FIVA calls for the car industry to plan for the future of technology that controls modern and future classic cars, before it’s too late.
The International Federation of Historic Vehicles (FIVA) fears modern classics face an uncertain future. The organisation says that cars built after 1980 are at particular risk unless the industry can safeguard the technology behind them.
These vehicles - which belong to the so-called ‘digital generation’ - are often built with electronic control units (ECUs) whose technology is at risk of future obsolescence.
Stephan Joest, president of Amicale Citroën Internationale, said: ‘We currently have a clear window of opportunity when it’s still possible to preserve existing stocks of electronic components and their digital source codes.’
‘Otherwise, we risk finding ourselves unable to replace the ECUs (electronic control units) that – in classics from the mid-1980s onward – typically control everything from engine management to air-conditioning and safety equipment.’
This phenomenon is known as ‘digital ageing’ and - according to Joest - it takes place irrespective of whether a component is still in use or not.
Joest, who also works as an electronic components consultant, said: ‘Around 50 per cent of 40-plus-year-old ECUs are ‘dead on arrival’, i.e. not in working order when installed freshly out of the box. The older the electronic unit, the harder it will be to find replacement units that still work.’
This problem, he says, affects all marques of vehicle. Some automotive companies have acknowledged the problem, however.
The head of Automotive Tradition at Robert Bosch GmbH, Dipl.-Ing. Fritz Careener, said: ’Together with the manufacturers, we are working on this topic. There’s along way to go but it will be worth it, if we want to preserve the technology for the younger and future user generations.’
But Joest believes the challenge is only going to grow. ‘The premium cars of today have some 60-100 separate ECUs, controlling every aspect of the car,’ he said. ‘And the complexity of the software is increasing every year. While the immediate need is to protect the longevity of vehicles from the 1980s to the end of the millennium, we also need to ensure that there is a future for today’s vehicles, 30 years from now. Currently, we are not sufficiently prepared.’
Words: Rachael Clegg