Welcome to this month’s Tool Q&A. Once again, this column features questions and answers on a specific group of tools and equipment, dedicated to certain applications and technologies. The questions addressed here come from you, the loyal PTEN reader. So, if you’re curious about a given tool or equipment application, please submit your question to PTEN so it can be considered in an upcoming Tool Q &A feature.
With that, we’re going to discuss tools and equipment specific to a new technology known as telematics, and the specialty area of vehicle performance/racing.
Q. What exactly are telematics and how will they impact my life in the service bay?
A. Telematics are defined as the integration of telecommunications and informatics, which is essentially the union of telecommunications and information technology. As a simplified example, it’s a technology much like that embodied in today’s smartphones—the ability to communicate, gather information and to tie it all together with location-dependent relevancy. It’s a technology that provides a rich feature set for today’s motorists and is progressing rapidly.
GM’s OnStar is perhaps the best example of telematics implementation to date. This technology typically provides four key features: 1) Safety and Security, 2) Information and Navigation, 3) Entertainment, and 4) Diagnostics. As these features become standard on newer vehicles, they will have added integration with diagnostics to aid with troubleshooting. Speaking of smartphones, there are already some mobile apps that enable diagnostics with a vehicle’s telematics systems. For instance, OnStar has a mobile app that enables diagnostic access that can control charging time on electric vehicles such as the new Chevrolet Volt.
Q. Will the growing popularity of telematics take away some of the diagnostic access we now have and put it in the hands of motorists and do-it-yourselfers?
A. The convergence of technologies into telematics will provide diagnostic gateways and capabilities you never had before. At the same time, automakers and industry groups will be doing everything in their power to bring new and exciting features to motorists. For instance, Delphi, a leading global supplier of electronics and technologies for automotive, commercial vehicle and other market segments, recently announced a program to help AAA members. This program will include:
- Enhanced roadside service to locate members quickly and accurately when they need help on the side of the road. This also includes remote diagnostics to collect information on a potential vehicle problem; reduce a service call's time-to-resolution to get members back on the road more quickly.
- Notification of preventive maintenance to keep members informed of vital vehicle information including diagnostic codes.
- A vehicle locator function to assist AAA members in locating their vehicles.
- Remote door unlock capability to help members locked out of their vehicles.
Q. What will diagnostic equipment for telematics systems look like and what are the costs?
A. There will be both a hardware/software component and a service information component to telematics diagnostics. Overall, the exact profile of this equipment is still being defined, like telematics technology itself. Some aspects of telematics may be accessed through a tool you’re already familiar with, the scan tool. The key thing is the ability to access the vehicle’s data bus, where communications takes place. The cost for equipment will depend on the hardware/software platform and relevant service information subscriptions for the vehicles you plan to service.
Q. Isn’t the push to telematics just another way for “Big Brother” to watch everything we do and send service business back to dealers?