future maintenance How technology is transforming car maintenance
The ubiquity of IoT, AI, and big data is transforming many industries. In the automotive sector, car maintenance is unrecognizable from the old days of mechanics tinkering under the hood through the creation of valuable data analytics. The use of predictive maintenance, over the air updates, and the repair purchase automation signifies an intuitive and responsive future.
The future of autonomous vehicles involves cars that can detect their own maintenance issues, diagnose the problem, and the required response. The vehicle can then schedule a maintenance appointment, order the necessary parts (or organize 3D printing remotely), and drive themselves to their nearest repair shop—to be serviced by a robot.
It's a blur of IT and occupational therapist (OT) that lends itself to the gains of Industrial IoT. At a very rudimentary level, IIoT is characterized by the digitization (of factories and industrial equipment), the automation of processes, embedded sensors that provide critical data analytics, and the benefits of predictive maintenance. As cars become increasingly digitized, car maintenance has followed the lead of IIoT. Let's take a look:
The value of sound acoustics and sensor data
In assessing and diagnosing car problems, sensors enable mechanics to gain data that reveals rich insights. Car mechanics have long relied on how a car sounds to detect and pinpoint particular issues that are affecting its health. Now technology extends this to create significant benefits to car manufacturers, owners, auto service shops, fleet operators, and insurers.
An example is sensor diagnostics today is the work of CARFIT. They've developed a technology of automotive vibration analysis. Through the use of NVH science (Noise, Vibration, Harshness), Data Science, and AI, CARFIT analyzes the vibrations of a car, identifies their origin, and predicts the car's maintenance needs. Via a vibration sensor—the CARFIT PULS—which simply attaches to the steering wheel, it is possible to listen to a car's needs. The CARFIT PULS then communicates this data via Bluetooth Low Energy with smartphones via an App or with a dashboard allowing the collection of data from multiple sensors for professionals.
Over the air maintenance
Software-over-the-air (SOTA) enables automotive manufacturers to fix, maintain, and improve vehicles through remote software updates downloaded to the vehicle from a cloud-based server. Diagnostic data is retrieved from the car, analyzed in the cloud, and in response, an over the air update is received using real-time location insights. It's not dissimilar to remote cybersecurity patching. It can enable cars to collect fixes and modifications without the need to visit a mechanic, deliver cost savings, keep software up to date, and improve the customer experience. The insights from monitoring and servicing the car remotely can, in turn, benefit R&D for future vehicles.
The value of maintenance for autonomous vehicles
Maintenance is critical for future iterations of autonomous vehicles. While today's cars typically spend over 80 percent of their time parked, in the future driverless cars will spend the majority of their time on the road. More driving will increase vehicle wear and tear and require more time and attention to maintenance. The use of predictive maintenance means downtime is eliminated—particularly relevant to those running fleets of vehicles where they are optimally always in use.
Predictive maintenance also eschews the need for an annual checkup as cars are monitored in real-time and can thus receive continuous repairs before problems occur.
Like many OEMs, remote diagnostics and the support of Mobile Service technicians reduce the need ever to visit a Service Center. Tesla asserts they can remotely diagnose an issue and what is needed to repair it, 90 percent of the time.
Reddit user houston_wehaveaprblm posted a photo, in 2019, apparently taken from the infotainment screen of a Model 3 Tesla. It shows a notification of a problem with the car's power conversion system. The vehicle has self-diagnosed the problem and additionally ordered replacement parts for installation at a Tesla service center. Other Tesla owners on Reddit echoed the experience in the thread.
More recently, Tesla has extended this to a 'No Touch' service facility which means the owner doesn’t need to be present during maintenance. Instead, the car is opened remotely by the owner (regardless of their location) and locked from any location once repaired.
A robot to change your tire
If you're wondering where the previously envisioned robots fit into car maintenance, automotive startup Robotire is leading the way (somewhat stealthily) with a tire change that can be performed by a robot.
Robotire’s CEO Victor Darolfi told TechCrunch: "We can do a set of four tires, put in to pull out, in 10 minutes. It normally takes about 60 minutes for a human operator to do a set of four. Some can go faster, but they really can't do that eight hours a day." They're currently in discussion with Bridgestone and various car garages.
There's a lot of stakeholders who can benefit from technological progress in car maintenance. It’s unlikely we’ll ever replace the need for actual human mechanics with their extensive experience and knowledge. But we can expect the future of mechanics to involve plenty of software. We can expect plenty of investment and advancement as OEMs strive to offer increased efficiency and unrivaled customer experience.