Learning, research and education occur at multiple locations between WCC, the University of Michigan, UMTRI and more. At WCC itself, technician students are able to learn and work on current model year vehicles equipped with the technology. Students, faculty and staff volunteer for the project, having equipment placed in their vehicles’ trunks that students and faculty in both automotive and computer programming programs monitor. This intra-school partnership also allows students to take additional courses that will benefit them later.
“Mcity is testing this in in the highest areas of the highest development to really understand road conditions, buildings, proximity of curbs and roads, traffic signals, communication of the status of those objects to the vehicle by informing the driver of what is coming up next. This data information is allowing Mcity, UMTRI and our programming people to understand how software programming will occur in those vehicle systems,” says Lecz.
Students in these advanced programs are coming out of the classroom with cutting-edge, hands-on training that puts them on track to be A-level techs in many areas where the aftermarket is heading. The current automotive program will begin integrating key connected vehicle technologies as appropriate to provide students with an understanding of the inter-relationships between the many subsystems in the vehicle. This will apply to Connected Vehicle component functional characteristics and operation, diagnosis of inputs and outputs, and impact on the entire vehicle performance, according to Lecz.
“Our Automotive Service Technologies faculty have been identifying new technician skills emerging in the field, and holding Automotive Industry Advisory meetings with dealerships and vehicle manufacturers to learn of their service workplace skill needs. In addition, on the infrastructure side of the system, the Workforce Development area has been defining the skills and competencies required to meet emerging Intelligent Transportation Worker occupational requirements. All of this is still work in-process,” Lecz notes. “At the appropriate time, training will be created and released to up-skill technicians in the field. Because the technical content is rapidly developing, it is expected field automotive technicians will need to continuously upgrade their skills and knowledge of these systems.
“Moreover, each vehicle manufacturer’s systems are different enough that a technician must learn each manufacturer’s unique codes and functions in order to effectively diagnose these vehicle systems when there is a performance concern,” he continues. “We expect this will demand a more disciplined and continuous technical development plan for each technician working in the field.”
Local businesses recognize the potential these students offer their businesses and the automotive industry as a whole, with many dealership and shops offering professional development services and time to advisory committees at WCC.
“The benefits for area shop owners and technicians include the ability to provide the proper diagnosis and repair to assure a satisfied customer,” said Mike Duff, Professional Faculty Member, Automotive Service Technologies. “The program will also assure that the ongoing personnel training and specialized equipment necessary to diagnose highly technical and ever evolving vehicles is on a continuum, not a one-time training. The profitability of trained technicians, working on the proper equipment, equates to higher profit margins for shop owners.”
WCC’s Advanced Transportation Center as well as Mcity are providing the technicians the leading education on these new systems, but in the end, playing a vital role in the future of transportation. As Lecz explains, the learning goes beyond the research and will have long-lasting results in society not just in the service bays but on the road.
“Messages sent to the vehicle might tell it to maintain its speed to get through the light on green, for example. It’s a waste to society to sit at a light and idle,” he notes. “That’s part of the equation and system. These intelligent systems are all recognizing how this interplay is going to work.”
And these students and faculty all are on the leading edge of this new wave of vehicles, technology and service.