Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Talking to Computers

Unless you've been living under a rock, you will have heard about the woes of Toyota and complaints of 'unintended acceleration'. Tearful Toyota executives bow and apologize (sincerely, I believe) and work to repair the problem with accelerator pedals.

Essentially, what Toyota (and other automakers) have done is remove the direct connection between the driver's right foot and the throttle body (I almost said carburetor) and installed what might rightly be called a foot controlled mouse. You see, instead of directly opening or closing a throttle butterfly, modern gas pedals are wired to a computer that controls nearly every aspect of the car's operation. What the driver is doing is telling the computer to 'go faster' or 'slow down' based on the input of the accelerator.

My long-suffering spouse's MINI Cooper is built this way. In fact, even the power windows and headlights are routed through something called the body control module. There is a slightly-perceptible lag between the time the headlight switch is turned off and the headlights actually go out.

When I have the pleasure of driving my MGB or classic Mini I am assured that there is a real honest-to-God link between my right foot and the throttle of the engine (yep, a carburetor). If I have an 'unintended acceleration' event in one of them, I can pretty well bet that it is a broken return spring - not a computer that has decided to become HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey and take over control of my car.

But I imagine that there were articles written by grouchy old men decrying the advent of hydraulic brakes and the loss of directly-connected-to-the-pedal mechanical brakes.

Maybe I've become a grouchy old man.

1 comment:

  1. Don't be mad at me if I disagree 100 %, The bean counters and new politics have deceived you. Already in UK roads have transponders controling car speed, a touch of a cops "mouse" can stop you dead in your tracks. I saw what dictatorship means as a young boy when krauts marched into Paris, despair and atrocities as they were kicked out, never relinquish controls.... Pierre


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