Scanning for Errors

OBD II changed maintenance forever--OBD III is set to do the same.


As for now, companies like B&B offer an optional upgrade to a diagnostic system which hosts parameters for Ford, GM and Chrysler all on one tool.

THE TELEMATIC LEAP

Several companies have found ways of implementing the OBD-II standards into their products, while still surging forward into broader, OBD-III specific goals.

At GM, the EPA mandate fits well into the folds of its OnStar system, a catch-all device that encompasses not only emissions, but also predictive maintenance, routing and safety. OnStar is one of many systems that takes OBD and streamlines into a more advanced category, telematics. This system, like several others on the market, is 2008-ready. Fritz Beiermeister, OnStar director of business sales and marketing for GM, explains the way this new system can, in some ways, trump traditional OBD.

"The basic business of OnStar is telematics. We use a combination of on-board vehicle electronics, cellular technology and GPS (global positioning systems) technology to create and deliver services," he says. These services include safety measures such as emergency responses to airbag deployment, or time-saving features. "We do door unlocks. We unlocked, in a fleet environment, one in eight vehicles in a year's time. In a fleet world, where you've got people out doing high skill jobs and they lock their keys, along with other equipment, in a vehicle… we can unlock the doors and get them right back on the road. We can put a value on just getting doors unlocked in the $150-200 range, so it's real money."

The biggest difference between the current OBD-II standard and telematics lies in telematics' up-to-the-minute capabilities.

Instead of waiting for the problem to occur, returning to a service station and having the vehicle scanned, the electronic system is constantly reading the internal information. This comes down to concerns as big as your engine, or as small as low tire pressure or when best to change your oil. The plans for OBD-III look to include this type of telematic monitoring, in order to minimize the gaps between problem, diagnosis and repair.

In some minds, reducing that gap also means reducing an element of driver privacy that comes with the constant monitoring. Beiermeister doesn't see that as a problem: "OnStar does not monitor vehicle location; we put a really high premium on personal privacy."

A FINGER ON THE PULSE

Ontario, Canada's Netistix has taken a particularly unique approach to what their VP of marketing, John Woronczuk, sees as "a very burgeoning, high-growth marketplace."

Netistix's "Fleet Pulse" combines three modules of information in their system, which they loosely categorize as base logistics, fuel & safety, and diagnostics. The diagnostic pool of data is what you would traditionally see from an OBD-II system. According to Woronczuk, "we collect all the diagnostic trouble-codes that the engine's control units are generating that first (caused) that service engine lamp to turn on on the dashboard. We are also giving pending diagnostic trouble codes, which are codes the engine's ECUs generate, but have not reached the severity to turn on the service engine lamp. It's a pre-warning system."

Woronczuk goes on to describe the benefits of the Netistix system which allows for the convenience of wireless access: "Fleet Pulse is a web-hosted solution. What that means is that the access point or the wireless devices are at the fleet yard, accepting the information from the vehicle, sending it out over the internet and allowing anyone with a web browser to log on to the web application and run reports and look at the health of the vehicles and how the vehicles have been driven."

FUEL FOR THOUGHT

Another potential benefit of OBD-III-ready equipment is in allowing fleet managers to accurately monitor their fuel use and idling time. EJ Ward, a company which began in fuel systems and has integrated the EPA standards in its evolution, offers a product, the CANceiver, which ties together the two priorities through a web-based application.

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