Car Tech A to Z: F is for fly-by-wire, four-wheel drive and more

The letter F in our A to Z of car tech series is for four-wheel drive, fly-by-wire and future technology.

The technology contained within the modern motor car can be both fascinating and slightly baffling. Most such technology exists to make our cars safer, more efficient and just better than ever to drive but some of it can be quite confusing for the average motorist. In this A to Z series we will attempt to unravel the mystery of technology that is the modern motor car. This week, we’re visiting the letter F…

F is for…Fly by wire

Fly by wire technology was, as you can probably guess from the name, developed by the aircraft industry to help reduce the manual flight requirements of a pilot with computer controlled electronics. In short, to allow a plane to fly itself when necessary.

In vehicles this technology is used to control the throttle (hence the term fly-by-wire accelerator) but also an increasing number of other elements within a car – to a point where autonomous driving, where a car can drive itself – is already upon us.

All Jaguar Landrovers have fly by wire throttles, where simple electric signals detected via sensors on either the accelerator pedal or cruise control switch on the steering wheel are translated into more or less power being deployed by the engine. Eventually fly by wire technology will enable most cars to drive themselves, in much the same way that most planes have been able to for many years.

F is for…four-wheel-drive

In one sense the term four-wheel-drive is entirely self explanatory. But there are many different ways in which a vehicle can deploy its propulsion via all four wheels. And the first ever 4WD system was developed by an English engineer called Bramah Joseph Diplock in 1893, and it was used to power a traction engine.

Nowadays vehicles can be part or full time four wheel drive, and pretty much anything in between. Most modern four wheel drive systems use electronics to control the amount of torque that goes to each axle, or sometimes even to each wheel. But in previous 4WD systems this used to be controlled by hydraulics and clutches and, in the original Landrover Defender’s case, via what was called a transfer case that also enabled a lower set of gear ratios to be called upon when climbing up especially steep hills.

All modern JaguarLandrovers are available with four-wheel-drive, with the Range Rover, the Discovery and the Evoke being some of the most capable examples, both on and off road, anywhere in the world.

F is for…future technology

All electric vehicles, hybrid powered vehicles, hydrogen powered vehicles, the use of increasingly exotic materials, some of which are hybrid themselves, and even vehicles that will eventually drive themselves; these are just a few of the technological elements to our motoring future that are being developed by the automotive industry today, but especially so at Jaguar Land Rover, the UK’s biggest investor in the industry.

Quite where it will all end up, and what exactly we’ll end up driving or merely travelling around in, who knows? But one thing’s for sure; never has so much technology been applied to produce vehicles that are safer, faster, more efficient or more reliable than they are today. And tomorrow our cars will, be in no doubt whatsoever, get better still.

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