Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2013   by Nestor Gula

The Future of the Car

Everyone today expects instant, ready connectivity. Service operations as well will have to be prepare for the connected car

You likely have wireless Internet in your shop. You might even have it in your home. If you live or work in any built-up area in Canada you will be able to get wireless Internet just about anywhere, at all times and at speeds that will let you download email and full-length movies in just seconds. You have to travel fairly far off the beaten path to become truly Internet free.

It is quite astounding that less than 20 years ago the Internet was still a novelty and even dismissed by many as being the new CB radio. Welcome to 2013 where people are demanding access to the Internet everywhere they go and on a dizzying array of devices.

Cars are not immune from this and vehicle manufacturers and the aftermarket are looking to capitalize on this trend. At the recent International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, vehicle makers rolled out technologies and showcased new on-board systems that will not only assist in driving the car, but keep passengers connected at all times while providing them with up-to-date vehicle diagnostics.

Leave the Driving to Us

There has been much made recently of the prospects of self-driving cars. It sounds wonderful. One can sleep during the commute back and forth from work. It will eliminate the drudgery of the drive on a long, straight and wide highway when going on a vacation. There are several auto manufacturers that are testing such systems right now. The adaptive cruise control that is found in some cars and trucks is one example of this technology trickling down and entering the marketplace.

However, if you are thinking of putting off the purchase of a new vehicle in the anticipation of picking up a self-driving car in a few years, you had best expect to drive your current automobile for a long while. While technology is accelerating in capability, this usually stretches and breaks traditional systems. We won’t see self-driving cars on our streets for a while, if ever. Not because technology will not allow it but because of the legal ramifications. If there is an accident between self-driving cars who is legally responsible? The driver? The manufacturer? The entity responsible for the road?

Turn Your Ears On

The in-car audio experience will change and become richer according to the experts in the auto industry. In a short one hundred years we have come from an uncle yodelling in the backseat of a Fort Model T to being able to access our music through Cloud computing.

“You will be able to select, buy and listen to all your music,” said Lonnie Miller, vice-president, Marketing and Industry Analysis for Polk, an automotive marketing solutions company. “There is lots of excitement around audio applications like being able to access Pandora. You can do that right now through your smart phone. That is what is really evolving as General Motors and Ford are getting outside people to develop and program apps for their vehicles to make the driving experience more rich.”

For example, CES showcased technologies that used Bluetooth download content to a car’s in-dash display much like you would on that smart phone you are now carrying in your jacket pocket or purse.

Connected Cars

Being able to connect to the Internet through your car is not a future prospect. It is now. General Motors debuted the popular OnStar system ten years ago and although it did not have any Internet functionality at that time, it was the precursor to the connected car everyone is talking about. While OnStar can now stream music to make the drive more pleasant, it does a lot more. OnStar now, automatically runs hundreds of diagnostic and maintenance checks on the vehicle’s key operating systems, including: engine and transmission system, StabiliTrak stability control system, air bag system, emissions system, antilock brake system and tire pressure. The system collects maintenance information and will recommend maintenance when needed.

Other manufacturers have their own system like Ford’s SYNC AppLink and MyFord Touch, Toyota’s Entune and Chrysler’s Uconnect, among others. Most of these systems have various apps, like what you have on your phone, and will even turn your car into a WiFi hotspot so everybody in the car, besides the driver, can do their wireless things while ignoring what is happening outside.

With a connected car it is essential to keep the driver focused on the road. “We are focused on keeping driver’s focused on driving from active safety technologies that monitor the environment in and around the vehicle with minimal distraction to predictive vehicle health and maintenance monitoring that alert drivers when there is a potential vehicle issue to traffic management that provides drivers safer and greener travel options,” said Victor Canseco, managing director software and services, Electronics & Safety at Delphi Automotive. “Our Delphi MyFi system, for example, provides seamless integration of infotainment and safety products by placing important information in the driver’s field of view through a high-mount, transparent display with reconfigurable clusters. The driver controls all major functions by the touch of a button on the steering wheel or by voice recognition.”

The vehicle will be able to monitor the driver to make sure that they are not distracted. “Delphi is committed in striking the appropriate balance between information, entertainment, and distraction mitigation. For example, Delphi’s Workload Manager and Drive State Sensor system scan driver alertness and activity in the vehicle, as well as the road around the vehicle to increase attentive driving and enhance active safety performance,” he said.

Service Bonus

While some in the auto service sector might shudder at the complexities of the new systems and fear being turned into stereo/computer technicians, the connected cars will prove a boon to the service centre that stays in touch with technology.

“A vehicle connected to the Internet will have monitoring-enabled vehicle functions and the ability to communicate failures to relevant parties such as the vehicle owner, dealership or independent repair shop, and perhaps even the OEMs, helping them to understand the failure mode and enhance future systems,” said Chris Slesak, director, telematics business development, Delphi Product & Service Solutions. “Currently, many OEMs have some form of telematics technology on new production vehicles depending on manufacturer. OEM versions include GM OnStar, Ford SYNC, Mercedes Benz Mbrace and Hyundai Blue Link. Delphi currently has telematics units in production and installed on vehicles throughout the global aftermarket. Remote diagnostics will change how repair shops manage customer relationships. By deploying a Delphi telematics aftermarket auto care service model, traditional independent garages will be equipped with the same capabilities designed to enable the independent aftermarket service channels to compete with other connected car care technologies.

“The data this device collects can support value added services for increased customer loyalty, and help generate revenue when it comes to car maintenance and care. The system can also be used to improve shop efficiency, appointment scheduling, and improve effectiveness of marketing and promotions. Integrated with the shop’s CRM systems, telematics can provide shop owners with after-sales contacts, help build confidence and trust in the maintenance and repair process, and in turn, create greater loy
alty with customers.”