Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2011   by Jim Anderton, Technical Editor

Embrace the Wire, Or Else

If you've lived long enough, you'll occasionally ponder the "what ifs" in life and speculate about the history that might have been. I started in this industry by working maintenance in an auto parts plant that employed mostly women on long...

If you’ve lived long enough, you’ll occasionally ponder the “what ifs” in life and speculate about the history that might have been. I started in this industry by working maintenance in an auto parts plant that employed mostly women on long manual assembly lines. As a typical single young man, some were a little more noticeable than the others. One young lady in particular used to catch my attention a lot. She was petite, blonde and pretty with a great personality, sparkling eyes and a killer smile. She was also a talented wildlife artist and liked pickup trucks and dirt bikes, an overall combination that most sensible country-bred twenty-something Canadian men would climb barbed wire to get to.
What does this have to do with the service aftermarket? I believe that telematics is the pretty blonde in our industry, except too few of us see the attraction. According to New York-based ABI Research, 10 per cent of new vehicles shipped in 2010 carried advanced electronic systems like adaptive cruise control and wireless Bluetooth connectivity … but that number will be 62 per cent in 2016. And as engine reliability improves, maintenance intervals lengthen and kilometers driven remains static or falls, long term thinkers have to be looking to the future of the industry. That future is clearly in the electronic accessory systems. You might be thinking that the stereo and auto electric guys adequately cover that business, but the reality is that the car of the future is more likely to break in the driver support systems like ESC, advanced ABS and GPS navigation than through mechanical systems. And as these systems become more safety critical, the red light on the dashboard will be a must fix, not an ignore-until-smog-check inconvenience.
In the near future, dysfunctional ABS or ESC will be as unacceptable as worn tires or brakes. The opportunity is enormous and even better, the work is cleaner, smarter and should be more profitable than brakes and suspension ever were. But do we have the training and tools? The recent access to information agreement with the OEMs’, weak as it is, is a good start and the systems themselves will self diagnose to a greater extent than ever, but as any good diagnostic tech knows, nothing beats experience. Sensors and actuators will still form the bulk of the work, but there will be a lot more of them and they will be “smart” requiring simulated inputs and knowledge of complex output signals to find the problems.
None of this will require a degree in electrical engineering, but it will take time to learn. If that learning happens on customer vehicles you might be out of work (or business) before you get up to speed. What does this have to do with the pretty girl on the assembly line? Through some long forgotten stupidity, I never asked her out. While this didn’t necessarily alter either of our lives in a significant way, I do wonder how she’s doing every once in a while. Don’t let this scenario represent you and telematics. Get close to Bluetooth, GPS, Adaptive ABS, Park Assist and the rest now, or end up looking at it from your rear-view mirror. And Annette Miller, if you’re out there, drop me a line!

Print this page


Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *