Are telematic features a peek at the future?

As the Christmas season closes in and another year winds down my thoughts always turn to the future and what it holds particularly as it applies to the industry I work in, auto repair.

The news is full of stories about vehicles that drive themselves and/or vehicles that run on alternate forms of energy especially electric vehicles. Will vehicles ever fix themselves?

Will I ever become obsolete? Do I have only 10 or 20 good years left?

I have written before about telematics and vehicle communication systems. Vehicles now come off the assembly line that can communicate with other vehicles on the road. Many vehicles now have internet connections wherever a cell phone can have an internet connection. These are telematic systems and are used for different applications far beyond being an internet connection for the passengers in the vehicle.

Insurance companies use telematics to track how your vehicle is used. They will reduce your insurance rates if you install a telematics device that reports your driving habits. Be a good driver (no speeding) and get rewarded with lower insurance rates.

Don’t trust your teenage driver? Set up geofencing on your telematic tracking device. Your car will snitch on its driver if it goes out of a fixed area that you have programmed into it.

Find your vehicle if it is stolen. A telematics device can provide location information as long as the device is not destroyed or defeated somehow by the thief.

Have an accident? A telematics device can call 911 and report your location.

Lock your keys in your car. Presto! A telematics system can unlock it.

The possibilities are endless. The safety features of these systems and the potential consumer data collectible from them are what drives the installation of these systems into the modern automobile.

When the telematics system is connected and able to report information on how the engine, transmission, and electronic stability control systems are working to some computer centre at the manufacturer’s headquarters and this information is in real time that is something that really grabs my interest.

Take that information and dissect it into a diagnostic result and possibly even apply a repair without even stopping the vehicle. That will be something.

Some vehicles currently provide some kind of report on their condition. When the next oil change is due or the check engine light is on but this sort of service requires a paid subscription and the capabilities are fairly limited.

Connecting to a vehicle and retrieving live performance data from it is something used regularly at the race track. Race cars have telemetry systems that report performance either to the technicians in the pits or saved in storage devices or even to the cloud.

The technicians dissect this information and surmise how their vehicle is running and being driven and what they can do to fix it, make it go faster or …. You get the picture.

Maybe some day soon I will be the technician back at the shop dissecting the information coming from all my customers’ vehicles making diagnostic decisions to solve those problems that go away the minute your vehicle reaches the repair shop.

Wouldn’t that be exciting? Probably only to me.

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. E-mail: nutechauto@telus.net

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