An AA trial of a remote diagnostics system has found almost one in five vehicles developed problems that could be identified before they broke down.
The AA has been trialling its AA Connect system on 10,000 cars and has so far found that 17% of vehicles developed problems. However, early diagnosis meant that the issues could be repaired before they led to a roadside call out.
The system works by using a small device plugged into the car’s diagnostic socket, which monitors data including battery condition, electrics and engine management. Data is sent to the AA in real time and can be monitored by the driver using a smartphone app. Drivers can be alerted by text if an issue is detected, although during the trial 85% percent of users checked the app daily.
The three main faults detected so far have been with the ignition coil, the exhaust gas recirculation valve and the mass air flow sensor.
The AA is halfway through the trial and hopes to roll out a connected service to its members in 2017. Alan Ferguson, head of AA Connected Car, said he was greatly encouraged by the results so far.
“Although there is work still to do, we have been able to pinpoint potentially serious faults on some cars,” he said. “It is clear that breakdowns can be averted, providing an excellent customer experience as well as reducing pressure on the AA’s roadside resources.
“The trial has brought some interesting cases, including highlighting a major fault on a member’s vehicle prior to the family setting off on a European driving holiday which could have led to a potentially costly and disruptive breakdown in France.
“Because anything can happen, using this technology gives drivers reassurance that we can forewarn them about breakdowns. We were able to book appointments to suit our members before that happened, avoiding the unexpected stress of calling for help in a potentially hazardous location.”
Ferguson said that identifying battery problems was a key function of the app, and while the recent cold weather had prompted a rise in battery-related call-outs, the trend wasn’t mirrored among users of AA Connect.
The app also tracks a vehicle’s location and driving style, including speed, cornering, braking, acceleration and use of engine revs. This produces a report that tailors driving advice for the user to help improve safety and reduce fuel usage. The AA says the data has the potential to help members reduce insurance premiums if they can demonstrate a lower risk profile.
More than half – 54% – of those taking part in the trial said the system had enhanced their driving position, while a similar number – 49% – said they better understood their car.
Those taking part in the trial include AA customers who had made multiple calls to the AA for assistance in the past and members who also have AA car insurance. Half are randomly invited staff and AA members.