From a mechanical system to a complex adaptive system: The car case

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2012)


The great majority of the research papers, related to the automotive sector, have mainly focused on the description of the mechanical nature of the vehicles and barely on the study of the electronic nature of the new vehicles. To raise the profound changes occurring in the last four decades, it is necessary to explain how the components and the electronic systems have transformed the nature of the automobiles

How was the vehicle, as a mechanical system, transformed into a complex adaptive system? Three stages in the evolution of the complexity of the motor vehicles can be considered: From 1900 to 1970, the car is a complex mechanical system made up of several parts which interact with each other, following fixed behavior rules. A second period, from 1971 to mid 1990's, when the first-generation of electronic complexity emerges, with electronic devices which do not interact with the environment and respond to a set of fixed behavior rules. With the adoption of the systems "X-by-wire" at the beginning of the 2000, the transition to a third-generation of electronic complexity begins, at that moment, devices follow flexible rules that allow them to represent the world, interact and adapt themselves to the environment in "real time" in non mechanical way.

The aim of this paper is to describe and analyze the nature of the evolutionary processes involved in the transition from the car, as a complex system, to a complex adaptive system.

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