Colin-on-Cars – Cell phone app diagnoses engine problems

The cell phone continues to grow as a value tool with more and more intelligent apps being developed – and Czech automaker, Škoda has developed one that diagnoses problems with you car simply by listening to the engine.

The artificial intelligence app – called the Škoda Sound Analyser – was designed and developed by Škoda’s in-house software developers. It allows technicians to quickly detect whether any service work is required.

The system is so sensitive it can recognise even the smallest irregularity in the engine sound and can suggest a range of service measures that might be needed.

The app program records noises made by the vehicle while it is running and compares them with stored sound patterns. In the event of any discrepancies, the app uses an algorithm to determine what they are and how they can be resolved.

To use, a technician only needs to record the engine sound via a smartphone microphone. An algorithm then compares the recording with stored sound patterns and, based on this, provides a description of the result.

The software is already able to recognise 10 patterns – with an accuracy of more thanr 90% – including for components such as the steering system, the air-conditioning compressor and the clutches in the direct-shift gearbox (DSG). The app is also set up to recognise other sound patterns and will be expanded to include other service items.

The app works by converting the audio file into a spectrogram that visually depicts the acoustic signals. Using artificial intelligence, this representation is then compared with the stored recordings to identify deviations. The app then categorises the potential need for upcoming maintenance or repairs based on predetermined patterns.

The smartphone app has been trialled in 14 countries – including Germany, Russia, Austria and France – since June 2019. A total of 245 Škoda dealers have been taking part in the pilot project. They have been instrumental in providing the audio recordings for the software’s ‘learning process’ and have directly contributed to the app’s development.

Stanislav Pekař, Head of After Sales at Škoda AUTO, says, “Sound Analyser is a prime example of the new opportunities digitalisation at Škoda can create, even in terms of after sales. We will continue to consistently use artificial intelligence technologies to offer our customers an even more personalised service, thus enhancing the customer experience even further.”

Artificial intelligence is a key pillar of Škoda AUTO’s digitalisation strategy. Apps such as the Sound Analyser can interact with the environment, perceive and weigh up facts, or solve specific problems. As one of the cornerstones of the company’s 2025 Strategy, artificial intelligence plays a key role for Škoda AUTO in advancing the levels of digitalisation even further.

For the Czech car manufacturer, this includes not only products and processes but also services.

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