Thursday , September 20 2018
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How Virtual Should Cars Be?

Summary:
Driving a simulated car – as in a game – is becoming more and more like driving an actual car – in reality. At least in terms of the inputs. The car in the game is steered remotely, via a gamepad. You accelerate and brake the car the same way. Soon real cars will be accelerated and braked the same way. Many already are, at least as far as acceleration. They have drive-by-wire throttle control. Your foot does not actually control the acceleration of the vehicle. A computer controls the acceleration of the vehicle. It assesses data it receives from sensors that are connected to the accelerator pedal, but there is no physical connection between your foot and the throttle. The good news is the throttle cable can’t stick with drive-by-wire.

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Driving a simulated car – as in a game – is becoming more and more like driving an actual car – in reality.

At least in terms of the inputs.

The car in the game is steered remotely, via a gamepad. You accelerate and brake the car the same way. Soon real cars will be accelerated and braked the same way. Many already are, at least as far as acceleration. They have drive-by-wire throttle control. Your foot does not actually control the acceleration of the vehicle. A computer controls the acceleration of the vehicle. It assesses data it receives from sensors that are connected to the accelerator pedal, but there is no physical connection between your foot and the throttle.

The good news is the throttle cable can’t stick with drive-by-wire. There is no throttle cable. The bad news is that the computer can “stick” – accelerating the car even though you haven’t pushed down on the accelerator pedal. Even if you’ve taken your foot off the accelerator pedal entirely.

The car industry denies this happens but there is more than a little evidence that it does or at least, has – and regardless, the fact is it can.

The problem is – what to do about it?

Which brings up related questions about other forms of drive-by-wire, including drive-by-wire brakes and steering, both of which are more than speculative problems. They are both in the works, part of the technical development of automated cars – which (ultimately) won’t have steering wheels or brake pedals – or pedals at all, for that matter.

But they are also being contemplated for non-automated cars; I.e., the cars we control. Except, we don’t, really. See the above in re drive-by-wire throttle control. We ask the car – the computer which really controls the car – to perform in a certain way. To accelerate full-on when we floor the accelerator pedal, for instance. But the computer is the Decider.

It can decide to do something . . . else.

Eric Peters
Eric Peters is a freelance car/bike/political columnist. He escaped the corporate-owned media Big Boys years ago. Without the censorship of the corporate tools

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