Thursday, September 30, 2010

Computers in Cars = Stupid

The dumbest thing you ever did was put a computer inside of a car.
So before writing this blog I had to ask myself...

All cars manufactured today contain at least one computer. It is in charge of monitoring engine emissions and adjusting the engine to keep emissions as low as possible. The computer receives information from a many different sensors, including:
  • The oxygen sensor, air pressure sensor, air temp sensor, engine temp sensor, throttle position sensor, knock sensor, oxygen sensor
Using the info from these sensors, the computer can control things like the fuel injectors, spark plugs and the idle speed to get the best performance possible from the engine while keeping emissions low. The computer can also sense when something has gone wrong and can inform the driver with the "Check Engine" light. A mechanic can read a diagnostic code from the computer and fix the problem. Depending on how expensive the car is, there can be all sorts of other computers. For example:
  • There is probably a computer controlling the automatic transmission
  • If the car has anti-lock brakes, there is a computer reading the wheel speed and controlling the brakes
  • Many air bag systems have their own computers
  • A car with keyless entry or a security system has a computer for these systems
  • Advanced climate control systems often have computers
  • Some cars now have motorized seats and mirrors that can remember the settings for multiple drivers, and these contain computers
  • Any radio or CD player with a digital display contains a computer of its own
  • Cruise control systems use computers
In other words, a modern luxury car is a rolling computer network. It is amazing how many embedded controllers a car can have.

Is it amazing? Or slightly terrifying that technology can do so much these days? I mean if you've ever seen Battlestar Galactica then you know how the cylons (robots) were capable of creating a holocaust and potentially destroying all of mankind. But that's a different story, and a fantastic tv series.

So.. what you've all been waiting for: Why Computers in Cars are a Terrible Idea:

Last night I was going to go hang out with my friend, when I put the key in my car's ignition and nothing happened. Yes, the radio and dashboard lit up fine, but nothing else. Not a crank, not a air clicking sound from the battery, nothing. So my dad deciphers via iphone call to me that it's probably the starter, and my battery is dead. OK. So I get my roommate's boyfriend to check it out to see if he agrees, and he notices a little glowing green key lighting up on my dashboard. "What does this symbol mean?" We all don't know so we look it up in my driver's manual.

Immobilizing Antitheft Device.

(thanks google images)
 Also known as: your car (computer in car) no longer recognizes your key. The key that is specifically made and sculpted JUST for your car, oh and don't bother trying the spare, because it won't work either.

Yes, I was/am completely locked out of my car. Thanks for towing service and paying for a diagnostic test... my car will be "reprogrammed" and I'll be able to access it again.

But can we talk about how bullshit that is?
The same thing happened to my roommate's car a month ago.

So thank you, HONDA, for making my car shut down for no apparent reason. Your immobilizing antitheft device only works against its car owner.

1 comment:

  1. Bahaha! Aw, poor Bethala. I feel your pain though. Well, not really me, my mom. Her car did the same thing but her problem was the battery in her fobber was low, and the car wouldn't recognize it, so it disabled the engine.