Smart cars need even smarter OBD



Higher levels of Advanced Driver Assist Systems, increased electrification and downsized turbocharged engines are becoming so sophisticated that even highly qualified technicians are struggling to diagnose vehicle malfunctions. Fortunately, new On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) technologies are being deployed that enable workshop staff to rapidly and accurately perform fault diagnosis and repairs on even the most complicated systems. Sometimes this can even be done Over The Air (OTA).

User manuals and technical documentation are notoriously boring. Making matters worse, such documents can sometimes over-complicate straightforward procedures—whether it be diagnosing a problem with electronics or carrying out a mechanical repair.

Intricate diagnosis and repairs are made significantly easier with the aid of Augmented Reality (AR) which is capable of overlaying instructions and contextual information directly over the system or component suspected of being faulty. One such system, Continental’s Connected Technician generates an AR live view of a real-world environment that is supplemented with computergenerated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.

A wireless dongle connected to the vehicle’s OBD II port allows the mechanic to communicate, via a tablet application, directly with the vehicle. Once the connection has been established the mechanic is guided through a step-bystep process of diagnosing the problem and then carrying out the repair. According to Tejas Desai, Continental’s head  of interior electronics solutions-North America, the Connected Technician is a service manual with a higher level of intelligence. Desai claims that using the tablet’s camera, the system is capable of guiding the mechanic to the exact cause of the problem and the correct method of repair, thereby saving costs and reducing downtime.

However before the system is fully functional, Continental will need to work with automakers in gathering computer-aided-design data files, and uploading these to the cloud, to ensure all the relevant information is accessible through tablets.

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Furthermore, the system should improve documentation of work done on vehicles, with the information being shared with other dealers and the automaker, resulting in better tracking of warranty problems, potentially reducing costs, as well as consumer frustration. Adopting a similar approach, Bosch has also taken AR to what they call a “Common Augmented Reality Platform,” which can be used to overlay text, circuit diagrams, videos, and augmented 3-D animations over a piece of equipment. Taking AR technology a step further, heavy machinery maker Caterpillar is using augmented reality technology for predictive maintenance enabling a user to look at a machine and instantly see a visual overlay that warns when various components need to be replaced, how much fuel has been used, and even indicate vehicle conditions such as individual axle loadings. The technology could also actively assist users in maintenance operations, walking them through the steps required to, for instance, carry out an oil change.

Taking OBD out of the car

As the 2017 Formula One season kicks off, Qualcomm Technologies and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport will conduct field trials to test high-speed wireless download of vehicle sensor information utilizing 802.11ad Wi-Fi technology in the 60 GHz band.

Following the success of initial testing carried out during the Formula 1 US Grand Prix in the 2016 season, Qualcomm Technologies, and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport plan to continue technology development and conduct additional trials during the British Grand Prix in July.

During these field trials, race engineers employed the technology to gather data directly from the team’s racecar while in or approaching the garage. The handover between the two 802.11 modes is handled automatically as radio conditions dictate.

The goal of the trial is to accelerate how quickly and efficiently data can be pulled from the vehicle, as well as help evaluate vehicle performance under extreme race conditions, leading to quicker assessments and less time in the pit lane. Utilizing motorsport as a test bed, the trial can also be used to assist in further developing technologies and applications that can potentially be used for conveying information gathered by a road vehicle’s OBD to a wireless service workshop or customer call-center.

“It has already been a rewarding journey to work with Qualcomm Technologies to develop technology that helps the team improve performance on track and could ultimately have a significant impact on people’s lives,” said Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. “Following Smart Cars Need Even Smarter OBD 4 a field trial in Austin last year, the target is to have the 802.11ad Wi-Fi technology running on-car during Friday practice from the 2017 US Grand Prix onwards.” From Qualcomm’s perspective, the 802.11ad multi-gigabit WiFi is regarded as a development path towards 5G technology.

The introduction of this technology to transfer vehicle sensor information builds on the concept of downloading telemetry data via Wi-Fi using the 5 GHz spectrum announced by both companies last year, where tire data was pulled wirelessly utilizing thermal cameras.

The system will feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with up to 128 GB of Universal Flash Storage memory to collect telemetry data while the car is on circuit. A Qualcomm QCA9500 chip will be used to support the 802.11ad WiFi. Through the increased throughput provided by the 60 GHz connection, race engineers will be supplied with more data intensive telemetry, enabling the team to make critical decisions with the aim of making informed decisions.

During the Formula 1 US Grand Prix trial in 2016, Qualcomm Mobile Test Platforms (MTP), a reference design built by Qualcomm Technologies, were re-purposed to behave as both the onvehicle unit, as well as function as the 802.11ad wireless access point. During in-garage testing of download speeds of over 2 Gbps, robust and reliable connections were established as race engineers undertook routine garagerelated activity on the car.

Utilizing the additional download capacity supports other opportunities to gather data from sensors with the goal of further helping Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport evaluate and optimize the cars’ performance during the free practice session at Grands Prix. With these 802.11ad Wi-Fi faster data transfers, the team’s drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas, will be able to spend more time on the track, fine tuning performance, and less time in the garage.

And as with the race cars road vehicles too will benefit from this development: Not only for infotainment systems but for OTA diagnostics relayed from the vehicles OBD.

It’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to think that in the near future dealers will be advised of upcoming services and repairs before the vehicle even enters the workshop.

However, the drive towards OTA functionality carries with it an additional cybersecurity risk, adding a new attack surface to an increasingly vulnerable platform. To safeguard customers, manufacturers and service providers will need to remain one step ahead of the hackers.

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