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Telematics and technicians

The integration of the automobile into the “internet of things” brings new challenges to your bays.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 06:00
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Telematics has become very personal to me lately. If you’ve been wondering what all the hype about telematics is and how it will affect your role as a vehicle service professional, read on. If you’re not sure what in the heck telematics even is, read on!

Telematics merges many of the onboard vehicle communications systems we work with every day with the world of cellular communications. If you recall the birth of GM’s OnStar in 1996, however, you know telematics is not a new thing. Recent advances in vehicle communications and the desire of private vehicle and fleet owners to keep their vehicles and occupants safe and connected has caused a surge in the growth of vehicle telematics. Telematics is yet another electronic system that requires diagnosis and repairs. Sometimes this technology creates unwanted side effects on the vehicle’s electrical systems, thereby creating diagnostic problems in the service bay. 

OEM telematics modules are supporting quite a few systems these days including bluetooth, as seen here on this list of data PIDs. Some scanners can also activate various features such as audio tests. Note the term this GM OnStar module is given on this 2014 Impala — HMI for Human Machine Interface.

The aftermarket telematics dongles are small and simply plug into the OBD II DLC.  Cellular communications of data from the vehicle’s serial bus and GPS location info are pulled together to allow consumers, parents, and insurance companies to leverage valuable information about the vehicle in order to be safe and connected.  The Delphi model pictured above allows repair shops to intelligently manage preventive  maintenance and repairs for their valued customers.


Consumer appeal and emotions
Telematics volume is growing rapidly on a very large number of vehicles and is being utilized by a diverse group of drivers. Truck drivers know where their next load is waiting for pick up and their fleet service managers know when that rig will need serviced next. Parents of young drivers can sleep with a little peace of mind knowing their teenagers are actually driving sensibly and within their allowed boundaries of travel. For the personal side of this popular technology, my 87-year-old mother recently became a telematics user. Mom has never been a fan of technology. On the other hand, my father has been the key person for the past five decades inspiring me in the auto repair industry. Dad has always been excited about technology. He built a repair business in the 1960s that lasted close to 50 years, and it was there I learned the fundamentals of automotive electronics.

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Dad has some problems with dementia that are advanced enough for Mom to take over the driving duties. If you have an elderly loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, my prayers are with you. If you’ve been fortunate to miss this experience you have no idea what families go through. In just a few short years, Dad spiraled down from being one of the nation’s best auto electric and vehicle diagnostic guys to needing his son (yours truly) to replace a tail light for him. Tasks like this are an honor to complete for him, yet very sad at the same time. As far as mishaps go, thus far we’ve been lucky. Dad has, on a couple occasions, taken off in his 2002 Chevy Trailblazer only to be brought home a few hours later by some very understanding police officers. Mom keeps thinking she has retrieved every spare key dad has made for the Chevy. Even though he can’t find his way home at the end of his joy rides, he seems to find where Mom has hidden the keys. Moving into a specialized care facility isn’t an option at the moment.  Mom and the rest of the family constantly worrying about Dad finding another Trailblazer key and disappearing is no longer an option either. Telematics was an option. Now, thanks to the GPS tracking and cellular technologies incorporated into a telematics dongle, Mom and a few other family members know exactly where the family Trailblazer is . . . just in case Dad manages another joy ride.

Human nature – safe and connected
Telematics in today’s privately owned vehicles combine vehicle position, vehicle on-board diagnostics and external telecommunications. Many drivers today want to feel safe and connected, which is an important driving force in increased acceptance of this technology, especially for women. For example, human nature reveals that some male customers may grumble a bit due to the inconvenience of a no start while at the same time enjoy a bit of the challenge in finding out what the problem might be. After all, the average American male driver (especially baby boomers) has been socially conditioned to view auto repair as something they should be able to understand (like their fathers or grandfathers) but don’t due to the increased complexities of today’s vehicles. When they find out telematics can help with vehicle diagnostics they often embrace that option. A sense of self sufficiency is boosted. All technicians reading this can relate! Most women drivers, on the other hand, see both the inconvenience and potential hazard to their personal safety when a no-start condition occurs.

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