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On the road to increased safety: Additional digital vehicle inspections

Digitalization opens up entirely new opportunities also in vehicle inspections. As a full-service partner for future mobility, we are therefore developing many digital services that create added value for the automotive industry, fleet operators, and consumers alike.

Our current research project "German Panel", for example, is doing important groundwork in the early detection of errors in vehicle electronics. A continuous analysis of technical vehicle-data can provide us with vital information on the health status of vehicles in a German fleet. This then increases road safety, enhances user comfort, and helps retain vehicle value.

The connected vehicle: New challenges and opportunities

Vehicles are increasingly developing into smart devices. Only a few years ago, vehicles were equipped with just three control units. Today they often have more than 120 minicomputers. These communicate with each other and will in future also connect with external systems. This then increases the number of locations where safety- and environmental-related errors can occur. Any internal or external system errors can be identified at the 2-year statutory vehicle inspection.

However, greater road safety and comfort benefits would be gained if malfunctions could be detected, reported, and rectified as soon as they occur rather than only every two years during the routine technical inspection. Ideally, notification of defects come directly from the vehicle itself.

We have been examining the potential in this area in a field trial. For a representative panel, we enlisted around 50 private users in Germany as well as a driving school and equipped their vehicles with telematic systems. Over a period of 6 months, users read out all safety- and environmental-related vehicle parameters weekly and transmitted them to us. The information gave them instant insights into the condition of their vehicles, and we were able to create the first reference case based on the data.

First database for analyzing environmental- and safety-related errors

Both environmental- and safety-related Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) in vehicle control units occurred during the research project. A special feature of the technology is its ability to read out manufacturer-specific DTCs from the vehicle in addition to standardized codes. Users benefit from a greater sense of security, actual road safety is increased, and data are gained on vehicle condition that can also be used as supporting sales information.

Digital checks could enhance future statutory inspections

The core of the research, however, was to gain insights for a comprehensive road safety of the future. Our experts know that inspecting a vehicle’s physical components will always remain important. However, checking for software errors is becoming increasingly vital to ensure future road safety. Our "German Panel" research project has given us vital data and experience, which we are now systematically evaluating and, where appropriate, implementing in future services.