Driven by code

Mar 24 2016

Driven by code

Every Automotive expert knows that modern cars are getting more and more complex and electronically controlled. These developments will certainly continue to re-shape the industry. The times to just be a good mechanic are truly over. Computer controlled vehicles require expert technicians. Even lower-end cars have more than 3-50 ECUs embedded and the number is steadily growing to increase safety, convenience, ‘connect’ the cars and to reduce emissions.

So just how sophisticated are the modern vehicles? New high-end cars  are among the most sophisticated machines on the planet.*

Many different parts and features from windscreen sensors to engine control to satellite roadside assist work because its operating software. This software who tells all the parts and features to operate is customized and copyright code. Software code is now integral to all systems. Under each bonnet are the real brains of the vehicle: the engine control unit (ECU), a computer attached to the side of the motor that governs performance, fuel efficiency and emissions – and the gateway to the code.

“Cars these days are reaching biological levels of complexity,” said Chris Gerdes, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University.*

The sophistication of new car technology brings plenty of benefits — forward-collision warning systems and automatic emergency braking that keep drivers safer for example. But with new technology comes new risks — and new opportunities for bad intentions like the danger of hacking or the Volkswagen scandal has shown.

It also throws up questions around ownership of the vehicles with that much code. Code and software is subject to copyright. The car manufacturer owns the copyright on that code and that software, which is integral to all systems.  So the purchase or use of that car is a licensing agreement. So the question arises on who owns and allows or disallows certain uses or access to that software or functionality. And who will regulate all the legalities around this aspect?

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