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Predictive and mechanical diagnostic telematics

Questek Telematics is adding an innovative new dimension to the concept of the ‘connected’ vehicle. Their new, flagship product – just one in a range of telematics-based solutions which they offer – is capable of predicting the future of a vehicle and locating where the vehicle has broken down – and also why.

This predictive technology – dubbed Q-Command in the South African market – is already saving commercial fleets around the world thousands of Rands per vehicle each month, is now available from Questek, a local leader in the application of transport technology.

“The key to our innovative new technology is not just the predictive element but also the sophisticated recording and reporting element,” explains Tjaart Kruger of Questek Telematics. “Telematics is only as good as its back end, and we’ve incorporated a number of features which make it extremely easy to use as a management tool.”

The ‘front end’ of the system is equally fascinating. The key to its revolutionary nature is a driver and vehicle management system which integrates seamlessly with the CANbus network – an integral part of modern vehicles.

In a CAN (Controlled Area Network) system each component in the network has its own processing and communication capabilities, with one data channel connecting all units, instead of each component being wired directly to a central control unit. Many sensors and actuators have their own individual mini-control units and all the units – called nodes – communicate with each other through a single pair of wires known as a ‘data bus’.

This allows for the measurement and frequency of many vehicle parameters: oil pressure and temperate, water temperature and level, engine speed , road speed, brake pressure and many more can be monitored – live-time. The second element is a module installed on the vehicle and which measures GPS positioning, and also lateral and longitudinal acceleration.

With so much information recorded and analysed using proprietary algorithms, predictions can be made – for example – whether a door is going to fail on a bus (based on information such as the number of times it has opened and closed, but also the cadence of its open/shut cycle and any deviation from a standard cycle). It is also capable of recording whether a driver is freewheeling using brakes as a …… to the praking haid, hard shutdown of a turboed vehicle, over-revving a cold engine, using the incorrect gear ratio, or pulling away with too high a clutch load.

“If it moves, we can count it,” says De Bruin. “That can include the number of rotations on the drum of a cement mixer and the number of brake applications on a bus. As well as predicting breakdowns, it allows for more accurate use of resources: instead of replacing brake pads at scheduled intervals, we can now calculate exactly when the life of the service component will end and why the driver is using excessive brake pads.”

The technology is constantly being developed and refined. Over 60 000 vehicles worldwide use it and In some case studies, fleets are saving R75 000 a year in truck maintenance and R25 000 a year in car maintenance. Companies are reporting a 50 percent reduction in accidents and a 14 percent fuel saving.  Arriva, the Scandinavian bus company, is saving a million litres of fuel a year.

As well as predicting a roadside breakdown (and associated delays, and issues such as reputational damage), it can be used to alter driver behaviour. The Driver Manoeuvre Awareness System (DMAS) combines visual and audible warnings when an event (braking, turning, acceleration) exceeds a pre-determined threshold. This upskills drivers rather than persecutes them, and is also able to prevent behaviour (like freewheeling in neutral) which is erroneously believed to be beneficial in terms of fuel consumption.

Because the system operates live and passes information back to a central hub via the global systems for mobile communication, the driver’s habits are equally ‘live’ and not just live in terms of being a moving dot on a map, but giving a full house of information.  A real-time video dashboard is created for each vehicle which can be viewed at any time, while sophisticated reports can be generated.”

The old adage that prevention is better than cure remains as true as ever, Questek Telematics is taking telematics where it hasn’t been before.

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