at the chart.

what-drivers-want

This is happening today—right now as you can see from the Ford F-150 information above.  Consumers DEMAND information and entertainment as they glide down the Interstates.   Let’s now take a look at connectivity and technology advances over the past decade.

  • Gasoline-Electric Hybrid Drivetrains
  • Direct Fuel Injection
  • Advanced/Variable/Compound Turbocharging
  • Dual-Clutch Transmissions
  • Torque-Vectoring Differentials
  • Satellite Radio and Multimedia Device Integration
  • Tire-Pressure Monitoring
  • ON-Star Availability
  • On-Board Wi-Fi
  • The Availability of HUM— (Verizon Telematics, a subsidiary of the biggest US wireless carrier, has launched a new aftermarket telematics vehicle platform that gives drivers detailed information on their car’s health and how to get help in the event of an emergency or car trouble.)
  • Complete Move from Analog to Digital Technology, Including Instrumentation.
  • Great Improvements in Security, i.e. Keyless Entry.
  • Ability to Pre-set “Creature Comforts” such as Seat Position, Lighting, etc.
  • Navigation, GPS Availability
  • Safety—Air Bag Technology
  • Ability to Parallel Park on Some Vehicles
  • Information to Provide Fuel Monitoring and Distance Remaining Relative to Fuel Usage
  • Rear Mounted Radar
  • Night Vision with Pedestrian Detection
  • Automatic High-Beam Control
  • Sensing Devices to Stop Car When Approaching Another Vehicle
  • Sensing to Driver and Passenger Side to Avoid Collision

All of these are made possible as a result of on-board computers with embedded technology.  Now, here is one problem I see—all of these marvelous digital devices will, at some point, need to be repaired or replaced.  That takes trained personnel using the latest maintenance manuals and diagnostic equipment.  The days of the shade-tree mechanic are over forever.  This was once-upon-a-time.  Of course you could move to Cuba. As far as automobiles, Cuba is still in the 50’s.  I personally love the inter-connectivity and information sharing the most modern automobiles are equipped with today.  I love state-of-the-art as it is applied to vehicles.  If we examine crash statistics, we see great improvements in safety as a result of these marvelous “adders”, not to mention significant improvement in creature comforts.

Hope you enjoy this one.

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