Automotive electronics get you plugged into safety

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.

The vast world of “smart” technology is ruled by automotive electronics. Indispensable features, such as anti-lock braking systems and electronic stability control, are prime 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.

The term used to describe the technology involved in automobile communication systems is “Telematics”, and it was first used to describe the blending of telecommunications and “informatics”, or information technology. The telematics industry recently commanded an increased amount of attention from car manufacturers. Industry insiders predicted that telematics would become “the” go-to technology as early as the mid-1990s. Telematics was expected to increase overall sales and transform the automotive industry into a major player in mobile technology.

In reality, these optimistic forecasts panned out to be a little less than initially predicted. As more conservative measures came in to play, the initial industry projection of more than $40 billion dollars has been whittled nearly in 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 are some of the most common safe and smart automotive electronics systems:

Controller Area Network

Your car doesn’t run on one computer; it operates with a network of computers. The Controller Area Network links all of the computers together. This type of system is similar to those used in home and business computers, known as Local Area Networks (LANs). The Controller Area Network in your car links the many separate computer systems together and allows them to communicate with each other. These interconnected systems incorporate critical systems like engine management, cruise control and anti-lock brakes with less demanding applications like seat controls and automatic windows.

Fuel Efficiency

Skyrocketing fuel prices have forced automotive manufacturers to realize the need for fuel-efficient vehicles, and to meet that demand. Smart automotive electronics are used to create the more efficient burning of fuel, such as the electronic fuel injection system (EFI). The technology used in hybrid vehicles takes this one step further, with electronic devices that allow the driver to automatically switch between gas and electric engines.

Trustworthy Safety Devices

Active and passive safety devices make up the two categories of devices designed to protect the safety of the driver and passengers.

* 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 safety devices: While these features may be more visible and seem simpler, they are also controlled by smart and safe automotive electronics. Thanks to developments in electronics and technology, airbag deployment has seen a tremendous amount of improvement over the years. Early airbags would deploy too early or too late, offering little or no benefit to the driver and passengers. Now, more advanced systems have created devices in your car that are actually programmed to the conditions that can lead to a high collision impact. Airbag and seating adjustment systems are deployed to minimize 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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