According to a study by Markets and Markets, AI usage in the transportation sector globally is expected to grow by an average of 18% annually between 2017 and 2030. Although this is a huge growth rate that covers almost all areas of the industry, most focus has been on self-driving vehicles and vehicle tracking.
Unknown to many people, is the fact that local mechanics could be using AI to repair and maintain their car. AI is an important technology that is helping the automotive industry by making life better for all people who rely on motor vehicles.
In this article, we want to explore how mechanics are using AI and how this young technology will shape the vehicle repair and maintenance industry into the future.
What is AI?
AI is the short form of the term Artificial Intelligence. This is a technology that enables machines to perform various tasks without the need for human input.
Machines are designed with high-level computational abilities and then programmed to perform certain tasks autonomously. Already AI is applied in several areas in the automotive industry.
A rapidly growing technology is the Advanced Driver Assistance System which prevents the car from driving into another car, person, animal, or object.
This technology works great however, it is important to note that the system is calibrated to the glass. So, if you suffer a crack in your windscreen and need replacement you must recalibrate the ADAS system. This ensures the AI technology will perform as intended and prevent future accidents.
Often AI is paired with another discipline known as machine learning. This teaches AI-enabled machines how to complete new tasks and become smarter without the intervention of humans.
The combination of these two technologies is already in use in various sectors such as self-driving cars. Autonomous vehicles must have the intelligence to understand various road situations and respond appropriately to keep the car travelling correctly.
AI in Automotive Maintenance
AI has also been adopted in the automotive repair industry to different degrees. Some of the major applications of AI being used by mechanics are through Preventive Maintenance and Predictive Maintenance.
Most car owners know preventive maintenance as vehicle service.
This is the planned maintenance performed after a given interval whether the vehicle is completely functional or not, with the sole purpose of preventing breakdowns in the future.
Vehicle manufacturers provide their customers with car manuals designed to help owners know when certain vehicle parts and systems should be replaced.
A motor vehicle is a mechanical machine that like all other mechanical machines suffers from general wear and tear from the moving parts. Because of this such components need to be replaced from time to time.
It is important to note however, that relying solely on the vehicle manual recommendations of when to change certain vehicle components can be misleading. Different vehicles driven by different drivers experience different tear and wear rates based on the driving skills of the driver, the conditions under which they are driven, and how often they are driven.
This means that relying on the manufacturer’s car manual for preventive maintenance can fall short of helping to always keep the car in top condition.
This is what has driven many mechanics to look for proactive ways to check and service vehicles to ensure that vehicle owners get the best service and limited unexpected breakdowns.
Vehicle manufacturers have also caught up on this trend and help mechanics by fitting vehicles with many different sensors that when read on special diagnosis machines help mechanics know what vehicle parts or systems need their attention the most during the normal vehicle service.
Many of today’s cars are built with sensors and microchips that collect data regarding the vehicle conditions and store the data in the vehicle’s computer processors.
With a special diagnosis machine, the mechanic can read the diagnosis faulty codes and be able to not just replace the routine components such as oil and air filters but other components with extensive wear and tear to ensure that the vehicle runs smoothly for longer.
Today many major players in the vehicle repair and maintenance industry such as Robert Bosch GmbH, ACTIA Group, Delphi Automotive PLC, Snap-on Incorporated, and Continental AG among others have designed powerful AI-enabled vehicle diagnosis tools in form of AI OBD readers, AI Electric System Analyzers and AI-enabled Scan Tools.
These AI-enabled tools are used by mechanics across the world to generate comprehensive vehicle diagnosis reports during vehicle serving. This helps these technician’s carryout comprehensive vehicle tune up in an easy and time-efficient way.
This is what is referred to as deep service in many places. When the mechanic can use the data collected by sensors on the car to make decisions regarding maintenance, the mechanics do a better job of correctly pointing out vehicle parts that need replacement.
This helps ensure that the vehicle life span is extended as the mechanics eliminate all chances of the vehicle experiencing excessive tear and wear.
In addition, the use of the diagnosis machine, not only makes it easy for the mechanic to perform a deep service but also saves time.
Many mechanics today have invested in several machines and software that makes it easy for them to read vehicle fault codes on the ICU and make a quick diagnosis during vehicle servicing.
The use of such tools gives them more accuracy and helps reduce the time needed to service a motor vehicle. This increases the efficiency of their work and improves customer satisfaction.
Many people know vehicle inspection as the all-important procedure put in place to check if a vehicle meets government regulations for road usage.
Usually, this is done periodically in many countries to make sure those vehicles on the roads meet all the safety and emissions requirements. In some cases, the inspection is done by government officers while in other places registered independent mechanics do this job.
The other most important vehicle inspection that people rarely think about is the pre-purchase/sale inspection.
It is recommended that before you buy a used car, you should have the vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic. It is also advisable that sellers insist on a presale vehicle inspection to avoid disputes that may arise after the sale if the buyer is a reckless driver.
Performing these inspections can be quite a long and tedious process consuming a lot of time. To help mechanics, several companies across the world such as Scope Technology, DeGould, and UVeye have developed AI-powered inspection systems to make vehicle inspection easy and fast.
The key element of these AI systems is to provide transparency in vehicle inspection, especially during auctions, at second-hand vehicle dealerships, and for independent garages. These are also the perfect tool for companies with a fleet of cars when it comes to making important decisions regarding the sale and acquisition of more cars.
Bodywork Inspection and Repair
Inspection is an important process in vehicle maintenance. Unfortunately, many inspections focus on the internal workings of the car, while the bodywork is neglected unless it has noticeable dents or scratches.
