By the Dashboard Light

July 13, 2010
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When my dashboard’s “Check engine” light—aka the Harbinger of Doom—came on recently, my blood ran cold. Angst-ridden, I took the car to my mechanic and waited for the diagnosis. Fortunately, it was just the spark plugs and wires that needed replacing, and nothing more serious—aka expensive.

When my dashboard’s “Check engine” light—aka the Harbinger of Doom—came on recently, my blood ran cold. Angst-ridden, I took the car to my mechanic and waited for the diagnosis. Fortunately, it was just the spark plugs and wires that needed replacing, and nothing more serious—aka expensive.

While no one wants to see one of those dashboard lights, the diagnostic sensors behind them are impressive tools, which not only identify problems but store extremely useful data. When loaded into a data warehouse, they can help auto technicians identify recurring problems with a particular model and find the most efficient fixes.

For Volvo Car Corporation, diagnostic data collected from vehicles on the street is invaluable. The company started with the data created by onboard sensors and control processors, which is downloaded by Volvo technicians during service and repair work. Moving beyond trouble codes, however, the Swedish automaker now collects nearly 400 discrete measurements and loads them into the data warehouse.

Analyzing this data is paying off in countless ways, including improving the fuel-efficiency of several models as told in “Data in the Driver’s Seat” at TeradataMagazine.com.

Now that I’ve read this article, next time my dashboard lights up unexpectedly, I’ll take some comfort in knowing today’s headache might help build a better car tomorrow.

Mike Westholder
Managing Editor
Teradata Magazine