The Mercedes Benz S-Class has almost as many microprocessors as the new Airbus A380 passenger jetEnlarge Photo
Speaking with IEEE Spectrum, Technical University professor Manfred Broy explained that a modern luxury vehicle “probably contains close to 100 million lines of software code” all of which is processed by up to 100 microprocessors networked throughout the car.
Take for example the Mercedes Benz S-Class, the car’s radio and navigation system alone requires up to 20 million lines of code, while the car itself has almost as many microprocessors as the new Airbus A380 passenger jet.
Every year, carmakers pack their models with more and more electronic gizmos and each of these has a piece of software behind it. Features like adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, lane departure warning and engine and gearbox management are all driven by software.
Of course, the more complicated these systems get the more chance of them developing bugs, some of which could even lead to cars not being drivable. A study conducted by IBM in 2005 suggested that roughly 50% of car warranty costs were related to electronics and their embedded software, costing carmakers around $350 per vehicle. Insurance companies are also finding it cheaper, often, to write-off accident damaged cars rather than fix them because of high cost of replacing the software and electronics alone.
As for the future, experts are predicting that cars will be able to communicate with each other via a telematics infrastructure, passing on details such as traffic hotspots, accidents and even crash avoidance systems. This, however, is expected to lead to cars with upwards of 300 million lines of code.