100 million lines of code in your car,
100 million lines of code,
If one of the lines develops a bug…
An article by IEEE indicates that a premium-class automobile “contains close to 100 million lines of software code.” The software executes on 70-100 microprocessor-based electronic control units (ECUs) networked throughout the body of your car. Even low-end cars have 30-50 ECUs embedded in the body, doors, dash, roof, trunk, seats, etc. Software controls just about everything from your brakes to the volume of your radio.
“Automobiles are no longer a battery, a distributor or alternator, and a carburetor; they are hugely modern in their complexity,” says Thomas Little, an electrical engineering professor at Boston University who is developing intelligent transportation systems. “The goals to save energy, reduce [emissions], and improve safety have driven the specialization and adoption of electronics in particular.”
And like its PC counterpart, software in automobiles continues to grow in size and complexity. For example, BMW has announced that its 2009 models will be equipped with BMW Assist system, which can notify emergency personnel not only where an accident occurred, but also the likelihood of passengers being severely injured.
The first production automotive microcomputer ECU was a single-function controller used for electronic spark timing in the 1977 General Motors Oldsmobile Toronado. In 1978, GM introduced the Cadillac Trip Computer, a modified Motorola 6802 microprocessor chip that displayed fuel, trip, and engine information. GM also used the chip to test how well a microprocessor could control critical system functions such as port fuel injection, electronic spark timing, and cruise control.
This story reminds me of an old joke…
If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:
- For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.
- Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.
- Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.
- Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.
- Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive — but would run on only five percent of the roads.
- The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single “This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation” warning light.
- The airbag system would ask “Are you sure?” before deploying.
- Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.
- Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.
- You’d have to press the “Start” button to turn the engine off.
Article published on March 9, 2009
|If you like this article, please share it:|