The growing demand for rental or shared cars has caused this industry to boom in the past couple of years. Nevertheless, increasingly the returned vehicles show minor damages which leads to disputes among service providers and customers. Electronic systems could help to detect such damages reliably, says Karl-Ludwig Krieger, professor at the Bremen University and head of the electronic vehicle systems research group at that university.
The KESS project launched by Krieger utilizes an in-vehicle sensor network to detect, identify, classify and record small damages such as dents. The system also will be able to assign a damage to a specific location within the vehicle. "These novel intelligent sensors are "listening" permanently", explained Manfred Meise, general manager of automotive tier one Hella Fahrzeugkomponenten GmbH, a research partner of Bremen University. The data are transmitted by an on-board computer to the vehicle management system of the respective car sharing operator, enabling the company to simplify and speed the settlement of the damages.
Other research partners include Berger Elektronik GmbH and cambio Mobilitätsservice GmbH, one of Germany's largest car sharing operators which will conduct a fleet test with the device.
The electronic system in question will feature a modular design, offering easy adaptability for further applications. The researchers already have an application in logistics in mind: The system then could be used to monitor valuable goods during the shipping process and immediately report any damages.
The usage of sensors for structure-borne noise in cars is not entirely new. Volkswagen has a Crash Impact Sound Sensing system in place that measures and processes such a system to achieve an optimized firing of the airbags in the case of an accident.