Electronic throttle control

Electronic throttle control (ETC) is an automobile technology which severs the mechanical link between the accelerator pedal and the throttle. Most automobiles already use a throttle position sensor (TPS) to provide input to traction control, antilock brakes, fuel injection, and other systems, but use a bowden cable to directly connect the pedal with the throttle. An ETC-equipped vehicle has no such cable. Instead, the electronic control unit (ECU) determines the required throttle position by calculations from data measured by other sensors such as an accelerator pedal position sensor, engine speed sensor, vehicle speed sensor etc. The electric motor within the ETC is then driven to the required position via a closed-loop control algorithm within the ECU.

The benefits of ETC are largely unnoticed by most drivers because the aim is to make the vehicle power-train characteristics seamlessly consistent irrespective of prevailing conditions, such as engine temperature, altitude, accessory loads etc. The ETC is also working 'behind the scenes' to dramatically improve the ease with which the driver can execute gear changes and deal with the dramatic torque changes associated with rapid accelerations and decelerations.

Contrary to popular beliefFact|date=June 2008, except in concert with other technologies such as gasoline direct injection, ETC provides only a very limited benefit in areas such as air-fuel ratio control, exhaust emissions and fuel consumption reduction. ETC however makes it much easier to integrate features to the vehicle such as cruise control, traction control, stability control and others that require torque management, since the throttle can be moved irrespective of the position of the driver's accelerator pedal. A criticism of the very early ETC implementations was that they were "overruling" driver decisions. Nowadays, the vast majority of drivers have no idea how much intervention is happening.

Much of the engineering involved with drive-by-wire technologies including ETC deals with failure and fault management. Most ETC systems have sensor and controller redundancy, even as complex as independent microprocessors with independently written software within a control module whose calculations are compared to check for possible errors and faults.

Anti-lock braking (ABS) is a similar safety critical technology, whilst not completely 'by-wire', it has the ability to electronically intervene contrary to the driver's demand. Such technology has recently been extended to other vehicle systems to include features like brake assist and electronic steering control, but these systems are much less common, also requiring careful design to ensure appropriate back-up and fail-safe modes.

See also

* Drive-by-wire
* Brake-by-wire

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