Thursday Trivia

Thirsday Trivia Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars! This week’s question: What was the first production car sold that offered throttle-by-wire? If you think you know the answer, make the jump and see if you’re right. Think about all of the aspects of automobile operation that were once wholly mechanical that today are controlled by electronics. The earliest cars required ignition timing to be managed directly by the driver, often by way of a lever on the steering wheel. Now that’s just part of what the ECU manages, typically making thousands of micro-adjustments every second. Similarly, the control of gear selection has shifted over time from a purely mechanical connection between operator and cogs to once again computer control. BMW7Series-E32--779_3Perhaps the most alarming disconnect between driver and actual operation of the vehicle is in the automation of steering, and today we have cars that can park themselves, and some which can seemingly manage to make long road trips even more mind-numbing by taking control of lane position. Add to that radar-controlled speed and collision avoidance—also managed by the car’s brain instead of yours—and you’ve now become a passenger. One of the problems with electronic control over direct human interaction has always been the feel. Car makers have been able to engineer indirect operation, but often getting the electronics to work with the same fluidity or ease as a human operator has been elusive. One place where they seemed to have nailed it—and surprisingly so owing to its importance to the operation of the car—is the use of throttle by wire. Of course, we’ve now had that for almost two decades, and the company that pioneered the feature is known for their engineering prowess. From PicoAuto:

The throttle cable has almost become redundant on today’s motor vehicle. The drive-by-wire system is by no means a new concept as it was introduced by BMW on their 7 series range back in 1988. The system BMW use is referred to as EML (German term for electronic throttle control). The system has now found its way onto other vehicles with humbler routes and can be found on base models. Historically a mechanical linkage between the accelerator pedal and the throttle butterfly has always existed, be it via a cable or via rods and linkages. These have now been replaced by sophisticated electronic control modules, sensors and actuators. This system is also referred to ‘Fly-by-Wire

When I was a kid I had a drive-by-wire car. It was made by Tyco and it ran in a slotted track that I usually set up in an over-ramping figure eight layout. Remarkably, the electronic throttle control in today’s cars isn’t all that far off in function of that of the traditional slot car go-handle. Of course most of today’s cars have even more electronic controls stuffed into them, and hence don’t even need a slot to say on course. Image: AutoEvolution

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