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Car owners might in the future be alerted by email or SMS when something is amiss with their vehicle and requires garage intervention. So says Eric Postma, professor of Information Science/Artificial Intelligence of the Faculty of General Sciences at the University of Maastricht.

Research institutes from the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and the UK and car manufacturers Volkswagen and BMW are to participate in a new European consortium MyCarEvent (short for the snappy MobilitY and CollAboRative work in European Vehicle Emergency NeTworks), which is going to explore the idea of car maintenance alerts by email or SMS.

Garages these days often use computers to test vehicles. Most new cars are equipped with sensors that monitor and file technical information about failures that have occurred since the last service. The mechanic only has to read this data to know what needs to be done. Modern technologies, such as wireless communication and navigation equipment, will make it possible to carry out these inspections remotely and send car owners timely warnings about impending breakdown.

Ford and the Minnesota Department of Transportation have already teamed up to construct an intelligent transportation system whereby cars will talk to roads and to each other to keep out of traffic jams and bad weather. Operators will be able to track (through a secure website) vehicle location and mechanical status.

The European project involves a self-learning mechanics database which initially will be primed with information from existing manuals and then learns from further input. "The larger and more varied the input, the faster the system learns," Postma says.

He believes that intelligent maintenance will extend cars' lifespan and improve reliability while reducing costs. Research may still take five years or longer, Postma told The Register. "Commercial alailability may even be further off," he admitted. ®

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