An intelligent system that could
before long enable cars to tell mechanics which of their parts need servicing
has been unveiled by engineers at the University of Cambridge. The
specially-adapted Fiat Stilo prototype, which was recently presented at a
European technology show, can tell garage staff about the state of its
components in seconds by using electronic tags inside its engine.
The system has been designed by
academics at Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing. In conjunction with
sophisticated software, it could be used to speed up servicing, and identify
which parts can be recycled or reused when the vehicle reaches the end of its
life. Combining such information from many vehicles would pinpoint which parts
of a car need redesigning. In those rare cases that a faulty batch of cars are
actually sent to showrooms, the technique could instantly single out which
models need to be recalled before they hit the road.
Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID)
tags, each with its own unique identification number, are attached to the car’s
engine parts. The vehicle is then driven at low speed over a one-metre square
servicing pad, which is fitted with an Ultra-High Frequency reader and four
antennae. As the car passes over the pad, the readers transmit the ID number
from the electronic tags to a computer. By cross-referring this information with
a computerised database – for example one showing the parts’ date and
manufacturer – mechanics would be able to identify those parts that needed to be
checked for wear at the click of a mouse.
Professor Duncan McFarlane, from the
University of Cambridge’s Institute of Manufacturing, said: “Ultimately
motorists could be driving into a garage over the same sort of sensor, which
would instantly tell both the driver and the garage staff which parts needed
replacing and which might be good for several thousand miles more. But there are
potentially great benefits beyond this as well. When the car is sent to be
scrapped, for example, RFID tagging could be used to identify which parts still
have a useful life left in them.
The specially-adapted Fiat Stilo prototype, which
was recently presented at a European technology
show, can tell garage staff about the state of its
components in seconds by using electronic tags
inside its engine.
An intelligent system that could before long enable
cars to tell mechanics which of their parts need
servicing has been unveiled by engineers at the
University of Cambridge.
"The system will tell the car producer whether separate parts can be reused,
recycled, or need to be disposed of in landfill. It will also highlight which
parts need improving for a longer life," continues Professor McFarlane.
This demonstrator forms part of a EU funded project called ‘Product Lifecycle
Management and Information Tracking Using Smart Embedded Systems’, conveniently
abbreviated to PROMISE. The system has already been demonstrated at Fiat’s
research centre in Turin. In June 18th was formally unveiled at the EU-organised
Scientific Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Experience in Strasbourg. The
STOA Experience, an exhibition celebrating 20 years of research in science and
technology, took place in Galerie Sud of the European Parliament, Strasbourg.
“The PROMISE system has much wider
potential as well,” Professor McFarlane added. “It allows us to trace and update
information about any product, after its delivery to the customer and up to the
end of its useful life. In time it could be possible to tag all sorts of
products, components, and even airport baggage and boarding passes.”
The Institute for Manufacturing (IfM)
is part of the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering. Its activities
encompass industrial services, research, education and courses that aim to
provide a clear understanding of the challenges facing manufacturing today. The
IfM works closely with industry at regional, national and international levels
providing strategic, technical and operational expertise to help companies to
grow and to become more competitive. This work brings benefits to both parties.
Industry receives practical solutions based on the latest applied research. The
university receives live feedback to help set the agenda for new research and an
income stream to assist in funding future research activities.