Earlier I wrote about cars becoming more complex and the need for increasingly complex diagnostics.
I've said it before; while we specialize in European and exotics we have a love for all things cars, no matter what they are. We have a classic 1930's V8 Ford in the shop and I was struck by the beauty and simplicity of the flat top engine and the lack of a single 'electronic' system. Contrast that with a modern car and almost every system from the engine to the power windows is computer controlled.
Every computer system in a modern car is controlled by lines of code and I thought a small comparison of other vehicles and systems was in order.
Lets start with a vehicle that was part of one of the most complex undertaking ever - the Apollo moon landings guidance computer. It had somewhere around 40,000 lines of code and took the equivalent of almost a decade of 'person years' to develop. The famed error message that got Neil Armstrong to take over manually was actually the computer telling him it was doing its job and was overloaded and it would focus on the main task of landing. A quote from Margaret Hamilton, Director of Apollo Flight Computer Programming MIT Draper Laboratory adds a bit of perspective:
"Due to an error in the checklist manual, the rendezvous radar switch was placed in the wrong position. This caused it to send erroneous signals to the computer. The result was that the computer was being asked to perform all of its normal functions for landing while receiving an extra load of spurious data which used up 15% of its time. The computer (or rather the software in it) was smart enough to recognize that it was being asked to perform more tasks than it should be performing. It then sent out an alarm, which meant to the astronaut, I’m overloaded with more tasks than I should be doing at this time and I’m going to keep only the more important tasks; i.e., the ones needed for landing…"
As time progressed systems got more complex - the space shuttle contained about 4 hundred thousand lines of code. For comparison even in the 1990s Windows 3.1 had around 2.5 million lines. Yes, that included code later in 1996 that gave rise to one of the most awful things ever created - Clippy. The abominable Microsoft, 'helpful', paperclip that is a story all on its own as to what happens when engineers ignore focus groups, but I digress.
Almost every device you have used has some form of coding behind it and the chart below gives some idea of the growth and variety of devices that use it
I can hear you - many of you are asking what that has to do with modern cars? The truth is that average modern car software has well over 100 million lines of code, everything from closed source Windows mobile operating systems to (somewhat) open source Linux based code and Android. Much of that code goes into infotainment systems but a great deal of it is used in engine management, ABS, cruise control, and an endless list of systems and sensors.
To be fair - more code does not make something more efficient or even better (I'm looking at you clippy) but it does give some perspective about the amount of sophistication in a modern car compared to other systems around it.
So from the moon to modern cars, complex systems manage and guide modern vehicles with a level of sophistication that also requires extensive diagnostics and knowledge. We get all of the benefits and technology associated with the systems from horsepower to better fuel mileage. I haven't even gone into the next level depths of vehicles like Tesla or the all electric offerings of Mercedes and others but I can say this:
For us, we love all things cars, from the classic to the contemporary, but there are times when a 'launch' just feels better on something more analog, at least in a car.
That said, one of the things we often do here at RSP is take an analog engine (like an air cooled Porsche) and add systems that stay tucked out of the way but add to the efficiency, reliability and power of an engine while leaving its original 'personality' intact. Engine tuning and fuel map adjustment just isn't possible at the same level on earlier engines and we do love to wring extra power from a modern engine by adjusting the 'tune'.
What 'launches' you? Let us know what you prefer in the comments, modern all electronic, the analog 'purity' of a classic or a hybrid combination of the two.