Supercomputers in cars sounds fun, but when you house most electronic controls in one place, a single failure could mean big bucks

If you strip down most modern cars on the road today, you’ll find a handful of different computer systems. You’ll find a body control module, an engine control module, and some even have smaller computers like modules that control the anti-lock brakes, airbags, or various other bits of technology. This was accurate ten years ago, and as cars have gotten more advance, these very control modules have been tasked with doing more while being interlinked together via a CANBUS system, and some are even complemented with additional control modules for smaller tasks. If one module failed, you could usually replace it and go about your life, albeit after paying a small fortune for the new computer, programming, and installation. Soon, however, Audi looks to simplify things by bringing everything together into by big supercomputer that’s being called an “Integrated Vehicle Dynamics Computer.” It sounds simple, but it’s actually far from simple. Let me explain…

Supercomputers Are Cool, But Not In Cars

Audi To Over-Complicate Cars With Supercomputers and Repair Costs Could Skyrocket
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In all honesty, just about every automaker out there is making a run toward new technology and innovation. It makes our lives easier and safer, they say. And, sometimes it does. The fact that our cars can now automatically control torque distribution between wheels and braking force as needed to prevent the loss of control is amazing. But, you have to take the good with the bad, and the bad in this case is that the replacement of electronics when the fail is expensive, especially on newer cars.

But, with everything separated into somewhat individual units, a single failure doesn’t necessarily mean your car is undrivable. Audi’s new Integrated Vehicle Dynamics Computer, on the other hand, could change all that.

What is Audi’s Integrated Vehicle Dynamics Computer?

Audi To Over-Complicate Cars With Supercomputers and Repair Costs Could Skyrocket
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Audi’s Integrated Vehicle Dynamics Computer is far more sophisticated than anything we have in cars in 2020 – even when you look to the most advanced cars like the Tesla Model S or Porsche Taycan. The IVDC in future Audi’s will serve as a central facility or hub for all the cars dynamic systems, from passive safety features like automatic braking and stability control to engine management and door lock control.

Audi claims that its new IVDC is ten times more powerful than the computers found in current models and will be able to control up to 90 different systems.

I bet you didn’t know that your car had 90 different controllable systems built into it, did you?

In just a short time from now, Audi’s new IVDC will land in every car in the brand’s lineup from the compact A3, all the way up to the Q8 SUV and even its entire offering of EVs.

Audi To Over-Complicate Cars With Supercomputers and Repair Costs Could Skyrocket
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To give you an example of some of the things the IVDC will control, important systems like torque vectoring and brake regeneration will be on the priority list in electric cars. Performance cars with the RS badge will see it control anti-roll stabilization, active suspension, and engine control.

In short, the IVDC will mark the very first time in automotive history that chassis and powertrain controls are controlled by the same computer.

It’s a big step forward, and Audi claims that it will bring a greater range of performance and comfort to its vehicles, but that’s only the good side of things.

All of this sounds good in theory, but as a mechanic, I can’t help but think about repair costs. Replacing certain control modules on cars today can already be very expensive, so the thought of having everything housed in one unit is concerning. A single failure of the IVDC can render your new car inoperable and, to top it off, the company has you over a barrel once your warranty has passed. Should that IVDC experience any type of failure, you may have no choice but to replace it or be stuck with a car you can’t drive – potentially one that you’re still making payments on. With this being proprietary and new technology, there won’t be an aftermarket offering for some time to come, and since it’s a must-have, Audi will either be able to charge you a small fortune for replacement or push you to trade-in and buy a new car.

Audi To Over-Complicate Cars With Supercomputers and Repair Costs Could Skyrocket
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I like the idea in theory, and maybe it’ll work out well, but as an all-new technology, there will be flaws, and until those are ironed out, things could be very dicey. Fortunately, all cars equipped will have some kind of warranty as a bit of a safety shield, but in the end, replacement down the road will still end up being a lot more expensive than replacing one of many stand-alone control units in the event of a random failure.

Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topsped.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read More
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