Highways will soon be filling up with vacationers as summer gets underway. Summer vacation season finds families loading up their cars and hitting the road. Many vehicles will get a check-up at the local mechanic’s shop before heading out on this year’s adventure. June 29 will mark the 64th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s signing of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. This law launched the construction of the interstate highway system. Aside from vacationers, much of our commerce relies on this network of major roadways that crisscross the nation. Whole fleets of commercial vehicles transport huge quantities of goods from coast to coast. These trucks require more than a yearly check-up at the local mechanic. Shipping and logistics companies maintain full-time vehicle maintenance operations. When the inevitable breakdown happens, they rely on fleet roadside assistance. These mobile mechanics have evolved from simple tow trucks to sophisticated technicians’ shops on wheels.

Modern vehicles become more complex with each new year model. Those built after 1996 include some version of a computerized diagnostic system. New sensors and smaller, faster computers make monitoring real-time engine operation possible. Technicians simply plug in a laptop computer and quickly diagnose many common problems.

Current On-board Diagnostics (OBD)

A vehicle’s check engine light is a notification from the diagnostic system that some measurement has exceeded an alarm point and needs attention. Vehicles now include an access port that allows connection to an external diagnostic device. That device is programmed to decipher codes from OBD that refer to maintenance manuals. The manuals specific maintenance procedures or part replacements.

Future Diagnostics Possibilities

Telematics is enabling diagnostic systems to connect wirelessly and communicate data such as location using GPS data, the status of the engine and other details about the vehicle’s condition. As self-driving technology becomes a reality, it is conceivable that a car of the future may identify problems, communicate with repair facilities and even transport itself for repairs.

Progress in technology is making things possible that not too long ago, would have seemed like science fiction. The gradual adoption of computerized diagnostics and telematics are changing the vehicles of tomorrow.