Vehicle Updates

4 05 2017

Dale BertramThe state of autonomous vehicles and the cybersecurity of connected cars is constantly changing, so I sometimes hesitate to report on the latest and greatest for fear it will be “old news” by the time it is published…but since some of you have been asking…here goes!

  • A company called NuTonomy is testing these vehicles in Boston even though Uber had a crash of its autonomous vehicle in Arizona in March.
  • Legislation has been reintroduced recently dealing with improved cybersecurity for cars (and airplanes). Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal’s proposal hopes to create cybersecurity and privacy standards for today’s connected vehicles, as well as a rating system for cars. Rep. Ted Lieu hopes to prevent attacks on connected cars with his introduction of the Security and Privacy in Your Car Study Act.
  • Intel Corp., wants to dominate technology for self-driving cars with plans to purchase Mobileye NV.
  • Tony Aquila of Solera Holdings is deeply concerned about vehicle owners’ privacy. If not properly protected, the detailed data from technology (including brake sensors) could be used in ways that would not benefit vehicle owners.

Some states are moving ahead with their own rules and regulations hoping that the federal government will start moving forward on such quickly.  The biggest holdup may be the old “who is liable” if things go wrong.

The change is coming… we just don’t know how quickly…





In the News!

23 03 2017

Dale BertramHere are a few interesting news items I wanted to share with my readers!

  • Traffic jams are costly, in both time and money. In the United States the average driver wastes $1200 just by sitting in traffic.
  • Virtual reality experiences may help you buy a car! Forrester predicts that by 2022, the use of a VR headset will let consumers see what it would be like to own a certain vehicle without going through the traditional test drive.
  • An artificial leaf that turns CO2 into fuel could cause fossil fuel to become obsolete! The University of Illinois is researching how to reverse the process of fossil fuels to greenhouse gas by recycling atmospheric carbon into fuel with the use of sunlight. The good news is this sustainable fuel would cost the same as a gallon of gas.
  • Michigan is testing self-driving cars at the American Center for Mobility. This is a 335-acre site strictly used for research and development of these vehicles.  The University of Michigan has a 32-acre site at MCity for the same purpose and Ford has tested vehicles there.
  • Airbus is working on a flying car prototype and hopes to demonstrate it by year’s end. Airbus says this will be a “clean” technology and will make the need for bridge and road construction obsolete, saving billons. This will be a single passenger vehicle.  Makes me think of George Jetson!

We will see where all this goes!  I’ll keep you posted as I hear more.

 

 





Self-Driving Car Updates

2 03 2017

Dale BertramHere is some news on self-driving vehicles:

  • The need to regulate what constitutes a self-driving car is moving forward as states are working to establish regulations for the testing, use and sale of these vehicles. Michigan became the first state to sign legislation. Not surprising, Ford, General Motors, Google, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Uber and Lyft helped.  This legislation allows for a car without a steering wheel or a brake pedal,  and a person does not have to be in the front seat.  Automakers are glad for a start but they prefer, of course, federal legislation rather than a state-by-state approach.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA asked manufacturers to submit a 15-point safety assessment to share what they were doing to ensure the physical safety of consumers as well as their privacy.
  • NHTSA will interpret the “self-driving system” Google has created as “the driver” rather than human occupants of the vehicle. Naturally there are a lot of legal questions when it comes to self-driving vehicles because if anything goes wrong…who is responsible?  It is difficult to “sue” a car or decide whose insurance must pay.
  • Google’s concern when it comes to safety of self-driving vehicles is the human element. They informed NHTSA that if humans try to interfere with steering, acceleration, or braking it could be a hazard to safety.  They prefer the human element be omitted completely from the equation.

We will continue to wait as the legislation is written and rewritten and meanwhile more and more advances into self-driving cars will come into play.  Will this take months or years?

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Software Glitches…Cars Aren’t Immune!

3 11 2016

Dale BertramWe love our technology…when it works properly.  Nothing is more frustrating than software when it has glitches.  Last year, software related problems in vehicles broke records.  Here is what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tells us:

  • In 2015, 615 complaints were reported by drivers to NHTSA
  • In 2016, 202 complaints have already been reported to NHTSA
  • In 2014, 505 complaints were reported to NHTSA
  • Since 2011, there have been a total of 2011 complaints filed with NHTSA

This is problematic because drivers will not want to purchase vehicles they can’t trust and the more complaints logged, the more the lack of trust builds.  This may seem like just a few complaints when we think about how many vehicles are in traffic day in and day out…but on top of the complaints there have been recalls as well.

There have been approximately 200 software-related recalls since 2015.  These recalls have affected over 13 million vehicles!  These software issues have mostly been due to powertrain, vehicle control systems, engine cooling and of course, electrical systems.

Today’s cars have much more electronic hardware than a typical home or office. It’s not unusual to have 100 million or more lines of software code operating all the systems in our cars. Sadly, glitches are proving to be the new normal. On average, there’s an error in as many as one in every five lines of code, something that can prove not just inconvenient but potentially deadly for car buyers.  This is very costly, not to mention embarrassing for automotive manufacturers as well.

Experts warn that rising recalls and consumer complaints need to be taken as a warning. Until the industry can track and fix these glitches swiftly, before accidents occur, consumers will not feel comfortable with the latest and greatest in vehicle technology.

The next questions is, can we feel comfortable with autonomous vehicles when we currently have software glitches like these?  Time will tell.

To find out more about the future of vehicles, visit our website at www.fairwayautorepair.com!

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CAN System…Your Car Has One!

