Binary Day: computers and car technology

Today is Binary Day: the 10th October 2010: or put another way: 101010 and we’ve posted this message at 10:10 – just to emphasize the point – so really it’s 1010101010! (Though astute readers will see that the full code for today at this time is actually 101020101010)! Or for fans of the books of Douglas Adams – especially Life the Universe and Everything – you will already know the Ultimate Answer to everything is “42” which in Binary translates as 101010 – so today is quite significant no matter what way you look at it!

Blue Matrix Abstract -  binary code Digital background - big size

Binary is a two-digit (Base-2) numerical system, which computers use to store data and compute functions (Digits 1 and 0). With that in mind – and the day that’s in it – we wanted to briefly consider how computers have influenced car technology. These days buyers of vehicles will be aware that one of the most striking things about todays cars are the range of technological extras that vehicles now incorporate – often as standard: electric adjustable seats, heated seats, MP3 connection, built-in Satellite Navigation systems, electric windows, parking impact sensors, air conditioning units often with dual-zone control, and things are getting more advanced with the introduction (as in the 2010 Volvo S60) of “Pedestrian Detection” which automatically applies the brakes if a pedestrian is detected in front of the car and the driver does not react in time.

Key fobs too are programmable with Smart Key Systems allowing the driver to start the car simply by pressing “Start/Stop”. Computers have also impacted on engine technology: particularly modern diesel engines which have been purified to such an extent that they’ve become the engine of choice for many of us who are concerned for the environment. Diesels vehicles often have  computer-controlled direct injection where the car’s onboard computer takes readings from sensors, such as the throttle position and engine speed, and carefully regulates  fuel supply, which is injected directly into the combustion chamber. Also diesels do not require spark plugs as the fuel ignites automatically when mixed with hot air.

Another innovation is common-rail technology whereas older diesels had separate fuel lines from the pump to each injector and the pressure and injection timing were dependant on the engine speed: the modern common-rail systems unite all the injectors on a single feed line and operate independently of engine speed. The fuel supply can therefore be precisely managed by the onboard computers.

Of course these are just some examples of how technology has enhanced the physical mechanics of the motor vehicle and readers of this blog will recall we recently looked at some future concepts for production vehicles. And last week we considered the impact of another technology – telematics – in road vehicles.

Therefore no matter which future concepts enter production or where future industry developments lead we’re all quite sure that technology will continue to grow and develop and to compliment the motor vehicle industry in the same way as it has always done. And in many cases those developments will commence with the simplest of digits: 1 and 0.

0 thoughts on “Binary Day: computers and car technology

  • I wonder with all the IT stuff going into cars will they begin crashing in the same way computers do? Will that mean we have to come up with a new term for crashes?

  • hi Hazel! I hope not! The good news is that cars are getting safer, not just after a crash (in the way they protect passengers with airbags and the like) but also in the way they assist in preventing crashes – with innovations like anti-collision systems! As for the name, well, we’ll have to see …

  • It will be an interesting day when a car has to be actually rebooted before it will drive.
    I wonder which manufacturer will be the first to suffer that embarrassment?

  • actually, that’s not so far fetched: cars can suffer engine management problems resulting in reduced performance: particularly modern diesel engines which can be chip managed: so a complete system failure is probably already possible

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