My Jeep is old-school. The cable from the throttle goes to an air flap at the throttle body. I open the throttle, the flap opens. I close the throttle, the flap closes. A throttle position sensor, a mass air sensor in the air intake and two oxygen sensors on the exhaust manifolds send signals to a small computer that adjusts how much fuel gets injected by the injector. If the computer goes out, my engine don't run -- it doesn't suddenly decide to go zooming across the freeway at nine bajillion miles per hour. Same deal with my brakes. The brake pedal attaches to a hydraulic plunger. The hydraulic plunger pushes brake fluid into brake lines and forces the brake pads towards the disk. There's actually two plungers attached to my brake pedal (one in front of the other, one for the front brakes and one for the back brakes) so that if one of the brake lines gets busted, there's still two wheels that have brakes and will stop me.
All these new cars, though, they don't have that kind of old school setup. What they have at the top end of the accelerator pedal is a sensor that tells the computer how much you've pushed down the throttle. Then a motor under the hood opens or closes the throttle flap appropriately to make the car go slower or faster in the most efficient way that the computer has calculated. So if the computer decides that this flap thingy needs to be all the way open even though you've let up on the gas pedal, well, it'll do it.
Same deal with the brakes on the Prius, the Toyota that's been having the problems with braking. The Prius cars that have been having stopping problems, they don't got that old-school piston shit. They got *electric* brakes. You push on the brake pedal, and it signals a computer to start reverse-charging your battery, using the electric motor in reverse as a generator and incidentally slowing the car down. You push even harder, and an electric pump starts squirting brake fluid into the lines until the car stops. If the electric pump decides it's tired and doesn't feel like pumping, or if the computer decides the electric pump doesn't need to pump, you're fucking *screwed*.
Now, I've thought about upgrading to one of those new-school Jeeps with the electric throttle and shit. They get better gas mileage and you can fit bigger tires to them without worrying about breaking shit, because their wheel wells are bigger and their axles are sturdier. But I tell ya, there's something to be said for old school. I can't think of a damned thing that'd make the throttle stick on my hoary old Jeep, and same deal with the brakes -- yeah, old-school master cylinders wear out over time, but they fucking *give you warning* that they're going out, the brake pedal starts going down closer to the floorboard and you might have to pump the brakes, and that's when you know it's time to put another master cylinder in. But that electronic shit... when it decides it ain't gonna work, it just don't fucking *work*. Which is a big-ass problem if you're talking about *stopping*.
What we have here, ladies and gents, is a case where the geeks who programmed these cars have forgotten what the wrenches knew years before the geeks finished kindergarten: cars ain't a place to experiment with shit that could kill people if it goes wrong. I'm stickin' with my old school Jeep. Yeah, it's crude and ugly as shit, but you can fix the goddamned thing with a big fucking hammer and a pair of pliers, and it don't decide it's going to go galumphing down the freeway at a bazillion miles per hour just because some goddamned computer geek forgot to carry a digit somewhere in his code. As someone who programs computers for a living, I'm happy as a clam that the only computer in my Jeep is the one that handles the fuel squirters and spark plug sparkers. If they quit squirting and sparking, all that happens is that the Jeep stops going. Which sure the fuck is preferable to what those goddamned Toyotas with their little electric-motor-controlled throttle thingies have been doing, yessiree.
-- Badtux the Old-school Penguin