Tech & Telematics Forum Tackles Issues Surrounding Connected Cars

July 24, 2015

DETROIT, July 23, 2015—Telematics technology is here, it’s increasing, and it will be in your shop soon.

That was the overall theme of Thursday’s second annual Technology & Telematics Forum at the 2015 NACE/CARS Expo & Conference at the COBO Center in Detroit.

The other, more direct issues—what forms telematics will take, security issues surrounding the data, concerns about the aftermarket’s involvement (or perceived lack thereof)—those issues, according to an impressive parade of experts who spoke on the subject Thursday, are very much still up in the air.

Newly elected chair of the Automotive Service Association Donny Seyfer led the forum. Seyfer, a mechanical shop owner from Colorado, has been at the forefront of connected vehicle technology and has worked with several organizations on developing a better understanding, as well as early protocols, in dealing with telematics.

Still, Seyfer said, very few understand telematics, and even less have solutions to the problems the automotive industry may face.

Seyfer said the goal was to put together a “think tank of some really smart folks,” who could better explain the challenges—and possible solutions—for this technology.

Panel 1: Discussing the Aftermarket’s Place

The forum started with a four-person panel, which included Greg Potter, the executive manager of the Equipment & Tools Institute; Bob Gruszczynski of Volkswagen Group of America; Bob Stewart, aftermarket service support manager for General Motors; and Dan Selke of Mercedes-Benz USA.

Moderated by ASA’s Bob Redding, the panel fielded questions posed by the audience during a 56-minute discussion that mostly centered on the aftermarket’s position in the future of telematics.

Stewart said that GM, the earliest OEM pioneer in telematics technology, uses its OnStar system to send reports directly to the customer and the GM dealership. It does not have the capability to send directly to an aftermarket repair business.

Still, Gruszczynski of VW said the idea of the aftermarket being “boxed out” by telematics technology is “absolutely false.”

But there is the issue of security of the data.

“It’s a hot topic, something we’re all engaged with,” Potter of ETI said. “We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to work going forward to a common standard that will allow very secure vehicles but still have data access for aftermarket to use. The answers are out there, but they’re not cheap, and not easy to implement. There will be a road to take to get there. I’m optimistic that sooner or later, kicking or screaming, we will get there.”

Ratchet+Wrench published an extensive feature covering the topic of telematics and how it may affect the automotive aftermarket. 

Panel 2: The Aftermarket Solutions

Udi Naamani of Fusepoint Ltd. said the industry is entering “the age of data.”

“In the age of data, the shop that gets the data is the shop that can get the business,” Naamani said.

Naamani was part of a two-person panel that discussed aftermarket applications that allow for telematics accessibility. Fusepoint is working on developing a platform that will “formulate relationship between you (the shop owner) and car owner so he can choose to give you the data and you can give the benefits back in return for having that data.”

The panel, which was moderated by Seyfer, went back and forth with Maamani and Harlan Siegel of LAUNCH Tech, which has an aftermarket OBD-II port telematics system that can process diagnostic codes.

“It’s not just about fixing the car,” Siegel said of telematics technology. “It’s not just about the check engine light. … It’s being able to connect to that customer through CRM opportunities and marketing opportunities, the way OEMs are doing now on new car purchases.”

The “Internet of Things” is quickly changing vehicle technology, making vehicles more and more connected to the world around them, Naamani said. And that creates new challenges that spur new technology innovations on the aftermarket side.

“This is a wonderful time we’re in,” Siegel said. “And I hope you embrace it.”

Panel 3: GM’s New Crash Avoidance Systems

The third presentation of the forum consisted of two General Motors advance service design engineers for the company’s Active Safety System, Alan Lustre and Katul Patel.

The two engineers gave a brief overview of the systems GM currently installs in vehicles, and what is coming down the road.

They identified seven key, new technologies that will be in vehicles in the coming years:

  • Surround Vision & Recorder
  • Curb View
  • Night Vision
  • Rear camera mirror
  • City speed front automatic braking
  • Front pedestrian braking
  • Lane keep assist with lane departure warning

Other Presentations

In addition to the forum’s three main panels, there was also a presentation from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration representative, who discussed recent findings about the drastic changes collision avoidance systems and connected cars could have on U.S. crash numbers. Ratchet+Wrench sister publication FenderBender also looked into this topic in a recent news story

Also, Bernie Porter of MAHLE Powertrain gave a full presentation on how technology will soon affect vehicle powertrains.

The event ended with an additional panel not originally part of the Technology & Telematics Forum program. Chris Chesney of CARQUEST and Stewart of GM further discussed the role of shops in telematics moving forward.

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