Magazine article USA TODAY

Will "Smart" Cars Reduce Emmissions?

Magazine article USA TODAY

Will "Smart" Cars Reduce Emmissions?

Article excerpt

"Check engine" lights on the dashboard are built-in computers that alert drivers when their cars' emissions are high and warn them of potential engine trouble. The computers, called on-board diagnostics, have been phased in gradually since 1978 and are mandated on all light-duty vehicles sold after 1996. "On-board diagnostics are the future of emissions control, but there are major technical and social issues which need to be addressed so that on-board diagnostics actually result in cleaner air," maintains Birgit Wolff, director of the National Center for Vehicle Emissions Control and Safety at Colorado State University, Fort Collins.

The school is studying on-board diagnostics, including consumer research, to find out if the public will accept the technology. "We know that, in the past, vehicle owners have often ignored check engine lights unless the drivability of their vehicle became severely impaired, but we don't know how they will respond to the signals they receive from their on-board diagnostic-equipped cars."

In the future, on-board diagnostics may include transponders on cars that would allow a vehicle's identification and emissions status to be reported to a remote location. …

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