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More Software Code in Chevrolet Volt Car than Boeing 787

Updated on January 24, 2012

You might be surprised at the amount of software code that is in your modern car. The Chevrolet Volt has more lines of code than a Boeing 787. The Volt has 10 million lines of code. The Boeing only 8 million lines.[1] Granted, the Chevrolet Volt is a plug-in hybrid, so it needs extra electronics for that system.

This statistic is from a 2010 article in And as time goes on, the lines of code in cars would most certainly increase.

Even back in 2009, Spectrum IEEE reports that the Mercedes-Benz S-class contains over 20 million lines of code in the radio and navigation system.

In a premium-class modern car, the software runs on about 70 to 100 microprocessor-based electronic control units. Even in low-end cars, there's going to be around 30 to 50 of these electronic control units. A large part of the car's cost is this electronic and computer systems, which can account for up to 40% of the cost of the car.[2]

Advanced features of modern cars

With all the advanced features of modern cars, it is no wonder that it requires so much software control.

Anti-lock brakes has been around for over a decade now. The car has to decide in a split second whether you are in a skid and then pulsate your brakes for you.

Even back 1998, all new cars sold in United States must have airbags for both driver and passenger sides. But cars with ten airbags is not uncommon. Some systems detect the weight and or location of the passenger and will not trigger (or trigger with less force) if occupant is a small child who can be more hurt by the explosion of the airbags. The airbag system must be precise and fast. With accelerometer and crash sensors, it needs to detect a crash, determine the severity of the crash, and size and location of occupants, and then explode the airbag before your head hits the dash. The bag can come out at 200 miles per hour, which is faster than the blink of an eye.[reference]

More recently, technological advances includes rain-sensing windshields and headlights that know when to turn on and off by itself.

Keyless Start

Keyless start is becoming more commonplace.

Many cars no longer have the traditional key. There is no keyhole in the car doors and no key lock in the steering column. Instead, they have a key fob that you put in your pocket. As you pass your hand through the exterior door handle, the car senses the key fob nearby and lets the door open. In a similar fashion, pushing the start button inside the car will sense if the key fob is nearby. Code detects if your feet is on the brake or not. If yes, start the engine. If no, turn on accessories only. Key fobs have a RFID chip that contains 40-bit encryption of radio frequency id. One benefit is that you can no longer lock the key inside the car. Software code detects that the fob key is nearby and open the door for you.

Lane Assist

But more impressive lane assist and parking assist and night vision and blind spot monitoring. These are not features in demo cars of the future. They are in cars on the roads today.

Lane assist is a technology where the car can "see" the lane in front of you. If you start drifting over the left or right border of your lane (because maybe you are not paying attention or falling asleep), there is an indication in the dash and the car steering wheel will vibrate or make gentle corrections for you. Many cars have lane assist now, any the system varies from car to car.

Needless to say, there is a lot of software code involved. There is a camera on the front-facing side of your rearview mirror that attempts to detect lane markings and predicts where the car will be in the upcoming seconds based on its speed.

Of course, the driver can override the system with steering as in changing lane and turning on/off the system as needed. The system will only apply at highway speeds. If you activate your turn signals, the system will know that you are changing lanes and will give you false warnings.

Falling asleep at the wheel is a serious problem. Sleep deprivation causes many auto accidents each year. 40% of Americans have said that they have nodded off at the wheel. Torque sensor on steering wheels can detect when your hands have left the wheel. [4] Based on the cars movement, some system can recognize drowsy driving pattern and display an icon of a cup of coffee on the dash indicating for you to pull over for a break.[see picture] The "attention assist" of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class monitors 70 parameters related to driver steering behavior.[5] For example, quick and abrupt corrections to steering can indicate drowsiness.

Parking Assist

Parking assist also uses cameras and graphical representation on the dash display to indicate for you the trajectory of your car.

The most complicated part about parallel parking is when and how much to turn the steering wheel. So there are even "auto park" systems where the car turns the steering wheel for you.

Night Vision

Night vision uses infra-red cameras (sometimes up to three cameras) to help drivers see hazards at night. The infra-red display is shown in the dash which can more easily identifies people and other objects.

Adaptive headlights can help you see around corners by angling the night in the direction of your steering.


Article was written January 2012. Technology may now have already been advanced by the time you are reading this.

Perhaps some day, cars can drive themselves. There are already autonomous cars in development. See one in the video on the right.


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