‘Software-defined vehicle’ is an industry term used to define a car that’s run by software, rather than being a traditional car that is enhanced by software.

So, how are computers used in cars?

What is an ECU?

ECM stands for engine control unit, also sometimes known as the engine control module (EDM), but what does the ECU do? Its role is to keep the engine of your car running smoothly, and it can control how much fuel goes into the engine’s cylinders if your car is fitted with electronic fuel injection.

There isn’t an industry standard for where the ECU will be fitted in your car, so where it is depends on the make and model of your car. However, it should be close to your engine, so it’s likely to be in the engine bay, glove box or dashboard.

How to tell if your ECU is faulty

The main way to know if your ECU is faulty is simply that your check engine light comes on, and won’t turn off. If your check engine light comes on you should take your car in for service anyway, as whether this is an ECU issue or not, the light signifies that something is wrong.

As well as this, if your battery, starter, and other common electrical components are all in order but your car still won’t start, this could be down to a faulty ECU.

Pros of computers in cars

Infotainment systems

An infotainment system includes features that combine ‘information’ and ‘entertainment’, all in all enhancing the driving experience in your vehicle. This includes, for example, GPS, digital radios, air-con, and more. Some advanced cars might even have features like adjustable lighting.  

Improved safety features

Computers are also key to many safety features in modern cars. Much like infotainment systems, features like parking sensors, automatic emergency braking, and even some that we may take for granted, like airbag systems, rely on computers at their core to function correctly.

As technology becomes more advanced, these safety features can be enhanced and cars can be made safer.

Cons of computers in cars


Software faults and privacy issues – the more data that’s collected from drivers, the more potential there is for hacking. For example, it’s important to remember that when you connect a vehicle to the cloud or a smart hub, that connection goes both ways.

In 2015, there was a case in which hackers crashed a Jeep from ten miles away due to its smart system. While this could be off-putting, remember that it’s cases like this that are responsible for cybersecurity now becoming an integral part of automotive development.


A lot of technology like gesture-based controls are still in their early days of use, so can sometimes be a bit faulty. Whether it be registering non-intentional gestures as instructions or failing to recognise them at all, these kinds of faults are to be expected while they’re still being find tuned.

That being said, there’s always a possibility that other tech will fault, too, regardless of its development. For example, if there’s an update or new software involved, it could come with bugs. If a malfunction happens when you’re on the road, there’s potential for it to be very dangerous.

Drive safe with Findandfundmycar.com

At findandfundmycar.com, we have a vast range of used cars for sale from trusted dealerships all over the UK. Get in touch or start browsing today!

adjust finance options

are you sure?

you’re about to remove this vehicle from your list. Are you sure this is what you wanted to do?


We'd like to keep you up-to-date!

We'd like to send you some occasional news, reviews and offers. We also have some trusted partners who'd like to do the same. Please choose from below, what you are comfortable with.

Email & SMS

Don't forget to create an account or sign in to save vehicles to your profile.