Recently we've read or heard that Toyotas and Hondas are being recalled for faulty electronic parts and this as well as that, but all the problems reported by Toyota and Honda are happening in America and nowhere else. This actual debacle could actually be caused by 'patriotic' Americans who do not want to see any Japanese company cause American cars companies to close shop. So they create issue after issue till the sales of Japanese cars drop and the American public will resort to buying American metal (or sometimes called junk) again. Conspiracy or not, I think I have to tell you readers out there that cars nowadays are now as unpredictable as they once were in the early 1900s and that we're entering another dark age of automobiles due to electronics and technology.
In those days people were upgrading from horses to automobiles. Almost everything didn't work out right. They tried steam engines which were bulky, cumbersome and especially unreliable. And these horseless carriages took over one whole minute to start. Then the inventors tried the internal combustion engine and found out that this was the way to go. But starting the car was a hassle as in the early days, cars had no starter motor. It was like witchcraft. Or like when you called the rain maker to call for rain. You prayed, did some mumbo jumbo ritual and then pray some more so that your car would start when you turned the hand crank. This would basically happen every time you wanted to go somewhere and improper cranking could result in the engine backfiring, and would turn the hand crank the other way. If you weren't careful, your arm could be broken by this. The ride was also horrid on those spindly tires and before the 1930s there was no standardization of the transmission, meaning you had to operate the gears in unfathomable ways or the Force in order to get at the controls. If you've ever witnessed or seen a video of someone giving instructions on how to change gears on a Ford Model T you'd know what I mean.
But nowadays, a hundred years after having suffered from problems of early automobiles we're having another round of unpredictability due to electronics. Look at the debacle Toyota landed themselves into with their drive by wire throttle/accelerator combo. I sometimes wonder how can we trust electronics in taking over most of the functions in our cars. The accelerator pedal is now drive by wire, the climate control electronic, the seat adjustment by electric motors and now there are electronic sensors that supposedly keeps the cars in lane, detecting drowsiness and detecting sudden braking by the cars up front. And we are supposed to trust in all these electronic gizmos?
How can I feel secure in putting my hands into driver assisting electronics if Toyota recently recalls their cars over their stuck throttle pedal issue or that Honda over faulty power window controls (that may turn the Honda driver into a flambe) regardless whether the fault is true or made up? What makes you think that the lane assist system in your Teutonic vehicle wouldn't take a short holiday due to some electronic glitch? Or that the USB interface in your car decided that it suddenly refused to open the IPod as it hates playing Barry Manilow. The cars being recalled are basically doing personal computer favourite, which is crash and hang up the whole system. Even to this day our laptops or desktops with will occasionally fail to do what we want it to do. Even the 5 month old notebook I use had recently crashed.
You see, our personal computers crash occasionally and this would mean that our electronic gizmo filled cars would obviously do the same too. And that is what's happening to Toyotas, Hondas and a few other manufacturers nowadays. Maybe when we realize this fact, we would either:
- ignore such electronic faults, keep buying the cars and pray that there's no recalls for the model you bought; or
- decide to return to the stone age and build everything without electronic gadgets except for electronic fuel injection which does not seem to fail most of the time; or
- expect car manufacturers to build cars like aircraft, with two or three backup units for every single electronic item. Aircraft systems are sometimes be quadruplexed (four independent channels) in order to prevent loss of signals in the case of failure of one or even two channels. This is so they don't crash every time there is a system failure.
So could it be possible for car manufacturers to build a fail safe backup into each car like in an airplane? They could. But then they would pass the buck back to the customers. Obviously the customers still bear the brunt of all additional costs. Furthermore I do not think consumers would be willing to stop buying cars with all the newer creature comforts. So it would be confirmed that electronics are here to stay. So it's either car owners end up hurt, panic stricken, or end up quite dead trying to stop a faulty car with tons of electronics that do not work; or end up paying for a car that costs more as it has additional fail safes in their cars so that it will ensure that they don't wake up very dead after an accident brought about by some electronic problem.
Its a win-win situation for car manufacturers isn't it?
- Back-up systems in this aircraft make it safe to fly. Back-up systems in our cars? Cheaply?