In 1975, McLaren became the first manufacturer to use computers in motorsports. They used it to collect telemetry data for their IndyCar Series efforts.
The computer captured 14 different pieces of information that could be downloaded and analyzed by the team. Computers and microprocessors eventually became indispensable to racing.
The use of computers in race events was meant to improve performance. But everyday vehicle users care more about running costs and maintenance of their vehicle than performance. Computers and data are increasingly relied upon to improve those aspects for consumers. Initially, the maintenance of a vehicle was done when it broke down. Gradually, private owners and mechanics started performing preventive maintenance activities to avoid breakdowns. Vehicle manufacturers introduced features such as warning lights to aid such efforts.
Over time, manufacturers realized consumers were factoring in the expected lifetime of vehicles in their purchase decisions. To improve the useful life of their products, they started to include maintenance schedules based on the number of miles driven and ownership duration.
Today, vehicles carry multiple microprocessors and other computing resources to sense, measure and record telemetry data. This data is used to improve performance, improve safety and employ predictive maintenance which helps optimize maintenance schedules.
When a car arrives at the garage for service, the dealership just needs to connect the onboard computer to get all the necessary information required to conduct root-cause analysis. The vehicle usually can be patched up quickly with the data available.
Another revolution brewing in the automobile industry is the rise of autonomous driving. Autonomous cars collect and digest a large amount of data. They even connect to the cloud and get software updates.
The data collected by the car is sent back to the OEMs to, among other things, improve autonomous driving technology. Increasingly, automobiles are behaving like electronic devices rather than mechanical contraptions.
Digital twinning is a nascent technology OEMs are exploring. The idea behind digital twins is that virtual versions of vehicles are operating in the cloud with the same data sensed in the real-world vehicle.
Millions of virtual vehicles sold by an OEM will be hosted and running live on the virtual cloud. Data from one vehicle can be used to improve and change other vehicles from the OEM. Maintenance tasks and schedules can be amended with the insights extracted from the large pool of vehicles connected to the cloud as digital twins.
The two new trends can improve fixed operations for manufacturers and dealers. The data from the vehicle can be accessed only by the OEMs and an approved set of dealers.
This means consumers cannot rely on third-party services to take care of their vehicles; instead, they must rely on the maintenance network authorized by the OEMs as their data is locked in. This increases a dealer’s fixed operations and becomes a revenue stream that is much more reliable than vehicle sales.
Oil as fuel and lubricants used to be crucial for vehicle operations. With electric vehicles and autonomous driving technology, the reliance on oil for transportation will come down drastically. Data will take over as the crucial element of vehicle operations.
Better computing, Internet of Things (IoT), next-generation cellular connectivity and cloud computing will increase the dependence on data in the automobile industry. Data will become as crucial to vehicles as oil is today.
Bryan Christiansen (pictured, above left) is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a mobile computerized maintenance management system software that helps managers organize, automate and streamline their maintenance operations.