Well, let’s see…you’re in a well-equipped shop complete with a variety of scan tools, wireless on-line access to factory data and up-to-date well maintained shop equipment used by trained and talented technicians. What else could you possibly need?
A recent article in the Detroit News offered a surprising answer: more telematics, or devices that will communicate directly with the car.
Noting that while new product development cycles have dropped from four or five years in the past to two or three years now, the resulting product can still hit the street woefully behind other developments in electronic technology.
New cars continue to use more – and more powerful – computers for minding everything from stability to braking to engine management to hybrid or electric battery charging rates. But progress can happen quickly and some good ideas may go obsolete before the car’s first tire rotation. As the number of on-board computers rises, so does the need for keeping them current.
The article quoted Erik Goldman, president of Hughes Telematics, as saying “Cars need to be upgraded — over the air — and they have to have smart phone connections now.” He also emphasized the need for remote wireless car connections to help owners avoid trips for service.
Looked at another way, an owner could be e-notified of an update and then directed to simply connect their smart phone to the car’s diagnostic link or USB port. Hit the app, download the update right to the car and it’s job done. Maybe.
In view of all the horror stories about deferred maintenance and botched home repairs, whether or not the average owner can be convinced to do this remains to be seen but it’s still an interesting concept. More and more service bulletins and factory updates are now requiring a controller re-flash to either cure simple problems or improve function and efficiency. Building electronic units that make that updating easier is getting a lot of engineering attention across the industry.
The Detroit News also noted that Cisco, the computer networking folks, have a prototype all-digital instrument display under development. Three touch-screen LCD panels allow the occupant to select a variety of data displays and place them on the screens in a preferred location.
Again, whether or not Joe Average (who is noted for ignoring the gauges anyway) will be interested is yet to be seen. But for sure the upgradeable car isn’t too far off, and your dashboard may soon look very much like the cockpit of a modern aircraft.
When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.
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