Remote diagnostics wait with the internet fridge

5 January 2006

Automotive analysis firm SBD’s latest (paid for) report looks at why remote diagnostics have yet to take off.

A little like the fabled internet fridge that orders fresh beers from Tesco.com automatically, before you run out, remote diagnostics is a technology that ought to be here, ought to be worthwhile, but faces too much apathy, cynicism, inertia and cost to get off the ground.

SBD identifies a range of benefits: transmitting wireless data in the event of a vehicle breakdown; sending data about malfunctions direct to the motorist’s dealership; warranty analysis, enabling manufacturers to monitor trends such a component reliability; and remote software download, allowing makers to send software patches to fix certain kinds of faults, avoiding the need for a vehicle recall.

According to SBD, consumers won’t cough up cash for any of these benefits - anyone who owns a mobile phone will know that the cost of a wireless data link can be exorbitant. The manufacturers will have to swallow this cost themselves, but may be able to piggy-back on other wireless systems – such as real-time, traffic-aware navigation services – that have greater driver appeal.

Manufacturers and dealer networks will also have to co-operate more closely if they are both to benefit from remote diagnostics, SBD adds.

European Community proposals for a public E-call service – a sort of automated 999 call triggered by a collision or other emergency – could see all new vehicles fitted with wireless comms gear by 2009. Piggy-backing on this kit seems like one obvious route for future progress.

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