A car s a quite complex system. It can be viewed as a vehicle system, as a flexible multi-body dynamic system, and when it comes to the engine, a thermodynamic cycle system and a fluid-dynamics system. Modeling and simulation of the engine needs to solve flow problems with respect to geometric complexity and chemical and physical behavior. In the core it needs to deal with the combustion process and its heat and fire. And all its elements, components and systems are interacting. Control technologies range from mechanical, hydraulic to electronic.
As Stephen wolfram describes it in Launching a New Era in Large-Scale systems Modeling and making car models computable, needs large-scale systems modeling and simulation.
And yes, it is algorithmically demanding. And as in all systems of higher complexity you need to design and configure in the large as well as in the small. Processes and models need to be made computational and task-oriented descriptions shall manipulate them properly.
Mathematica is so fantastic at managing algorithmic complexity and MathModelica supports advanced multi-enginering modeling and simulation.
Having acquired MathCore Engineering, the integration of both technologies will become even tighter and possibly also empower Wolfram|Alpha to provide the widest access to engineering engines via gadgets, like the iPad. Congratulation to this acquisition!
Coming back to the combustion engines, the computational kernels need to be really mighty - it might be required that PDEs need to be solved in milliseconds and massive information needs to be transformed, aggregated and visualized, but the system design and programming can be driven by generic technologies in Mathematica.
In a comment to Stephen Wolfram's post, it is asked, whether this also would fit to stock market risk management. Yes the concept does. We have financial engineering, instrument structuring, portfolio construction, modeling and simulation across scenarios. The features are different, as well as the models and the solvers. And inverting plays a more important role. But everything else, has much in common.
We, at UnRisk, are proud hat we have seen the advantage of developing with Mathematica from the beginning. Where we are now, is amazing. Where we can go, even more.