The History of the Car Computer

The car is a very complicated thing in the modern world, with a whole host of mechanical and electronic systems working together to keep the car running, and to keep its levels of operation at maximum efficiency. The engine control unit is the centerpiece of a car’s electronics, which makes millions of processes each second to make slight adjustments to the actuators depending on the information the central CPU gets from the various number of real-time sensors. This goes alongside the transmission control unit, which ensures that gear changes within automatic cars are most efficient. These car computers not only keep the car running, but minimize the amount of fuel wasted, which keeps efficiency and economy high, whilst helping to protect the environment with minimal emissions.

The cars of today present a marked contrast between now and the early days of the automobile. From the turn of the century when the first commercial automobiles emerged, to the end of the 1960’s, there were obviously no electronic components, and vehicles were designed simply and included simple and robust mechanical control parts and basic methods of control. Back then a better car meant a car with a bigger engine, more speed and more horsepower, and little heed was paid to efficiency, economy, and the environment. However, the issue of the environment, and certainly the issue of economy became more and more pronounced in the 1970’s, with the inclusion of mandates, and the notable fuel crisis of the mid 70’s.

Around the same time, electronic technology was reaching the point where it was physically able to be included in automobiles, alongside the transmission from carburetors to fuel injection, but is wasn’t until the 1980’s that electronics became practical and economic enough to be included. Control over the ignition in the interests of minimizing fuel usage drove car electronics. The first pieces of circuitry used to control spark timings where large pieces of solid state circuitry, and would need replacement every few years. By the middle of the 80’s, the industry would be founded on fuel injection completely controlled by electronics.

Naturally, as commercial electronics boomed in the 80’s and on through the 90’s, becoming smaller, cheaper and more sophisticated, on-board car computers would take on more and more functional responsibilities, sensing more and more data and controlling more and more aspects of the car engine, among other things such as braking and climate control. Indeed it was not long before the computer became the central and integral component in the car.

With the rise of the computer came the potential for customization, with access to a programmable computer providing immense control other a vehicle’s power and other variables.