The first cars with microprocessor-controlled actions were rolled off the General Motors line in the late 1970s. Vehicular innovation since then has come mostly from the use of these electronic control units. Because electronic control units have a hand in controlling almost everything in modern vehicles, understanding how they work is important.
Source for this article: The basics of electronic controls as part of your vehicle By Car Deal Expert
The Basics of an Electronic Control Unit
An electronic control unit, typically called ECU, is a microprocessor implanted in a car. An individual ECU is generally coded for just one purpose. For example, an ECU controls the anti-lock brakes on a vehicle, while a separate ECU controls the lights or radio volume. Electronic control units get their info from sensors that are placed around the vehicle. Each processor is coded (sometimes with up to 50,000 lines of code) to know what to do with the raw data it is being fed from the network of sensors.
The good things about an ECU
Electronic controls in vehicles are generally integrated for one of three reasons – to make something more consistent, more efficient or easier to use. An electronic control sensor is used to help your fuel injectors make better use of the fuel your engine burns. Electronic control sensors also help airbags deploy at the right time and with the right force. ECU sensors are put into hybrid autos at about twice the density of usual, because hybrids rely so heavily on computer calculations for efficiency.
Why ECUs aren’t always great
Over half of the time and energy put into developing a new car is generally put into the electronics. Given this, it is not surprising that about 40 percent of the cost of a new car is because of the electronics. On one premium car, like a BMW, software development can easily run to the billions of dollars. Hacking is a very real danger with electronically controlled vehicles as well. In the end, the only reliable way to opt-out of an electronic control system-controlled automobile is to get a car built before the 1970s and do your best to keep it running.