Tuesday, September 30, 2014

New Vehicle Technologies are Arriving Soon

    Hello, everyone. I frequently monitor the internet to survey upcoming vehicle technology, and it seems as if things are ramping up fast just lately. Several manufacturers have displayed projects showing how trucks might look and work in the next 10 to 15 years.
    Much of the focus is on autonomous operation, or self-driving trucks, as well as technologies touted to improve safety. So far, autonomous operation is presented as a way to improve safety by relieving driver fatigue. I wonder if self-driving operation will really be allowed on the roadway anytime soon. It will take a huge leap of faith for legislators and car drivers to allow big rigs to operate without full time driver control. Operation will probably be limited at first to special routes or maybe separate lanes.

                         Below are links to a few articles I have come across recently.

heavy truck 2020
mercedes benz 2015
mercedes self driving truck
IAA commercial vehicle show
mercedes blind spot assist
bendix radar
LA e highway

    The thing I always think about when I read about all these wonderful gadgets and capabilities is "who is going to fix all this stuff ?" While you read the articles think about all the sensors, cameras, wireless interfaces, and displays that a truck like those presented, will have. Some technologies are just extensions of those already in service, but some will be new or used in new ways or combinations.
     Repairing these systems may be a bigger challenge than we had when electronic engines came into service. The engine systems were developed and the service information was provided by the engine manufacturer, so one source basically had everything needed. These new systems will likely be collections of components by different suppliers, interconnected by wireless or LAN and will have software written to interface with the vehicle chassis components. How all the repair information is pulled together in one place will make a big difference in how and by whom repairs are done.
    What is obvious in all of this is that we are entering an exiting time in vehicle evolution. I was in auto repair when electronic ignition and the first computer controlled carburetors came out. Mechanics who didn't want to learn the new technology soon got out of the business or lived off the leftover brake and suspension work. We will have much the same choice to make  in the coming years.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Are You A Mechanic or a Technician?

        Do you prefer to be called a mechanic or a technician? What intrigues me about that question is the variety of responses one encounters when the question is asked. Laypeople especially ascribe various meanings to each term, and often the definitions of each term are completely opposite from one person to another. This may not be one of the more important issues in the repair field, but it points out how language can be used (or misused) according to one’s point of view, vocation, station, or personal bias.

One view I often see is that a technician is more accomplished or knowledgeable than a “mere” mechanic. Often what is meant is that a technician is adept at using technology (computers or scanners) to help diagnose and repair modern, processor-controlled vehicles. By extension, this must mean that we are “better” repair people than our predecessors who worked on earlier technology. This is ludicrous, of course. A person’s skill in any endeavor can only be judged against his contemporaries. A great wide receiver who played 20 years ago would still be among the best, if he was born in the modern era.

Maybe one problem is the perceived meaning of the word “technology”. Today we tend to use the word to mean computer-related devices and systems but traditionally, it refers to the collection of tools, including machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures used by humans. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology Thousands of years ago technology was a rock bound to a stick and the use of fire. Until the 1970’s auto technology was carburetors, breaker point ignition, and drum brakes. Maybe the word technician just sounds better, and more modern to some people.

I guess it’s obvious I prefer to be called a mechanic. One issue I have with being called a technician is that there are so many different kinds of techs in many different fields. There are EMT’s, computer techs, quality control techs, and engineering techs, to name just a few. Mechanics, on the other hand, are understood to be repairers of vehicles (or aircraft). I also see the nature of the work as being different. Many technicians follow a fairly rigidly prescribed process or procedure to arrive at a solution or a verifiable result. Lab techs need to exactly follow a set procedure on a given sample to ensure that the result of the test is correct and unambiguous. A mechanic has a process to follow during diagnostic and repair, but that process is changed or modified as circumstances dictate. Imagine if an EMT decided to change a procedure during an emergency situation. I realize that some technician jobs approach or closely resemble the duties of a mechanic. A cleanroom Process Technician for example, is a mechanic who repairs and adjusts vacuum systems and process chambers where electronic chips are manufactured.

 It is only my opinion but I feel the term "mechanic" is more descriptive of the work, and I don’t see the need to “dress up” or legitimize my vocation with a new title. Maybe I’m old school, but I do believe in using precise language when specific descriptions are needed.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A milestone for The Toolbox

Hello everyone.
On September 5, 2014 The Toolbox reached the milestone of 50.000 page views.
Thanks to all who stopped by to check it out.

Graph of Blogger page views