Ever been stuck on the road far from home with a breakdown? Not fun. So imagine getting an email or text warning weeks or months before a starter quits, a battery dies or a fuel pump fails. Some of General Motors' connected-car owners are already getting alerts for the service bay.
Thanks to an engineering discipline called prognostics, carmakers are working on giving customers a digital warning before a check-engine light comes on. Prognostics tap sensors to monitor starting, charging and running systems, and telemetry hardware sends vehicle health messages to the automaker's centralized processing operation.
Algorithms and artificial intelligence weigh the results and determine the remaining service life of critical components — and whether to trigger a warning.
"The most obvious benefit is peace of mind," says Jim Kelly, GM program engineering manager for vehicle health. "These issues are very rare, but our customers can sleep easy knowing that they are protected by our ability to predict them before they happen."
GM has offered its Proactive prognostics system with customer warnings via OnStar since the 2015 model year in some SUVs and pickups and the Chevrolet Corvette, and it has added more vehicles since.
"In the rare instance that we do predict an issue," says Kelly, "a Proactive alert transforms a potentially dissatisfying customer experience into a scheduled maintenance visit."
He says customers who get Proactive alerts are 50 percent less likely to experience a towing event related to the component involved.