Toyota's woes: More technology, more complexity

Today, cars can have as many as 70 electronic control units, or ECUs, based on microcontrollers (sometimes generically referred to as microprocessors). ECUs manage engines, doors, transmissions, seats, and entertainment, and climate systems. Electronic throttle systems use an array of sensors, microcontrollers, and electric motors to control how the car is accelerated. Gone are the old steel cables to connect the driver's foot to the engine. Because of all of this added complexity and the need for chips to talk to each other, a bus system was introduced--not unlike the Peripheral Component Interconnect, or PCI bus used in virtually all PCs today. Called the Controller-area network, or CAN-bus, it is designed to allow microcontrollers and devices to communicate with each other within a vehicle. Click the title for the main commentary!

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