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Is drive by wire technology safe?

17 Sep 2014  | Blaine Bateman

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So, does a possible issue in cold climates, affecting 0.06 per cent of vehicles sold, mean these systems are unsafe? In previous posts, I've discussed forecasts that autonomous vehicles could be on U.S. roads before 2020, and by that time, just the software part of the autonomous vehicle market could be more than $10 billion. Obviously, to get to these figures, systems even more advanced than steer by wire, throttle by wire, and the like will have to be developed and perfected. Does this seemingly inexorable march to driverless cars pose a risk to us all?

I don't think we should worry that much. In truth, cars get safer and safer, and electronics not only provide much of the features and conveniences we expect in our cars, they also have enabled most of the important current safety systems, and will do so even more in the future. Perhaps I'm naive, but I worry less about the electronics and software than I do about sensors. Sensors, you see, are the touch point for the electronics to know what is going on. As such, sensors are also exposed to the harshest environments, and may be subject to drift, damage, interference, or outright failure. And without good sensor inputs, these systems cannot operate. What do you think the largest risk is in the trend of drive by wire and eventual driverless vehicles?

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