This can be a costly practice especially if you live in an area where the environment makes metal corrosion more common. The good news is that many garages across the world are now investing in AI-enabled technologies to scan and inspect bodyworks.
For example, a vehicle rental company (Olympic Location) located in France began using an AI enabled bodywork inspection technology developed by Tchek technology to inspect its cars for preventive maintenance.
It has been said that the best time to correct an error is yesterday. This is what predictive maintenance is all about. Vehicle manufacturers and mechanics alike use advanced systems to try and predict problems in motor vehicles so that they can correct them before they happen.
Today motor vehicle manufacturers use artificial intelligence to try and warn vehicle owners when a big problem is about to occur. The dashboard is designed to provide different warning signs when something is about to go wrong even if the vehicle may still be running fine.
How does this happen? Vehicle manufacturers have hundreds of sensors, cameras, and instruments to monitor every aspect of the vehicle and provide feedback to the vehicle computer.
The vehicle computer processes this information and uses it to intelligently predict the problem that may arise. This help vehicle owners and their mechanics replace parts and address various issues fast before they morph up into a bigger problem.
Things do not just end in the vehicle ICU. Transport companies with large fleets of vehicles leverage the presence of these sensors by using advanced technology that links their vehicle ICUs to the internet to conduct remote diagnosis.
AI makes this possible thus helping the company avoid vehicle breakdowns when their fleets are on the road. The company mechanics are also on standby to offer timely intervention should an emergency take place.
This saves the companies both money and time as they are able to predict problems and solve them on time even if their vehicles are far off on the roads.
Supply Chain AI
Some independent garages use AI to manage their supply chains. It is common that certain vehicle problems are more concentrated during a certain time of the year than the other.
Many mechanics collect data on their customers, analyze the data, and use it to predict common vehicle problems in their town during certain seasons. This helps them plan their supply chain so that they have all the right vehicle spare parts to help fix their customers’ cars promptly.
Vehicle Addons for Car Owners
There are also a few startups that offer external modules to make the work of predicting vehicle problems easier. For example Carmen, a Singapore-based company provides a dongle that you can plug into the vehicle computer system.
These devices read all the data generated by various sensors and then send the data to the cloud for further analysis. In case of any danger, the vehicle owner receives a notification on their phone. Also, a mechanic may log into the cloud to learn more about the problem for easy solving of the cause.
Benefits of AI in Vehicle Maintenance
While AI technology is applied in many ways in many vehicle garages across the globe, most vehicle mechanics agree that using AI in predictive maintenance helps take the guesswork out of vehicle repair.
With this technology, customers are warned ahead of time of any impending danger. Then they can take their vehicle to the garage before any major damage is caused to get it repaired first.
Sometimes the mechanics must use specialized error code scanning tools to find all the problems. But the fact that the vehicle computer collects and analyzes data on any problem the vehicle may be having saves time and effort for the mechanic.
As a mechanic, you know that vehicle break downs do not just happen out of nowhere. A good driver can tell if something is cooking inside the bonnet long before the vehicle breaks down.
Unfortunately, many drivers on our roads do not have this intuition.
Having onboard AI systems helps such drivers know when a problem is developing in their vehicles so that they can see a mechanic on time. This is important in helping car owners maintain their vehicle in a good working condition for longer.
The Future of AI in Automotive Maintenance
Statistics point to a growing trend in the application of AI in automotive maintenance. As such, more mechanics and other industry players are turning to AI to help make their work easier, increase accuracy and maximize efficiency.
Some of the areas where AI will continue to develop within the industry automotive are:
The best way to keep a machine in top shape is to address the source of its main problems. Many of the vehicle problems that mechanics currently deal with arise from two areas:
Normal wear and tear.
While wear and tear will always occur, accidents can be prevented. The good news is many vehicle manufacturers are currently developing several AI and machine learning-based technologies to help prevent accidents.
Today many new cars come fitted with some AI-powered safety features such as the Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) to help brake the can when the driver does not respond to warnings of an impending collision, a Reverse Camera to help the driver see behind them and avoid hitting objects, Lane Departure Warning System, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Autonomous Cruise Control (ACC) among any other systems.
The purpose of these features is to help keep the driver and the vehicle safe by preventing accidents.
The Auto insurance industry has also taken a keen interest in the use of AI in automobiles.
Traditionally the auto-insurance industry has heavily relied on mechanics to access vehicle damage and process other requirements in paying out claims and carrying out necessary repairs.
This can take days and often leads to complaints from their customers. The use of AI offers a chance to speed up the process of vehicle inspection and thus serve their customers better.
Already several insurance companies across the world have teamed up with technology companies to test AI-based vehicle inspection technologies that make it easy for customers to get feedback when involved in an accident.
This area of the industry keeps growing and it is anticipated that more vehicles will be installed with AI capacities to alert insurance companies when an accident occurs, report on damage, and provide a reference point to mechanics when the vehicle is to be repaired.
Vehicle Voice Integration
With the increase of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto you can now connect your smartphone to your car, unlocking the full potential of all your up-to-date apps.
This allows you to Ask Siri or Google (depending if you have IOS or Android device) to play your favorite music or get directions to the nearest petrol station or Mexican restaurant.
The use of AI in this area is related to how Siri and Google can learn your behaviors and habits, then make suggestions based on you specifically.
We can also expect this area to develop in the coming years too.
This may seem a farfetched idea but already vehicle manufacturers such as Lamborghini and numerous scientists are considering it.
Already there are talks of robots trained to repair cars based on the diagnosis from onboard computers. Self-repairing cars may not appear on the scene for a couple of decades to come but advancements in replacing human mechanics with machines are already being considered.
This might take time for it to be realized but mechanics should watch this space.
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