Imagine getting in a car and driving it like you would fly an airplane in a video game arcade (or real life if you are a fighter pilot). This is a very possible scenario in the near future for vehicles, as airplanes have used this technology since the 1990’s, and “the first test of a Digital Fly-By-Wire (DFBW) system was in 1972 on a modified F-8 Crusader” (NASA). The technology being tested for cars is called drive-by-wire or by-wire. By-wire relies on electronics to control multiple vehicular operations like accelerating, braking, and turning.
Cars of today are mechanically driven. Vehicles use hydraulically driven technology, and mechanical drive shafts to perform basic driving operations. These systems work, but they are very complex. These systems also have multiple moving parts which causes wear and tear over time, even if proper maintenance is kept. Even though cars drove mechanically without much electronic technology a hundred years ago, engineers have continuously worked to incorporate computers and multiple electronic items into the cars of today and continue to do so.
By-wire technology would make cars more comfortable, safe, and better functioning once drivers become accustomed to the new way of driving. By-wire driving relies on computers and sensors to relay information and instruct the vehicle on what to do. This technology also has environmental positives as well. By-wire technology could improve fuel economy and reduce engine emissions, since it would not use as much power to perform the same tasks as traditional mechanical driving needs.
By-wire technology does not need as much energy because it would reduce the weight of vehicles significantly, because it reduces the number of bulky moving parts needed to hydraulically drive the vehicle. It also increases the accuracy of operations performed by the car itself, and reduces the amount of routine maintenance needed for mechanical purposes.
One argument against by-wire is that any system has the ability to fail regardless of testing. The worst case scenario that Howstuffworks.com presents is sensors on a brake-by-wire make a calculation error and apply the wrong amount of pressure on brakes and the vehicle either stops too late or too soon causing an accident. Knowing how airplanes work, it is possible to use braking systems of cars today and use by-wire for steering and accelerating.
Found at: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/car-driving-safety/safety-regulatory-devices/drive-by-wire2.htm
Also used: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/armstrong/news/FactSheets/FS-024-DFRC.html#.VTqHXZTF92A for NASA quote and picture