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Technology Is Really "Moving"

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Technology has surpassed every expectation in the past few decades. Who could have predicted, even from 10 years ago let alone 30 years ago, how far we have come in our technological advancements. Computers are able to do things that to the human mind would be impossible. Calculations beyond any fathomable imagination are performed in fractions of a second. This is also true with the computers within automobiles. There are many small computer devices called modules located throughout all modern vehicles. These modules combined with delicate sensors are able to locate problems much faster than any mechanic. This combination of technology also is responsible for your engine and how it runs, as well as, the modules and sensors are used for many safety issues. The modules and sensors are an integral part of all modern day automobiles and have endless pros and possibilities.

Figure 1: Automobile Modules

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Computers are very much a part of today's automobile. There are actually quite a few little computers involved with an automobile. Most of these computers or modules involve very little memory to operate. These less involved modules really are only responsible for simple functions such as rolling up a window or locking a door. However, as simple as some functions are, the modules are responsible for a lot of important safety features that will be covered later.

Technology that was invented almost 30 years ago has actually revolutionized what we call today the "Internet". In automobiles, the modules run much like the internet or a network. All of these modules and sensors run on a network. Many of the modules wait for a signal coming from a sensor and this signal traverses the network until the signal comes to the address of the corresponding module. If the signal goes to the wrong module, that module then realizes this signal is not for me and sends it on its way. This operation is performed until the signal reaches the correct destination (Nice). The network involved in automobiles has another huge impact on the manufacturing of a vehicle. Instead of using large amounts of cable and wire, much smaller, thinner and lighter network cable connects this network all together. This again has reduced costs of manufacturing and keeps all the wires and cables in your automobile in a nice and tidy fashion.

One of the most demanding modules in the modern automobile is the ECU (Engine Control Unit). The ECU is the most memory or resource intensive computer within the automobile. It acts in a slightly different way than how the other modules work. As stated earlier, modules wait for a signal from a sensor, typically an Oxygen Sensor (O2) or the Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF), to come along the network with the module's address (Nice). If the address does not match the signal is sent on until it reaches the correct destination. The ECU, however, does not wait for a signal, it is constantly checking and re-checking the mechanical equipment and sensors it is responsible for. An example of what the ECU is responsible for is automobile performance and waste management. It calculates things like Fuel/Air ratios, which are very sensitive because the manufacturer wants peak performance out of the vehicle, while still remaining within the government standards for emission control. If there is too much fuel added to the mixture that is considered to be a rich mixture. If there is not enough fuel, this is considered to be a lean mixture. Both of which cause excess emissions into the atmosphere and with government standards being what they are today with automotive bi-products,



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