Smart Tech Predicting Car Breakdowns

Preventing breakdowns through data sharing

Being stranded at the side of the road due to car failure is a worry for all drivers, especially on long journeys or when travelling to remote destinations. So what if it were possible to prevent breakdowns before they happen? No more waiting in the cold for the mechanic or the tow truck to arrive. That’s exactly what the AA hope to offer customers with their new breakdown app.

Car Genie at your service

The AA have developed Car Genie, a new connected car monitoring system. The device plugs in to a car’s on board diagnostics (OBDII) port to read the vehicle’s diagnostics system in real time. It then transfers this information to the Car Genie smartphone app. Faults detectable by Car Genie include general OBDII issues such as battery degradation, ignition problems, and exhaust gas recirculation flaws.

The AA have been trialling Gar Genie since 2016, and claim that it can predict up to a third of breakdowns. The system enables the AA to forewarn customers of serious faults with their vehicles, giving them the information they need to fix problems before they cause breakdowns on the road. The app also offers users interactive maps of their journeys, route recording, and tips on how they can improve their fuel efficiency.

Data to the rescue

Connected devices such as Car Genie rely on the open sharing of data between company and consumer. From a customer’s point of view, the usefulness of any such monitoring system depends on whether or not the advantages of divulging the data outweigh the drawbacks. Users of Car Genie automatically supply the AA with information on their location, which – whilst essential in the event of a breakdown – could raise privacy concerns. The app also monitors other aspects of a driver’s behaviour, such as braking, cornering, acceleration and overall speed.

Monitoring systems are not new to the motoring world, however. Black box insurance systems, also known as telematics, test a driver’s performance and have been around for several years. They provide careful drivers with an easy way of minimising their insurance premiums. With the cost of car insurance recently soaring to an all time high, the potential savings at stake for motorists can quickly override concerns about data sharing.

Apps such as Car Genie also offer valuable protection to consumers by informing them about their car’s performance. Arming drivers with data about their vehicle can prevent them being exploited by unscrupulous mechanics, by giving them the tools to identify mechanical issues. It is easy to draw parallels here between difficult patients researching their diseases on the internet and diagnosing themselves with fantastical illnesses, but on the whole, educating motorists about their vehicles has to be a good thing. In fact, according to the AA, 49 per cent of the people who trialled the Car Genie app said that they now understood car issues better.

For all the hype about autonomous vehicles – and make no mistake, they will be everywhere one day – at the moment we do rely on the motoring skills of humans. Improving the driving experience in any way is therefore highly valuable to car manufacturers, insurers and providers of breakdown cover. Giving people the tools to maximise the performance of their machines, and their own driving techniques, could prove to be a very smart business decision.

Would you consider using a smart diagnostics device in your car? At what point do monetary savings outstrip privacy concerns? What other kinds of innovations would help car providers to empower motorists? Comment below with your thoughts.