GM tool warns of potential part failures
DETROIT — Imagine if your car could warn you about a potential maintenance problem before it becomes an expensive breakdown. Our cars have gotten pretty smart over the last 30 years. Carburetors are long gone, being replaced by computer-controlled fuel injection, and just about every car made comes with a built-in diagnostic system to help pinpoint errors in the event of an unexpected failure.
Now, Chevy is looking to make our fourwheeled companions a little bit smarter by introducing the industry’s first predictive technology, dubbed Proactive Alerts.
In short, Chevy has developed a set of algorithms that allow a car’s computer to monitor certain systems and determine if a failure of that system is imminent.
That’s what General Motors says it can do with its new online service, Onstar Proactive Alerts.
Much like the onboard system of the Boeing 787, which sends in-flight messages to ground crews warning them before the plane even arrives about components that need inspection, Proactive Alerts continually monitors the car’s starter motor, fuel pump and battery. It if it spots an anomaly, it’ll warn you to take your car in for service, this reducing unexpected repairs.
This is how it works: Every time you start your car, the system collects a small batch of data as a baseline, and monitors those parameters continuously while you drive. However, it also compares the readings with those of every other vehi- cle of the same model whose owner also subscribes to the service, analysing your car’s performance against an enormous database.
That way it can tell the difference between a low battery charge — which can be fixed by going for a short drive — and a high internal resistance, which is usually the first sign that your car’s battery needs to be replaced.
Any component that isn’t working properly will stand out like a purple cow, and the system will immediately send a warning message that’s displayed on your car’s data screen, as well as your choice of either a text message or an email.
New job description Steve Holland is the chief technologist for vehicle health management at GM — and it’s an indication of how far warning systems have already progressed that such a job description actually exists.
“Accuracy is the key to our prediction algorithms,” he said. “We’ll be able to inform dealers’ service departments so they don’t have to spend time testing for a problem we’ve already diagnosed. They can replace the necessary parts quicker and get the customer back on the road as quickly as possible.”
For now, Proactive Alerts is available only to owners of 2016 Chevy Silverado, Tahoe, Suburban, Corvette and Equinox models who subscribe to Onstar, and it’s not available at all in South Africa. However, plans are in place for it to monitor more components, on more models, in the future.
There are a number of models on the market that can tell you when they need an oilchange, and two simple wires embedded in the friction material will tell you unerringly when your car’s brake pads need replacing, but Holland claims this is the first such system to offer this level of self-diagnostic capability. Are we seeing the dawn of the age of the car as hypochondriac?
Dubbed “Proactive Alerts,” the system monitors a vehicle’s battery power, fuel pump and starter, alerting the Onstar subscriber to an issue when one is about to occur.