With the advent of Vehicle Electrification, will Pattern Failure Diagnostics in the Field Becoming Obsolete?
As the era of Vehicle Electrification continues to quickly change the landscape of automotive vehicle systems, the impact of these changes will very likely cause a disruptive transformation in how aftermarket (and possibly some OEM) automotive technicians execute diagnostic processes. For example, traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) systems have experienced gradual changes and have significantly matured slowly over the past 100 years. With a long time horizon, technicians have had the opportunity to slowly “grow” with these changes and OEM product lines.
Conversely, Vehicle Electrification is on the cusp of significant growth, with stringent regulatory and compliance metrics driving innovations. Growth of emerging technologies fuels innovation, the innovation results in change, and change is a polar opposite to the experiences of (current) mature products. The automotive industry is in a unprecedented tsunami of innovations driven by vehicle electrification – specifically in electric powertrains, battery packs, and on/off-board charging systems – to name a few. Whether it is the Chevrolet Volt that is in it’s 4th generation of battery pack or Tesla announcing that it will innovate in 12-18 month cycles, it could result in an intimidating time in history for technicians, and the business of diagnostics and repair. However, I believe that rather than be intimidated, we should look at the glass is half-full. This period of innovation offers significant opportunity for those willing to learn it. Examples of Vehicle Electrification changes can be seen here and here.
As innovations continue to quickly evolve, most do not follow commonality in format, technology, or (in some cases) technical function. To compound the problem, technicians and enginees cannot rely on legacy knowledge or technology transfer to help them bridge the gap. With technology applications changing so quickly, it does not provide an opportunity for products to mature in creating an environment for pattern failure diagnostics to become commonplace. Therefore, technicians and engineers will need to learn a new knowledge and skills and rely less on pattern failure diagnostics or prior experiences to help navigate the new technological waters. Technicians (and engineers to some extent) will need to know what questions to ask when problem solving, rather than relying on knowing that every 2008 vehicle that is painted blue will need a new set of injectors every 25,000 miles (pattern failure). By understanding the fundamentals of systems hardware, firmware, software, systems integration, and the associated functionality of these systems – a technician or engineer is formidably armed to solve a problem.
Also, those that are engaged in diagnostics, especially in Vehicle Electrification systems, should know how they learn so they can more effectively learn new information and skills. Most of my colleagues over the years really didn’t know how they learned – they struggled silently. Knowing how you learn is an invaluable tool in dealing with the quick cycles of technology change and the application of fundamentals. An excellent article on the topic can be found here.
The first step in tackling the world of Vehicle Electrification is acquiring high-quality training (and education if possible) to equip your mental tool box, for enabling the ability to problem solve – even if the OEM provides information and special tools (which are sometimes inadequate for helping someone solve a problem). However, application of information and tools is dependent on the individual applying it. History is littered with the accounts of those that did not tool themselves for significant iterative changes and relied on training and skills that had little application in solving future problems. Well, the future is here, today. Actually, the future has been here since about 2001. Without the training or education, it’s like traveling without a map or compass.
There is an old axiom that has served me well over my career that may help those that are starting their career with Vehicle Electrification: Success is when opportunity meets preparedness.
Are you prepared?
Innovating Vehicle Electrification Technology: Hybrid Electric, Fuel Cell, and beyond.