Audi to use robots to service vehicles

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Audi of America photo An automotive technician walks alongside a robot that’s part of Audi of America’s ART robotic system in this clip from an Audi video.

By Sam Thetard, Crain News Service

HERNDON, Va. (June 20, 2014) — This is how it starts. First the Audi Robotic Telepresence (ART) system, then Skynet.

Well, maybe there are a few steps in between, but the slope is indeed slippery.

Herndon-based Audi of America announced its newest servicing technology, the ART robotic system on June 17. It will allow Audi technicians to virtually diagnose vehicles at Audi dealerships across the country.

The ART technology will provide a one-on-one virtual link — think Skype for mechanics — which connects to a rolling robot that has a video screen and camera attached. The robot’s mobility will allow the technician complete access to the vehicle in question. A borescope and hand-held camera will allow technicians on location to show and diagnose problems that might be hard for the robot to access.

“ART was designed with both Audi technicians and consumers in mind,” said Brian Stockton, general manager, technical support, Audi of America. “The device will give local service technicians valuable one-on-one interaction with their counterparts at Audi of America, which will not only benefit the speed and depth of service at the dealer level but create an improved ownership experience for the customer in general.”

Audi hopes to implement the program at more than 100 auto dealerships nationwide. At the moment, the car maker is testing pilot programs at a handful of dealers in various states. Dealers need only a Wi-Fi connection to implement the technology, which can be operated via tablet or a computer.

This technology represents a logical step in the diagnosis and repair of vehicles. If one looks a bit farther, however, this could be the first step toward fully automated vehicle servicing and the complete elimination of human mechanics (and possibly human error).

Full autonomy is the future. Whether that’s a good thing remains to be seen.

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This report appeared on autoweek.com, the website of Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.

 

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