• Sep 6th 2007 at 10:29AM
  • 6
Not so long ago cars and trucks were rather straightforward. Pretty much everything was mechanical, ignition systems had distributors, fuel systems had carburetors and suspensions had springs and dampers. The speedometer and odometer were driven by a cable that was twisted by a gear in the transmission. On the other hand, modern cars and trucks could not function without without software, and lots of it.

The average car today contains about $2,000 worth of software. Electronic control units and the software they contain manages virtually everything including the engine, transmission, windows, brakes, lights and more. When electronics first starting appearing in cars most of the systems functioned independently of each other. Cars today feature controller area networks that allow the systems to talk to each other and share information. The speedometer is driven by a servo that gets speed information from the controller for the anti-lock brakes. Even the audio systems use speed information from the brake controller to adjust the volume at higher speeds.

All the extra functionality that we have in our cars now means vastly more complex control software and far more interactions. While software used to be put in ROM on older systems, new systems use flash so that they can be updated when problems are discovered and more problems than ever are software related. As we move toward more complex drive-trains and vehicle to vehicle communications in the future even more software will be required.

[Source: MotorAuthority]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      I hear Cadillac is working on a fully customizable LCD IP
      • 8 Years Ago
      This is one reason why I love working on my 1969 CST/10... Much much much simpler than even working on the '98 GMC Jimmy in our family, and thats still considered pretty simply by today's standards.

      And fixed guages are way easier to live with than something that will adjust it self on the fly. I just glance and see where the needle is at, dont even need to know what number its on. Maybe if it was a user selected scale setting.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Oh, AMEN, brother!

        There's nothing like being able to figure out and address the problems on my '70 Mercury Cougar.
      • 8 Years Ago
      That's kind of odd. A TRW pic on a post that Sam put up.

      Go figure.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Yup, so why can't the software address my biggest guage pet peeve.

      Instead of the speedometer needle running across a static printed back, how about a fully digital LCD or LED background system that mimics a normal printed analog backing. In this way, a scale property can be set for the maximum speed displayed, and the slower speeds will be evenly distributed around the circle. I really don't like how some cars (Astra for example), have speedometers that go 50mph more than the car is even capable of going (much less will normally drive). An adjustable scale speedometer would be a welcome addition, so that those who like to see huge numbers could see them, and those of us who don't like our needle never go further than two inches off the stop would be happy. It doesn't have to be completely variable, how about 3 settings, 80, 110, and 150.

      Even cheap marine depthfinders have an adjustable scale...

      Rant off...
        • 8 Years Ago
        I see your point, but personally, I prefer fixed-scale gauges.

        This way, I always have an idea of how fast I'm going without really even having to read the gauge directly. A sense of proportions can be preserved.