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Gearing Up: SAE Chats with Industry Experts ahead of OBD-EU

Posted: February 9, 2023

How do vehicle diagnosticians stay on top of their game?

The On-Board Diagnostics Symposium-Europe (OBD-EU), the industry’s relied-upon resource for regulatory updates and standards reviews for light- and heavy-duty emissions controls, happens March 14-16 in Prague, Czech Republic.

SAE had the opportunity to connect with three OBD professionals that have been involved with OBD-EU for the past several years, both as organizers and attendees.

Yichao Guo, Ph.D., SAE Fellow, TRSC OBD Regulatory Technical Fellow and Global OBD/OBM Regulatory Leader, Stellantis N.V. ; Rebecca Oemke, OBD Regulatory Expert, Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft; and John F. Van Gilder, Principal, Van Gilder Engineering, LLC., SAE Fellow, took some time out of their busy schedules to talk with us about how they got involved in OBD, the biggest challenge we’re facing, and the impact of OBD-EU on society.


How did you first get involved in this kind of work? What initially sparked your interest in this technology?

Yichao Guo (YG) - I started my “On-board Diagnostic” (i.e., OBD) career as a diagnostic algorithm development engineer in an automotive supplier, and “OBD” immediately sparked my intertest when I was assigned to develop a rationality check for a temperate sensor. From my first design, I learned that a good “OBD” strategy is NOT determined by how fancy the methodology is, but is determined by the effectiveness of the detection, the compliance with the regulatory requirements, and the robustness of the method against all kinds of noise factors that one could encounter in the real-world driving conditions. 

Rebecca Oemke (RO) - I like to travel, and that’s how I started as an OBD calibrator, however I stayed in OBD because it often presents complex problems that I enjoy solving. It is just a cool gig to be involved in the development of technical innovations required to fulfill complicated regulations.

John F. Van Gilder (JFVG) –I was assigned to the (then) newly formed OBD development team at General Motors in early 1991. I was selected for this assignment due to my background in quality control. The basic OBD problem (Does this part/system need to be serviced if is it still good?) is very similar to the basic manufacturing quality control problem (Does this process need to be adjusted or not?). This led GM to develop several OBD algorithm design concepts based on classic quality control technology. OBD system design was an important feature of any new systems added to powertrains and was always interesting event after 30 years.


What is the biggest challenge we are facing in the future and what are you and/or your organization doing today to solve it?

YG - Per my personal view, the biggest challenge for OBD is the better handling of data. That is, with new technologies, OBD system could be the hub for lots of data, such as the data from OBD II port, the connected data via over-the-air communications, etc. With more and more data, how to properly utilize the data to improve the performance of the vehicle (e.g., predictive control) and enhance the user’s experience, and at the same time to protect the privacy of the user. I actively participate into some related SAE OBD standard committees, such as SAE J1979 committee, and hope to work with industrial peers to pave the way for the near future.

RO - I think the biggest challenge is creating the infrastructure and customer base to support the technology the regulations require. By offering creative and innovative vehicles for the future Volkswagen is ensuring customer approval won’t be an issue.

JFVG – Electrification of powertrains and the integration of various levels of driver assists continue to add new systems, complex sensors, and actuators that will need quality OBD to ensure the safety and serviceability of these systems. The complexity of these systems will place increasing demands on the fault isolation capability of the OBD system to ensure it takes the proper default action when a failure is detected to support timely and effective repairs. Integration of the on-board diagnostic with increasingly comprehensive off-board diagnostics and prognostic systems will also present a challenge.


How does the work you’re doing and what we’re talking about at OBD-EU impact society at large?

YG - I am the OBD regulatory technical fellow and the global OBD regulatory leader in my company, and personally I feel the technical presentations at OBD-EU, along with the direct communications with industrial peers and OBD regulators from EU and around the world would help me actively learn the experiences from others on certain challenging OBD topics and closely follow the changing OBD rules and regulations.

R.O. - Being a regulatory expert, it is important to know and communicate the legal requirements for compliant vehicle development. It is important to understand the intent of the regulators and weigh that with the exact wording and text of the regulations, while at the same time understanding the technical application and potential conflicts. In this aspect, it is very beneficial to participate in the OBD Symposium. 

The best part of the OBD Symposium is the open dialogue between OEMs, suppliers, and regulators. The discussions at the OBD Symposium illustrate different perspectives and approaches from all of these groups. It allows the OEMs and engineers freedom to discuss technical problems/solutions and to offer lessons learned to everyone. It allows regulators to ask open ended questions regarding possible regulation changes. This open communication is key to facilitate implementation for the manufacturer as well as for the regulators to understand how legal expectations actually fit to reality.

JFVG – The OBD system supports society’s environmental goals by maintaining good emissions performance of vehicles and equipment through their actual life by informing operators and fleet managers of needed repairs, allowing governments to enforce mandatory repairs, and enhancing the safety and performance of propulsion systems when failures occur.


There’s still time to register for OBD-EU! Learn more.