If you’ve ever wished your motorcoach could talk instead of just sending you an unfamiliar error code that tells you something is wrong—but not how worried you should be or what exactly you should do about it—then you’re in luck.
We’re not at the point of talking cars yet exactly, but we’re in some ways getting close. Saucon Technologies, headquartered in Bethlehem, Pa., is one company that can now track vehicle performance in real time, allowing companies to do predictive as well as preventative maintenance and get real-time advice on how to handle a potential problem with engines, transmissions, tires and more.
With predictive maintenance, the vehicle itself signals that something is wrong, not just sending an error code to the driver but also transmitting a host of information through the Internet of Things—data that’s passed on instantly to the manufacturer of the given tires or transmission or engine. In turn, the manufacturer sends related advice to the driver or fleet owner—often within minutes.
The technology is a spinoff of the way Electronic Logging Devices are used to track driver performance, only with similar technology tracking performance of the vehicle, notes Mike McDonal, Saucon’s director of regulatory compliance and chair of the American Bus Association’s bus maintenance and repair council.
“Up until a few years ago, a driver would pull out of a lot with the bus, and the company would have no idea what the driver did from there. Were they making hard turns, braking hard?” he said. “We’re gathering that for driver behavior and now taking it one step further to see how the vehicle is behaving. There are a common set of codes that engines or air conditioning systems or so on all produce when something is going on, be it a turbo failure or overheating issue or emissions system not working properly. There are monitors there to gather the data, and we have become one of the first companies to be able to capture this data and provide it across the board to our customers and OEMs of different components within that vehicle.”
Three years ago, Saucon teamed up with Cummins Inc., an engine manufacturer, to track real-time engine performance and predict potential problems before they happen. Based on that work, the number of road failures were significantly reduced, Saucon officials say. The company recently entered into a partnership with Allison Transmissions to deliver information about its transmissions to motorcoach, public transit and school bus fleets. Transmission health information can include prognostics to monitor various operating parameters, oil and filter life and diagnostic transmission information. The partnership, Allison says, is part of an ongoing journey to provide fleets with actionable information to support their fourth- and fifth-generation Allison transmissions that are already in service.
What is most significant is the way such partnerships allow the true experts to talk directly to those operating the vehicles.
“We’re pulling data from vehicles, watching on-board systems, understanding what messages and codes mean and providing advice back to customers on what actions to take,” says Rich Shelley, Saucon’s executive vice president of sales and marketing. The fact that data is sent to the manufacturers of a given part, and it’s the manufacturer that reaches out with action advice, is key.
“It’s not just a code; it’s what do those codes mean,” he said. “What course of action should I take as owner of a bus? Can I keep driving? Do I service it tomorrow? Beyond that, what parts might I need? The vehicle itself can identify what the problems are and help customers solve those and predict what’ll be needed.”
Technology has also evolved to the point where not just the diagnostics but actual tunings and system updates can be done remotely, Shelley said. “Today, we have to physically get on board, plug into a diagnostic port with a laptop and provide updates. What we’ve been working on is over-air software updates and calibrations to on-board systems that can be done remotely.
“We’re saying, ‘Why don’t we use this additional data we now have access to, to be predictive?” he said. “The motorcoach manufacturers and engine and transmission manufacturers are all saying, ‘This is a good idea.’ It’s a great way for them to learn how their product is performing in the field as well as gather important systems data to help create future predictive models.”
About Saucon Technologies
Headquartered in Bethlehem, Pa. (USA), Saucon Technologies serves over 500 customers in North America and the United Kingdom. Saucon Technologies has been a leading telematics innovator for the passenger transportation industry for over 15 years. With over 10,000 buses on the road utilizing the Saucon TDS solution, Saucon is committed to developing and delivering cost-effective and efficient solutions that dramatically improve asset management, and the overall customer experience.
For more: Visit Saucon on the web at saucontech.com or saucontech.comhttp://saucontech.com. Follow Saucon on Twitter at twitter.com/SauconIoT, on Facebook at facebook.com/SauconTech and on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/saucon-technologies.