On the Way to General Inspection 4.0

Periodical vehicle checks of the future will be data driven. Even today, processes are being digitized and automated. The best example of this is DEKRA’s inspection station in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, opened in the spring of 2019.

Periodic vehicle testing must keep up to date with the increasing automation and digitization of vehicles. Photo: DEKRA

Periodic vehicle testing must keep up to date with the increasing automation and digitization of vehicles. Photo: DEKRA

The vehicle inspection runs like a conveyor belt, with vehicles completing test rigs sequentially, one after the other. Acquisition of actual vehicle data and comparison with target values is partially automated, with lighting equipment tests performed by a robot. Even this short list makes it quite clear – in this DEKRA test facility in Shenzhen, there is a whole lot of state-of-the-art technology in use. Individual steps in the test procedure are carried out by different employees, with this division of labor also enabling significantly higher capacities. While a DEKRA testing lane in Germany, for example, may examine two to three vehicles per hour, the number in Shenzhen is up to 20. A proposed inspection facility in Beijing will feature four testing lanes and therefore be capable of processing even more vehicles. The name DEKRA carries considerable weight here, in the world‘s largest automotive market, which places high value on vehicle safety.

International Differences

Viewed globally, there is a large number of differences in periodical technical inspection (PTI) practices for vehicles currently on the road. In the EU, the current legal basis for vehicle monitoring in member states is Directive 2014/45 EU from April 2014. This defines the EU-wide minimum requirements for vehicle inspection, which still allows member states to apply some discretion. This is applied, for example, in terms of test frequency. While Germany, Austria, Poland and Sweden require new cars to be tested for the first time after three years, it is after four years in France, Italy and Portugal.

Casting a glance beyond Europe: In China, new cars are required to be presented for PTI after six years, in Morocco it is five – then subsequently at one-year intervals in both countries. While New Zealand prescribes PTI for passenger cars every year from new, only trucks and taxis are subject to the PTI obligation in South Africa. However, the South African government is discussing the introduction of a nationwide periodical vehicle inspection system based on the model used for passenger cars in Europe. In the US, there is no federally mandated regulation. Each state decides whether and to what extent vehicles must be regularly inspected. Often, it is only an emissions test that takes place. Technical vehicle inspections, similar to the European PTI model at least in part, are required in Georgia, California, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia, among others.

Nicolas Bouvier, Executive Vice President, Vehicle Inspection Service Division, DEKRA SE. Photo: DEKRA

Nicolas Bouvier, Executive Vice President, Vehicle Inspection Service Division, DEKRA SE. Photo: DEKRA



“In some parts of the world, we are still working hard to persuade the responsible authorities to introduce periodical vehicle inspection, or to improve its scope.”






There are also differences worldwide as to who is permitted to carry out a vehicle inspection. In many EU member states, only independent expert organizations such as DEKRA are authorized to do this, with some countries also allowing selected car repair shops to do so. In Austria, for example, tests may also be performed by motorist clubs such as ARBÖ and ÖAMTC.

Consistent Development

Given the amount of safety-relevant data that will be generated by automated vehicles in the future, it is already clear that the general inspection of the future will face entirely new challenges. “We have to continue developing the testing of vehicle components – both electronic and mechanical – in order to check all safety-relevant and environmental systems for damage, malfunction and manipulation at any time,” says Hans-Jürgen Mäurer, Head of Technical Services Management in the Vehicle Inspection Service Division at DEKRA SE.

In Italy, owners have to go to the vehicle inspection with their new car after four years for the first time. Photo: DEKRADEKRA tests vehicles in around 20 countries globally as part of periodic vehicle inspections. Photo: DEKRALike everywhere DEKRA tests vehicles independently, professionally and according to precise quality standards here in Milan. Photo: DEKRASince March 2019, the first DEKRA test facility in China has been in operation. Photo: DEKRAWork allocation and partial automation in the Chinese vehicle inspection system allow for a high throughput of vehicle inspections. Photo: DEKRAIn 2013, DEKRA entered the Asia-Pacific automotive testing market by acquiring 60 percent of New Zealand testing organization Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ). Photo: DEKRA

In Germany, the introduction of the general inspection adapter in July 2015 constituted a pioneering step in the direction of establishing a data-based general inspection. Using this interface, experts can query the presence and performance of the installed safety systems, as well as check the function, effectiveness and condition of certain safety-relevant vehicle systems such as the brakes or lighting installations. “The use of modern technology is undoubtedly a central element of the PTI, but the qualification of the respective examiners is at least of equal importance,” Hans-Jürgen Mäurer points out.

The relevance of PTI in this context, especially for traffic safety, is underpinned by a study published in October 2018 by the University of Texas, “Economic and Safety Considerations: Motor Vehicle Safety Inspections for Passenger Vehicles in Texas.” Among other things, the collected data revealed that the likelihood of a fatal accident in vehicles with technical defects is twice as high as in accidents involving vehicles with no such defects. It would be hard to imagine a more powerful argument for maintaining or even introducing the PTI.

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