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Chapter 1. Riddles for the Information A... > What Do You Get When You Cross a Com...

What Do You Get When You Cross a Computer with a Car?

A computer! Porsche's beautiful high-tech sports car, the Boxster, has seven computers in it to help manage its complex systems. One of them is dedicated to managing the engine. It has special procedures built into it to deal with abnormal situations. Unfortunately, these sometimes backfire. In some early models, if the fuel level in the gas tank got very low—only a gallon or so remaining—the centrifugal force of a sharp turn could cause the fuel to collect in the side of the tank, allowing air to enter the fuel lines. The computer sensed this as a dramatic change in the incoming fuel mixture and interpreted it as a catastrophic failure of the injection system. To prevent damage, the computer would shut down the ignition and stop the car. Also to prevent damage, the computer wouldn't let the driver restart the engine until the car had been towed to a shop and serviced.

When owners of early Boxsters first discovered this problem, the only solution Porsche could devise was to tell them to open the engine compartment and disconnect the battery for at least five minutes, giving the computer time to forget all knowledge of the hiccup. The sports car may still speed down those two-lane blacktop roads, but now, in those tight turns, it behaves like a computer.


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