As the problems with some Toyota models continue to make the news, the electronic controls that are built into our vehicles are being looked at closely. Some are starting to wonder if our computer on wheels poses more of a hazard than we think. I don’t believe anyone will disagree that these electronic controls play an important part to the safety of today’s car. But in our quest for added safety some are questioning the ability of these computer to work properly.

In a recent article it also stated that:

In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration disclosed that Volvo was recalling late-model S80s, XC70s and XC60s because of a stalling problem linked to a software bug. The year before that, software-related stalls led to the recall of 2006 Chrysler Jeep Commanders. In 2004, Mitsubishi recalled Outlanders due to an electronic control module that could overheat and start fires. And in 2002, Volkswagen recalled Beetles, Jettas and Golfs because the brakes’ electronic controls could short-circuit and cause fires.

Now, some experts are asking whether automobile electronics — which are generally credited with improving safety — deserve more attention from government regulators to minimize the risk of trouble.

Ultimately, some people believe, cars will essentially drive themselves. That’s the idea behind a research project Volkswagen kicked off in November with Sun Microsystems and Stanford University. The team is working on what the automaker called an autonomous Audi, which “could return time to the car’s owners by taking care of routine driving chores, such as winding through a parking garage to an assigned spot each morning.”

Should consumers worry about the growing role computerized devices are assuming in their cars?

Last evening I watched a repeat of the History Channels, Titanic Achilles Heel. The basics of the program was to determine what other factors may have contributed to the sinking of the luxury liner including design flaws. Though we are familiar with the liner hitting the iceberg and suffering slight damage, the steel plates being brittle causing more damage, there was also some concern that the engineers who designed the ship may have been over zealous in their attempts to use less steel. Less steel meant a lighter design and a faster, fuel saving cruise.

The program also covered other new technologies like when U.S. merchant ships were welded together during WWII. Some of the ships broke in half. Also mentioned was one of the first U.K. passenger jets with square windows. Though stylish, they were attributed with causing cracking to the jets skin.

Yes, electronic technology is still new. But I love the fact that I am surrounded by six airbags, that my brakes are anti-lock, that electronic stability control is part of my ride and that traction control actually works on my AWD vehicle.

What about you? Do electronic controls bother you or give you a sense of safety?

Comments welcome.

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