Tech Thursday

Tech Thursday: Chill Zone

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

It was 103 degrees with high humidity where I live yesterday, so you’ll have to forgive me for posting about Dodge’s “Chill Zone” technology, which is a standard feature of the 2008 Dodge Avenger, at all trim levels, among other models from that maker.

If you’ve missed the recent news about the survey Dodge conducted as part of the marketing campaign for this, the information you need is this: 26% of Americans don’t use their glove compartment at all, 72% do use it, but not for actual gloves, and most Americans keep things like insurance info, sunglasses, tissues and flashlights in the glove box.

Enter Dodge. They’ve added a compartment to the lower front of the glove box, and chilled it with dedicated a/c vents. It can hold up to four standard soda cans, and keep them cool for you.

Now, I’m all for having cold beverages during long, hot summer drives, but I have to wonder if anyone is ever going to make a chilled glove box that is capable of holding and cooling a standard 17.5 oz. bottle of water.

Traction Control

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never completely understood the difference between traction control and stability control, especially since some cars have both, some have one or the other, and some don’t have either. I looked it up, recently, and thought I’d share.

First, it’s important to understand traction control and stability control are not the same thing. Typically, at least on newer cars, traction control is an electro-hydraulic system designed to prevent traction-loss under excessive steering or throttling by the driver.
To do this, it shares actuators and sensors with the anti-lock braking system.

There is a list, actually, of what traction control can do:

  1. Brake wheels (one or more)
  2. Suppress the spark to the cylinders (one or more)
  3. Reduce the fuel supply to the cylinders (again, one or more)
  4. On drive-by-wire cars, it can close the throttle
  5. On turbo-charged cars, it can actuate the boost control solenoid to reduce boost, which in turn reduces engine power

That’s all very well and good, but how does it apply to actual driving? Here are some examples:

  • On street vehicles, traction control helps regulate throttle input to prevent spinning when accelerating in snow or on wet pavement.
  • In race cars, it allows the greatest amount of acceleration possible without wheel spin, and maintains an optimum slip angle when drivers accelerate out of a turn.
  • Off road, traction control can be used with or in place of mechanical locking differential, slowing spinning wheels with quick bursts of brake pressure, and providing more torque to non-spinning wheels, which makes controlling the vehicle easier.
  • While cornering, helps prevent front-wheel drive cars from reaching the point where the wheels can’t steer and drive, or, if the wheels do lose their gripping ability, it can help keep the car stable. (In rear-wheel-drive cars, it can prevent oversteer.)

Traction control, by the way, can trace it’s roots all the way back to Positraction, a kind of limited slip differential used in older high-powered cars with rear wheel drive.

It should, however, never be taken for granted or allowed to encourage driving in dangerous conditions.

Tech Thursday: MyGig

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

If you read car reviews at all, you’ve probably noticed the phrase “MyGig” coming up in the options lists for Chrysler (and Dodge, and Jeep) cars. But do you know what it is?

Based on what is essentially a 20Gb hard drive embedded into your car, MyGig includes a USB jack, two audio outputs, and a line-in jack in addition to the standard AM/FM radio, as well as a DVD/CD player, and a 6.5-inch touch-screen with voice command recognition. There’s also a SIRIUS Satellite Radio (and it’s just a chip in the radio instead of a separate unit) and Bluetooth capability for hands-free phone use.

Part of that 20Gb hard drive is dedicate to holding navigation software, but the rest of it is yours to use. The system will let you rip CDs directly to the hard drive, or you can use the USB port to transfer music or pictures, all of which can be played back through the system.

The first appearance of the MyGig package was on the 2007 Chrysler Sebring, but it will eventually be available on most other models as well.

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