25 08 2016

Dale BertramI have written articles many times about the fact that your car is really a computer on wheels. They have up to 100 million lines of computer code and that is more than many jet fighters!  The most basic of vehicles have a minimum of 30 microprocessor-controlled devices.  We call these ECU’s (electronic control units). Luxury cars can have 100 ECU’s!

These processors make it difficult for the average person to work on their own vehicle but it makes it easier for auto repair shops, such as Fairway Auto Repair, as they have made an investment in the right equipment and diagnostic tools in order to translate trouble codes and determine what is actually wrong with your vehicle.

What do all these ECU’s do?  They help meet emissions and fuel-economy standards, do diagnostics, simplify design and manufacturing, reduce wiring, provide safety features, comfort and convenience.

Controlling your vehicle’s engine is the most processor-intensive job and the engine control unit is the most powerful computer in your vehicle. It gathers data from dozens of various sensors and knows all that is going on.  It performs millions of calculations per second. The processor in your car runs more efficient code than that in your PC.

Each module communicates problems to a central module.  The problem is stored and then a technician can read the code using an off-board diagnostic tool.  There seems to be more and more technology going into our vehicles each year so more and more computer code will be necessary.  This is all part of keeping our environment cleaner and reducing the amount of accidents.  As we are moving toward the commercialization of the self-driving car we will find this will increase a great deal.

The CAN (Controller Area Network) also known as CAN Bus enables all the electronic control units to communicate with each other…without a host computer.  This lets the vehicle’s electronic components; control units, microcontrollers, devices, sensors, actuators, and many more talk to each other on a single or dual-wire network.

Your engine management electronic control unit is connected to the transmission electronic control unit, which is connected to the anti-lock braking electronic control unit, and so on!  There are essentially two wires involved; a CAN High and a CAN Low. Why is this important?  They act as a backup for each other in case one fails.  This is why your car can continue to run just fine with the check engine light illuminated.

This is also why we tell you not to keep on driving miles and miles with the check engine light on…it really is telling you that your car needs attention.  You are already down to one wire…if the other one fails you have a problem!  Next time your check engine light illuminates, make an appointment and let our diagnostic technicians get your car back to excellent heath.

Our job at Fairway Auto Repair is to keep Phoenix drivers safe while they are on the go!  To find out more about your vehicle, visit us at www.fairwayautorepair.com!

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How Will Phoenix Be Commuting in the Future?

23 06 2016

Dale BertramThere is a lot of noise out there about the cars of the future.  As a child, I often dreamed of flying around in a car like George Jetson’s.  We are still waiting for that to be the normal mode of transport.  What do we have?

  • Gasoline Engine: This old standby is popular because even though we often have reason to complain about gasoline prices, the cost to buy an electric or battery operated vehicle is much higher than the cost to buy a gasoline powered car.  Gas pumps are everywhere as well so you don’t have to map your route based on charging stations. The gasoline engine is still the most convenient, economical form of transport.
  • Electric/Battery Cars: We hear a lot about this “clean” driving. It is great for the environment but the high cost makes it a tough sell.  Out of the 17 million new cars sold in 2015, only 115,000 were non-gasoline…and those were mostly battery or plug-ins.
  • Autonomous Cars: These sophisticated alternatives to the gasoline engine are all the talk right now.  If the manufacturers can move past the software glitches these cars could be very attractive to drivers…if the price is right and they can learn to trust a vehicle without a steering wheel.  A great deal of money is being allocated towards these vehicles to third party software experts.  Tests are ongoing at this time…on our roads!
  • Shared Rides: In metropolitan areas this is catching on.  Many consumers have decided to give up the hassle of car ownership and thanks to Uber and Lyft and Zipcar, commuters aren’t having to shell out the big dollars to take a taxi.  It is a growing industry but it will be a while before it is available nationwide and these companies are having some hassles along the way.

The race to find the most efficient and affordable vehicle has been going on for a very long time.  Steam, crank and other resources have at one time or another been created and tested.  The first electric vehicles were being tinkered with in the 1830’s and the first gasoline in the 1870’s.  We will just have to keep working on finding the best mode of transportation for us and our environment!

To find our more, visit our website at www.fairwayautorepair.com!

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The Check Engine Light

2 06 2016

Dale BertramYour car has many computers that monitor your engine for the best performance; your transmission for proper shifting, your braking system for safe stopping, and they also monitor many other devices to make sure they are working properly. If a system detects a problem, it needs to alert you, so you can bring your car in to Fairway Auto Repair for service. This is the role of the check engine light.

The check engine light looks different from car to car, but it’s always a yellow or orange color, usually with a picture of an engine. If the check engine light comes on solid (not blinking), you can continue to drive the car until you have a chance to bring it in. This does not mean you should ignore it.

When the check engine light is on, the car defaults to a backup system that controls all the important systems. Driving around for a short time until you can set up an appointment is no problem, but continuing to drive more than 20 miles is a bad idea.  However, if the check engine light is blinking rhythmically, there is a serious problem; a computer system has had a major malfunction that will damage the catalytic converter. If you notice a blinking check engine light, you do not need to stop in the middle of the bridge and call a tow truck, but you do need to stop driving as soon as practical. Whether the check engine light is solid or blinking, it’s a good idea to drive gently.

The modern car is more complex than ever, the old plug in a code reader to get a code doesn’t give as much information as it did in older makes. I recommend a full system or health scan to check the computer and modules in the system.

Here is an example. We had a late model Ford come in with a driving issue. We did a quick code read and found no codes, but when we did a health scan, we found several codes that related to the transmission. We were able to fix the car and all was well.

The technicians at Fairway Auto Repair are well trained.  Our mission is to keep Phoenix drivers safe on our roads! To find our more check out our website at http://www.fairwayautorepair.com.

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