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Scanner Simplifies Motor Complexity

Hamilton student Ben Gray has enhanced software features to a product that is making life easier for vehicle mechanics overwhelmed by the variety and technical complexity of modern cars.

Mr Gray expanded on the software developed by Automotive Electronics Ltd of Hamilton for its diagnostic scanner that simplifies and speeds up finding out what's electronically wrong with a car.

The scanner - which links the vehicle's engine computer with a PC - can tell a mechanic in seconds if any electronic sensors are not performing correctly, says managing director Glenn Thorley. "The aim is to make this product the simplest in the world for mechanics."

The rapid growth of new vehicles in this country had made New Zealand's car market the world's most diverse, he says.

"Cars come from everywhere. There are so many new models coming in that mechanics can't keep up with the knowledge required. They just haven't got time to learn about new automotive technology or to spend a day trying to figure out what's wrong with a particular car," Mr Thorley says.

"And customers are demanding quicker solutions." The company's research shows that most mechanics want to get out of the trade.

"Many of them are over 40 and they grew up in the age of 'plugs and points'. Some of them are feeling lost and frustrated. Now they've got to show a lot of new and different skills and many of them are feeling lost and frustrated."

Most vehicles built in the past 18 years have a sensor light that indicates if an electronic fault exists. The new scanner can be attached to a car's sensor light by a patented universal connector, and on a computer screen it will quickly tell a mechanic what the problem is and where.

"The advantage of the universal connector is that it can go on to any car," Mr Thorley says.

The scanner has already been sold to more than 150 garages. Ben Gray says he was offered the project by one of his University of Waikato lecturers under the Technology for Industry Fellowship scheme, operated by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. The scheme gives students an opportunity to do research projects with businesses.

Mr Gray was required to write and develop the software. "For example, I added a printing feature to give customers a hard copy of the diagnosis, I included the saving of car specifications, and I developed a copy protection to save the program from being pirated," he says.

He says the project helped him build skills in writing software and communication - "getting my ideas across and writing reports". He is now on a second Fellowship project with Automotive Electronics, where he will work full-time after he has completed his studies - despite being offered a job with a large electronics company in England.

-ends-

Contact: * Glenn Thorley, managing director, Automotive Electronics Ltd, 337 Jary Rd, RD1. Ohaupo, Hamilton. Ph: (07) 823-6552. Fax (07) 823-6552. Email: fix-it@xtra.co.nz. Website: www.rennacs.com * Ben Gray, Ph: (07) 823-6552, (07) 824-3088. Email: bgray@xtra.co.nz * Ian Gray Technology New Zealand at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (Auckland Office), (09) 912-6730, or 021 660-409. Website: www.technz.co.nz

Prepared on behalf of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology by ID Communications. Contact: Ian Carson (04) 477-2525, ian@idcomm.co.nz


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