Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Havoc Cosmic Rays play with your Car

Cosmic rays come from outer space - NASA

Cosmic rays can raise havoc with your automobile by messing up the computer chip's that control your car’s functions including the computer chip that makes that controls your speed. It is possible that this is the cause of so many recalls in the past because the automobile manufacturers are not familiar with the effect of cosmic rays on their computer chips.

This may not be as crazy as it sounds because cosmic radiation has been known to wreck havoc on many computer chips. There are scientists that think this might be one cause of unintended acceleration and many other problems that car owners have been reporting since last year when the automaker's had to recall more than 7.7 million cars, The engineers who are investigating this problem are still trying to figure out the cause.

This has even been brought to the attention of the federal government who is beginning to take this possibility seriously. This was after a tip they received suggesting the design of one manufacturer’s chips, processors and software could cause them to be especially vulnerable to the effects of cosmic radiation.

A sports car with its hood open
Photo by Greg Gjerdingen

According to a survey taken by USA Today finds that speed control problems are the most mentioned by owner’s complaints to authorities.  One manufacture, Toyota is not alone in facing this threat; today electronic components are playing an ever-increasing role in controlling our cars, so realistically this could happen to any car.

According to one source, a researcher at TRIUMF, a cyclotron located in Vancouver, British Columbia radiation from space could well be the root of the problem. The real question is what Toyota and other automobile manufacturers doing about this problem of cosmic rays for finding a correction.

It is entirely possible that the high-energy particles found in cosmic rays can cause a glitch or alter a signal passing through a computer chip. This is called a single event upset that can be anything from loss of data to a function being corrupted. A circuit that is designed to carry out an innocent action may be reprogrammed by one of these particles to do something that its manufacture never intended, like sudden acceleration.

The author owns a different brand of car, then underwent a sudden acceleration while waiting in line for the traffic to move. Before he could stop the car it had already smashed into the car in front of it, fortunately causing no damage, except that the driver of the other car became quite upset.


Toyota's recall woes may have begun in outer space, Chuck Squatriglia, 3.29/10,

1 comment:

  1. Interesting idea, John! Magnetism may also have something to do with it, the interaction of cosmic rays and magnetism may create additional unexpected effects. I had an occurrence with a 1989 Oldsmobile that accelerated like that, overheated the brakes and kept on going at full acceleration. This is serious stuff-if I had been on a busy highway, there would have been serious consequences. The motor shut down somehow by itself--after it buried the needle at something like 160km/hr without incident. It restarted like normal and the car was 'just fine'.