Cars and other vehicles now contain many electronic systems. These range from electronic engine management systems to achieve maximum efficiency to electronically operated airbags to protect the driver in the event of a crash. Unfortunately this leaves cars more vulnerable to electromagnetic interference. Mobile phones and passing taxi radios have been known to interfere with Anti-skid Braking Systems (ABS) and airbags, causing drivers to lose control of the car. Car ignition has been changed recently to a short high voltage spark, although better for exhaust emissions this causes wideband interference. As the car industry is very competitive, cutbacks are often made on the wiring, which increases the risk of susceptibility.
The inclusion of computers in cars for navigation purposes will also increase the susceptibility.
Automobiles are covered in the Automotive Directive; this excludes them from the EMC Directive on sub-assemblies and devices that may be sold separately from the vehicles. All of the systems in the car have to be able to work simultaneously without interference from each other; ignition interference and external radiated interference. However, interference from objects brought into the car, such as mobile phones and laptops, may have been missed out. Additionally, household electronics can be affected by cars outside, in the street or garage, which is especially relevant in houses with small front gardens.
The alarm over the recent discovery of braking problems with Toyota (NYSE:TM) automobiles has garnered a lot of attention in the news, and for good reason. After all, the once esteemed car manufacturer that could do no wrong has suddenly been found to have a flaw.
Some market analysts contend that, as Toyota scrambles to seek ways to offset the PR damage, companies like Honda (NYSE:HMC), Ford (NYSE:F), General Motors (GMGMQ.PK), Hyundai (OTC:HYMLF) and Chrysler Group will benefit from the stumbles of Toyota. However, the flaw in this case may be a problem which has existed for a long time and has been known to occur among modern devices that require a computer chip and complex electrical components. The extent of the problem is not limited to Toyota and will be revealed as such in due time. The problem is known as electromagnetic interference (EMI).
When searching the internet, you can find numerous articles that outline the long existing problem with EMI. However, it is best to start with the earliest examples of EMI. During WWII, EMI was commonly known as a gremlin who would take over the electrical system of a fighter plane wrecking havoc on the control systems, especially during thunderstorms or highly charged atmosphere. Like in the movie "Gremlins," you would never want your electrical system to get wet because the problems that you experience would "multiply." Airplanes have always been most susceptible to EMI issues due to their passage through the atmosphere.
As our world becomes designed around electronic devices, there becomes the threat that everything we rely upon is at risk of failing to an extent which is irreversible and potentially fatal. Although the threat is limited it does exist where it didn't exist before.
It is my opinion that Toyota is at the leading edge of dealing with EMI while other car manufacturers wring their hands at how to recall their vehicles before the next fatality or serious crash. In the "Study to Predict the Electromagnetic Interference for a Typical House in 2010," the author, Anita Woogara at Bristol University, says:
The long standing issues with EMI presents a challenge for those wishing for more sophisticated electronic devices in, and around, their vehicles. I suspect that Toyota will emerge from this matter in a far better position than most market analysts expect. Toyota's problems, especially with the Prius, reflect the highly advanced nature of the automobiles that they create. Anyone willing to compete against Toyota will be faced with trying to solve the EMI dilemma while integrating highly advanced electronic devices and features.
Disclosure: No positions