I love Sci Fi; my favorite writer is Asimov and his robot stories.
I’ve read many stories about how in the future machines will have a mind of there own and eventually will take control over people. Is that the future? I believe it’s already happening!
Today you can buy cars with ABS, Traction Control, Computer Controlled Engines, Air Bags Systems, etc.
Did you know that in icy conditions ABS Systems can leave you WITHOUT brakes?
Did you know that an Air Bag can kill you?
Today everything in a car is controlled by a computer that is programmed to act based on input signals sent by sensors around the car and engine.
ABS function is to prevent a wheel lock up to improve braking capabilities (a locked wheel skids instead of braking)
When you use the brakes, the sensors in each wheel will detect a lock up and reduce the brake fluid pressure in the looking wheel. If you are in icy conditions it doesn’t take much to lock up a wheel, so the ABS will reduce brake pressure, often to a point when, no matter how much pressure you apply to the brake pedal, no braking action is taking place in the wheels. You have no brakes!
Another element is TRACTION CONTROL, which works detecting the opposite of ABS, if the wheels are turning to fast in relation to the vehicle speed.
In that situation the TRACTION CONTROL system reduces the amount of accelerator given to the engine to reduce power applied to the wheels to prevent them from spinning and loosing car control, no matter how much you push the accelerator pedal.
Now, some people tend to believe that having ABS and Traction Control in their cars will give them complete grip in slippery conditions, mostly motivated by car manufacturer’s publicity, but the truth is that these systems only help to get the wheels turning in direct proportion to the vehicle speed, which allow the tires to do their job, but it is dependant on the kind of tires you have what kind of traction you get.
If you don’t believe me just take a look at what kind of cars are out of the road when it is snowing: mostly cars with ABS and TRACTION CONTROL!
Several sensors around the engine detect atmospheric conditions like air temperature, air pressure, etc. and from the engine, conditions like engine temperature, throttle position, RPM’s engine load, etc. based on that information the On Board Computer decides the amount of fuel to be fed to the engine, the ignition timing applied, etc.
At one hand it’s nice since now engines work the same when hot or cold, give maximum economy and power, and because of that, can last longer, but at the other hand, if a sensor start sending wrong signals the computer takes wrong decisions and you have a rough running car with no apparent reason. Just open the hood and try to fix the problem!
Air Bags are inflated by a gas that is activated with a small explosive. This explosive is ignited with an electric current of a tension of just a fraction of a volt. If you make a wrong connection while installing a stereo, or wear synthetic clothing (that creates static electricity) you could activate the air bags, which inflate in just a fraction of a second! You’ll never know what hit you. It had happened; just read the warning labels in your car and the owner’s manual.
My point is, with today’s cars there’s no use in carrying a set of tools other that to change a flat tire; there’s nothing you can do. Today’s cars are like the robot maid in those sci fi stories that perform a great job, but when something goes wrong you have no control at all. We are becoming more and more dependant of a technology that as users we don’t understand, and when something goes wrong we have no control.
Even when you take your newer car to a trained technician for repairs what he does is plug an external computer to the one in the car to get the “codes” that indicate what the problem is, and then replace the components the external computer tells him to change, so the only thing left to create is a “walking” external computer that goes and plugs itself without the help of a technician and we have that world of robots in those sci fi stories, but for now a technician is becoming more and more like a “helper” of those “master” computers.
Personally I prefer older cars, those that you could understand and develop a friendship of some sort with them. They were like friends, they helped you all the time, and some times they needed your help. Sometimes they were moody and you had to put up with it, and some times you were moody and they respond to your state of mind.
Mi favorite car is my ’57 Isetta. I just can’t jump in it and go, have to warm it up first, treat it gently and consider how weather will affect it, but we had been in so many places, we both sweat in hot days and shake when is cold. When I need it it’s up to help me and when it needs me I can fix it. We are good friends!