Cars are becoming ever more high tech these days, as evidenced by the slew of manufacturers rushing to catch up to the new pioneer in this field – Tesla. Every week new advances are made that allow more automation, and a greater distance away from the person actually driving the car. In turn this rolls down to everyday consumer cars more and more with each model, with the inevitable conclusion that sooner or later we wont be driving at all!
But is this a good thing? Well, in the majority of cases yes, as computers are far less error prone than we are as humans, but it also throws up a lot of very interesting, and some quite scary, questions. Leaving out the scary ethical side in which someone has to program a computer to make life and death decisions based on who they might crash into and who is in the car, lets look at this from a purely technical standpoint. Even if in the future vehicles are completely automated, it will still require tyres to be in contact with the road and brakes to decelerate, assuming we haven’t by then invented some hydrogen powered mag-lev technology, or something equally futuristic!
Whilst tyres have been designed and tested to the point that they are incredibly durable and reliable, the same cannot be said for all brakes. This infographic from Autodoc shows all the things that can go wrong with just the pads, so add rotors and callipers, and then technology into the mix and you have one very serious variable.
This was highlighted just recently when the new Tesla model 3 was found to be underperforming on braking tests by over 30ft! This from a heavy, battery laden car that already has a lengthier braking distance that many combustion-engined cars, is not good at all. All new Tesla’s employ regenerative braking as well, so the wear on the discs and pads is therefore reduced, making this even more unlikely to be a wear issue. Tesla claim it is the result of a faulty ABS algorithm, and plan to fix it by simply rolling out a firmware update!
The state of technology today is both fascinating and terrifying in equal measure, and to think that a braking issue on such a modern car could both be caused and solved by code is truly mind boggling. Give me a little bit of analogue control any day!