DETROIT, Mich. -- Since introducing its Virtual Technician remote diagnostics program in 2011, Detroit has deployed 60,000 vehicles with the technology and logged more than two million incidents.
Eighty per cent of those incidents didn’t pose an immediate risk and the drivers were able to keep rolling, deferring any necessary repairs to the next scheduled service interval. Virtual Technician sends fault codes to a Redford, Mich. call center for analysis. Technicians there investigate the problem remotely while the truck is still in service, and then advise the driver or fleet owner on the most appropriate course of action.
“Just one time you can prevent that truck from going out of service pays the incremental cost of Virtual Technician, so it’s pretty easy math,” said David Hames, general manager, marketing and strategy for Daimler Trucks North America.
Unlike other remote diagnostics programs, which create a “freeze frame” snapshot when an event occurs, Virtual Technician creates a data log that records all the operating parameters from 60 seconds prior to, and 15 seconds after, the moment the light appeared on the dash.
This log file is the “secret sauce,” in Virtual Technician, said Marty Kubiak, manager, customer support center. He pointed out a condition usually occurs for about 30 seconds prior to the light appearing on the dash, so it’s important to see what took place in the moments before the light came on.
The Virtual Technician call center employs 45 people, who work out of Detroit’s Redford, Mich. plant, where they have access to engineers and product experts. The program analyzes about 200-250 events per day, Kubiak said.