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Types of Electronic Controllers in a Vehicle

Updated on December 26, 2012

We now understand how computers, sensors and actuators work together in a vehicle. Now we will go a step further to understand the types of computers / controllers which can be found in a vehicle.

If you missed my last hub on this subject then you can go through it by clicking here....

There are up to 80 controllers that can be found in a vehicle today, therefore the list has been divided into sections, categories and sensors. This hub will give a brief about the sections and categories of vehicle controllers. An in-depth scanner such as the Carman Scan VG has a similar menu system when you connect to a vehicle.

Sections of Controllers in a Vehicle
Sections of Controllers in a Vehicle | Source


The vehicle has been divided over time into sections. These section names used to be the actual names of the controller but with the advancement of technology we get more and more features in a vehicle therefore the names have remained as section names and have been broken down into small and more manageable chunks or categories. A list of the sections found in a vehicle are listed below followed by a brief description of the controllers (categories) associated with them.

1. Powertrain Control

2. Body Electronics

3. Driver Information Systems

4. Chassis

5. ´╗┐Safety

6. ´╗┐Automotive Networking

Now on to a brief description of each and the controllers associated with the section.

Chevrolet Camaro Powertrain
Chevrolet Camaro Powertrain | Source

Powertrain Control

In older vehicles they used to have a single controller that controlled both the engine and the transmission. The system was not as complicated as it is today.

In the earlier days the computer was called a Powertrain Control Module (PCM). Now the components of the PCM have been divided into the following categories or separate modules.

  1. Engine Control
  2. Hybrid and Electric Auxiliaries
  3. Transmission Control

The module names are self-explanatory therefore i will not be describing them. I will be adding hubs later for each control module and the sensors that work with the module.

Body Electronics
Body Electronics

Body Electronics

The Body or Body Electronics section deals with all the kinds of electronics available to the driver. Some of the main modules or controllers which can be found in the body electronics section are listed below.

  1. Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
  2. Automotive Lighting
  3. Doors, Window Lift and Seat Control

Instrument Cluster of a Mustang GT
Instrument Cluster of a Mustang GT | Source

Driver Information Systems

The driver information module contains the following categories.

  1. Infotainment
  2. Telematics
  3. Instrument Cluster

Chassis Control Area (excluding engine)
Chassis Control Area (excluding engine) | Source


The Chassis is basically the foundation of the vehicle or what's hiding under the body. The following controllers are associated with the chassis section.

  1. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)
  2. Braking Systems
  3. Electronic Power Steering
  4. Semi Active Suspension

Safety Control
Safety Control | Source


Safety being a major component in today's vehicles has more controllers than any other section. A list of controllers in the saftety section are listed below.

  1. Airbag
  2. Electronic Stability Control
  3. Adaptive Cruise Control
  4. Lane Departure
  5. Pre-Crash
  6. Blind-spot Detection
  7. Back-up Warning

Automotive Networks
Automotive Networks | Source

Automotive Networking

This is the networking of all the controllers in a vehicle so the controllers can share sensor information working together as a unit and not as islands of information. There are 2 common types of automotive networking techniques.

  1. Controller Area Network (CAN)
  2. Local Interconnect Network (LIN)


The controllers described in this hub are the major controllers found in almost all recent vehicles. I will go a step deeper in my next hubs and list the sensors found within each controller explaining why and where they are located in a vehicle as well as what kind of information they provide to the controller or module.

Coming up Next ---> Engine Control Module


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    • arksys profile image

      Irfan 2 years ago from Adelaide, Australia

      thanks for stopping by mary. :)

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      I wish I understood more about autos! I did learn a little something reading your article. Thanks so much for your answer to my problem of having my 97 Honda submerged in water; I appreciated that! I feel better now.

      Voted UP, etc.

    • arksys profile image

      Irfan 5 years ago from Adelaide, Australia

      thanks joe. :)

    • joe322 profile image

      joe322 5 years ago

      Another quite informative hub you've created. Voted up.

    • arksys profile image

      Irfan 5 years ago from Adelaide, Australia

      very true skymaster :)

    • profile image

      skymaster 5 years ago

      So common, but still so complicated machine.