Automotive electronics are electronic systems used in vehicles, including engine management, ignition, radio, carputers, telematics, in-car entertainment systems and others. Ignition, engine, and transmission electronics are also found in trucks, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, and other internal combustion-powered machinery such as forklifts, tractors, and excavators. Related elements for control of relevant electrical systems are found on hybrid vehicles and electric cars as well.
Electronic systems have become an increasingly large component of the cost of an automobile, from only around 1% of its value in 1950 to around 30% in 2010.
The earliest electronics systems available as factory installations were vacuum tube car radios, starting in the early 1930s. The development of semiconductors after WWII greatly expanded the use of electronics in automobiles, with solid-state diodes making the automotive alternator the standard after about 1960, and the first transistorized ignition systems appearing about 1955.
The development of integrated circuits and microprocessors made a range of automotive applications economically feasible in the 1970s. In the early 1970s, the Japanese electronics industry began producing integrated circuits and microcontrollers for the Japanese automobile industry, used for in-car entertainment, automatic wipers, electronic locks, dashboard, and engine control. The Ford EEC (Electronic Engine Control) system, which utilized the Toshiba TLCS-12 microprocessor, went into mass production in 1975. In 1978, the Cadillac Seville fetured a “trip computer” based on a 6802 microprocessor. Electronically-controlled ignition and fuel injection systems allowed automotive designers to achieve vehicles meeting requirements for fuel economy and lower emissions, while still maintaining high levels of performance and convenience for drivers. Today’s automobiles contain a dozen or more processors, in functions such as engine management, transmission control, climate control, antilock braking, passive safety systems, navigation, and other functions.