Andrew Marsh, Engineering Director at ‘Ezi-Methods.com’ provides us with a look into how communicative technology will have an impact on how vehicle dismantlers will handle the dismantling and recycling of parts according to the knowledge gained from real time life cycle monitoring.
For the past decade the advance of greater connectivity – that’s to say, the ability of a vehicle to communicate with the outside world as well as to receive dedicated, specific communication from the outside world – has been seen with heavy promotion of more consumer facing features.
Of course, if a vehicle is able to receive data, then it can broadcast data too. Many service providers see this just as a way to capture new customers. In truth, this market is suffering from a gap between what is possible with typical 2G or 3G mobile phone coverage / capacity, and what might be possible with the advent of 5G or better in the future. What has happened over the last two decades is to establish which vehicle manufacturers have acquired new markets based on mobile internet access, and which vehicle manufacturers have out-sourced this vital new commodity.
Why should we care?
The days of people wandering into an automotive aftermarket business without checking them out online first are almost over. The whole market has moved to a much more sophisticated model, where the quality and size of the mobile internet access service provider gives a clue about the type of business it could work with, and who is going to see what. Bluntly, a vehicle could have a breakdown through to a serious accident outside automotive aftermarket business and nothing – not one communication – could come through the front door.
There are two distinct trends underway, which seem to prevent the automotive market from operating the way it has for more than a century. The first is down to connectivity – even if the vehicle is not connected with the outside world, the user / owner will have a mobile phone with them, which is very much connected. The second trend is all about whole vehicle life cycle condition monitoring.
The proof is to be found in aerospace, where modern high by-pass ratio turbofan engines are monitored continuously in service. The amount of data recorded exceeds the capacity to transmit it, so the engineering centres observe key parameters and know that they can investigate more if required.
For the past decade, mobile internet connection services have enabled digital tachographs for coaches, buses and HGVs along with limited vehicle condition monitoring – compared to aero engine manufacturers – principally for powertrain. The logic is the same. Although a single aeroengine might cost more than a few houses in central London, a coach, bus or truck is quite an investment when the daily returns are relatively small. It means line the aeroengine, it has to be operating for as many hours as possible every day of the week. That is only possible with planned maintenance, and that requires system monitoring as close to real time as possible.
Powertrain has been the primary subject for monitoring, but other systems have until recently had little or no electronic sensing. That has now changed:
- Brake system – via ABS or ESC, able to detect line pressure and individual wheel speed – which means brake system performance drop-off or malfunction can be monitored. Such systems are already part of the vehicle data bus. This is in place, now.
- Steering. The big development was the migration from manual or hydro-mechanical systems to electro-mechanical systems. With steering angle sensors (on the column or the rack) linked into ESC as well as torque feed-back and the ability of other systems to alter the steered wheels by an included angle of 3.5 degrees, the steering system is not only linked to the vehicle data bus but is at the heart of active safety.
- Engine / transmission. For many years the vehicle data bus has enabled these two features to work in a more efficient way thanks to inter-communication. Enabling mobile internet connectivity allows condition monitoring as well as power reduction should another system (ie, brakes) require it.
- Suspension. Not quite as devoid of sensors as first imagined. Yes, ride height sensors are the most common type fitted to any suspension, even though this is far from universal. This whole area is set for development, to match the sophistication of tyre pressure monitoring systems that have been widely available for nearly two decades.
The big news is the sensors and control system prices have continued to fall, making access to lower price point vehicle more rather than less likely.
The end game
Finally, a connected vehicle can have it’s real time life cycle monitored. That means components which are stripped from a vehicle can have a usage log, which enables the dismantler to decide if a part needs to go to scrap or could be re-sold knowing it has significant life left. The bottom line is that whilst such a future is a few years away, the sector needs to prepare itself to think about dismantling in a rather different way.