IF you haven't been in a new car lately, you might want to take a look at the dashboard of the new Chevrolet Corvette or Berlinetta - or any other racy new car now making tracks on the road.
Electronics is arriving in new cars with a vengeance, and cars aren't likely to be the same again.
Large numbers tell the exact miles or kilometers per hour at the flick of a switch. Numbers also quickly tell the exact temperature of the radiator coolant or oil. Numbers also tell the amount of fuel in the tank, in either gallons or liters, and how far you can go on the fuel still left in the tank.
All of this is appearing on some car lines now and will likely spread even more in the coming years.
Jerome Rivard, chief engineer in Ford's electrical and electronics division, says the carmaker's fourth-generation electronic engine control, EEC-IV, is now on two-thirds of all Ford products. EEC-IV is essentially a 16-bit microprocessor with a companion memory chip and is made with high-performance metal-oxide semiconductor technology, Mr. Rivard explains.
On the 1984 Continental Mark VII, he says, the instrument cluster uses two colors, blue and yellow, in a vacuum-fluorescent display, showing the speed, fuel, and mileage. But it also contains extensive self-diagnostics, including memory-retention, to pick up intermittent problems.
Electronics is reaching into areas that the original Henry Ford, a nonstop tinkerer to the end, would be delighted with.