Skoda develop a smartphone app that identifies what’s wrong with your car by listening to the engine

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Skoda has developed new technology it believes will make car mechanics’ lives easier – or possible make them redundant entirely.

The Czech brand – which sits under VW Group’s ownership – says it has completed successful trials of a smartphone app that can listen to any thuds, bangs or clatter produced by a vehicle and diagnose the problem from the sound alone.

Called the Skoda Sound Analyser, the manufacturer says it has a 90 per cent success rate of identifying issues with cars correctly.

a hand holding a small camera: Smart-phone app for car mechanics: Skoda has developed an application that listens to a car's engine noise to identify if it has an underlying issue that needs to be fixed by a technician

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Smart-phone app for car mechanics: Skoda has developed an application that listens to a car’s engine noise to identify if it has an underlying issue that needs to be fixed by a technician

Skoda has developed the system in house to be used by technicians in its franchised servicing departments to quickly detect whether any repair work is required. 

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

To use the technology, mechanics only needs to record the engine sound via a smartphone microphone. 

It then records the noise made by the motor and compares it to stored sound patterns. 

If it identifies there is a difference to the rumble of a healthy engine, the app uses an algorithm to determine what might be the problem causing the discrepancy and how it can be resolved.

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Skoda says the software has already been fine-tuned to be able to recognise ten patterns, finding the correct problem nine times out of ten.

How does the app identify when there’s a problem with a car? 

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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. 

Among the issues it is able to identify is gremlins within the steering system, air conditioning compressor, and clutches in automatic gearboxes, with more to be developed. 

The smartphone app has been trialled in 14 countries – including Germany, Russia, Austria and France – since June 2019. 

A total of 245 Skoda dealers have been taking part in the pilot project. 

Stanislav Pekař, head of after sales at Skoda, said: ‘Sound Analyser is a prime example of the new opportunities digitalisation at Skoda 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.’ 

Despite developing new technology to quickly identify issues with its cars, Skoda’s tend to perform adequately for dependability in market reports.

In the latest What Car? Reliability Survey, Skoda was deemed by car owners as the fifth most reliable brand – bettered only by Lexus, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Mini.

In terms of models, the small Citigo was listed as the most reliable of all city cars, while the Octavia, Superb, Karoq and Kodiaq were all among the top three best performers for dependability in each of their segments.

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