beanz Magazine

Automobile Computers

Intel Free Press on Flickr

For twenty years, since 1996, cars have used computers to control different parts of the car.

You might wonder, why computers in cars? Computers are more reliable and use fewer wires than mechanical equivalents.

The computers, however, are not desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone computers we’re used to. They’re micro computers more like a Raspberry Pi, a set of chips with software loaded into memory. Each computer talks to other computers connected together into a network.

Several network types are used in cars based on what they control. For example, important controls like the dashboard, navigation, and engine use a Computer Area Network (CAN) with messages passed back and forth. Each computer in a CAN is able to process messages. Controls like turn signals don’t require complicated robust networks like CAN. They use a Local Interconnect Network (LIN) which has a master computer connected to subordinate computers, called slaves. There are other networks in cars, for example, a network to manage safety devices and newer types like FlexRay.

 

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