Cars' smarts go through the roof
Q I was wondering just how smart new cars are, computer-wise. Are they as smart as my smartphone or laptop?
— Gene Lathrop
AModern cars and trucks are super-smart. They adapt to driver styles, environmental conditions and degraded component operation to provide the smoothest acceleration, idle and shifts. Your power-train control module, or PCM, scrutinizes each transmission shift, looking at the rate of rpm change on input and output shafts. If it's not perfect, hydraulic pressure is adjusted for the next clutch application.
The PCM looks at a huge number of engine inputs to infer exhaust emission compliance. Should anything come to light that could mean emission levels will be exceeded, the dreaded “check engine” light is illuminated and a code is set indicating close to the exact cause.
The climate-control system shares information with the navigation and safety systems to determine your course, time of day, sun load and sun position, and where people are sitting. Adjustments are made to left, right or rear air temperature delivery to compensate for cabin temperature. Built-in diagnostics monitor components' function.
Your safety systems are another area brimming with smarts. Seat sensors indicate occupant weight and position to control airbags. If a passenger slumps against the door, perhaps napping, the side curtain airbag is told to stand down in a crash. Collision-mitigation and cruise-control systems benefit from forward scanning radar. If a threat or insufficient vehicle spacing becomes imminent, vehicle power reduction and braking may be automatically called to action. Lane-departure systems use video, cameras and laser and infrared sensors as input to pattern- and object-recognition processors to determine if a driver error is occurring. A stern warning, such as a tone, steering-wheel vibration or gentle steering correction will get the driver's attention and hopefully set things straight. Blind spot monitoring may use radar and cameras to keep you informed of trouble outside of your mirror's viewing area.
Probably the smartest feature I've seen is self-parking. I got a chance to play with a Lexus LS460 sedan about six years back at a Toyota technology presentation. After picking some really cramped and less-than-ideal parking spots — I wouldn't have tried them manually even in a smaller car — the system would steer brilliantly into them, or politely refuse. Silly and expensive, perhaps, but you have to marvel at the smarts!
Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at email@example.com; he cannot make personal replies.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Women encouraged to become engineers
- Shift in what powers the grid raises concerns about fuel diversity
- Mylan closes $5.3B tax-lowering deal with Abbott Labs
- Free-market thinker Hall to lead Congressional Budget Office
- Highmark lays off nearly 100 workers, mostly in IT, as membership declines
- Easier home loan rules worry some
- Wolf tax proposal puts Beaver County Shell plant at risk, gas group head says
- Rue21 adjusts for tough market
- Unruly photo collection? Get it under control with organizing program
- Giant Eagle to close all 8 Good Cents locations
- Severance tax on natural gas drilling backed by Pa. voters