Scanning for Errors

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

According to EJ Ward's vice president of marketing, John Featherston, the system is multi-faceted. "We're getting information on how much fuel is used in the vehicle, so it's a fuel system. To get fuel, all you do is stick the nozzle into the gas tank, and it communicates back to the vehicle control terminal and says this is a valid vehicle, and also downloads pertinent information."

The data includes things like odometer readings, total stop and idle time, engine oil levels and maximum speed of the vehicle between fueling. "This is more than the EPA thing. You need depth of information and, while a mechanic can use a scan tool and download this information, we're getting it with every fueling transaction."

Hopefully by the time 2008 and OBD-III roll around, the benefits for technicians will outweigh the hassles of what has been a costly and complicated series of compliances. But with technology driving the industry, techs should look forward to a promising year of advancements.

The New 'A' Student: Vehicle Intelligence Raises the Bar in Fleet Services

Fleet Safety& Safety Fleets

With the advent of the first OBD protocols, the realistic benefits for the consumer were hazy. The automobile industry can be rife with these types of cost-heavy initiatives where the results are often abstract and inconceivable—environmentally, it is difficult to gauge how much worse off we would have been without the emissions standards. But as the dog-eared EPA initiatives get incrementally better, they also begin to regress into only a tiny actor in the bigger show of overall vehicle intelligence.

OBD-II has created a venue for operators to have greater access to the internal information of their vehicles. Regulatory standards meant lots of competitors, and in an effort to out-pace each other, this technology flourished into more and more vehicle monitoring capabilities. Vehicle intelligence sounds good, and while it brings to mind talking cars, the real capabilities of today make Kit from Nightrider look as dated and weathered as David Hasslehoff.

  One of the arenas in which this vehicle intelligence is best utilized is in emergency services. John Woronczuk, VP of marketing for Netistix, discusses what they see as one of the most important new networks:

"One of the marketplaces we are going after are these municipal wireless (wi-fi) deployments, where a city has decided to put in, starting with the downtown core, a bunch of wi-fi access points to help improve emergency services."

Municipal Wireless Communities

Netistix is involved in one of the newest and most comprehensive networks harnessing vehicle intelligence, or, more specifically, "telematics," which is the progression from OBD-II to a more up-to-the-minute vehicle monitoring system. Municipal wireless communities boast wi-fi capabilities that optimize not only the access to vehicle information, but also the cost of keeping fleet vehicles communicating.

"Typically, the purchase, maintenance and management of fleets represents a significant expense to the city. Often these costs are thought to be unmanageable, particularly in light of rising fuel costs. But this is no longer the case, and wireless networks are playing a critical role in changing how fleet operators view the management of their fleets," Woronczuk says.

"For the last ten or twenty years, that has typically been either a satellite wireless link, or a cellular wireless link and we've decided not to use any of those and to use something that's a non fee-based wireless interface, and that's this wi-fi… so you pay a one-time charge to put in the wireless access point, and from that point on, you don't pay any monthly fees for the wireless interface so that's a big differentiator between traditional telematics and what we do."

Netistix sees the integral component of their system in the cost-saving fleets can see from switching to wireless access. Instead of paying for each minute of data transfer like you would using cellular technology, the rate is flat and data can be transmitted at various times throughout the workday with no cost penalty for connection or time limits. So instead of outsourcing to an information management service, or sticking with the manual method of data and usage tracking after-the-fact, fleets can now manage their own data through wireless networks that can feed back information to their fleet yard while the vehicle is operating. Various hubs are set up throughout the community and as the vehicle picks up the wireless signal, data is processed and sent, without any effort by the driver.

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