RAC puts patrols on the data highway

STRANDED motorists will soon be greeted by RAC patrol crews packing electronic books instead of bulky motoring manuals, to speed up fault diagnosis and improve the rate of breakdowns repaired at the roadside.

The manuals contain thousands of A4 pages of diagnostics for every make and model of car likely to be encountered by the RAC's 1,250 patrols.

Not only is it awkward to carry this amount of information around on a motorcycle, there are problems finding (and keeping) the right page on a wet and windy hard shoulder.

The waterproof Panasonic CD-ROM unit on which the electronic book is based is about the size of a paperback and weighs less than two pounds.

Although it has a full Qwerty keyboard, the RAC system is designed so that patrol crew have to press only three keys for quick access to the right information, via a series of menus that show the contents of the system.

The units can store text and graphics - including electrical configurations, vehicle jacking and towing points, and electronic layouts of every type of vehicle on the road.

The RAC has tested the units with 40 patrols around the country and says the technology will go nationwide later this year.

The evidence of the pilot scheme is that increasing speed of access to information will mean faster response times and will increase the roadside fix rates from around 85 per cent to 90 per cent, because staff will have the confidence to attempt more complicated repairs.

In particular, flow charts are much easier to follow in the electronic book, where patrolmen use 'yes' or 'no' keys to move around the chart, rather than having to keep finding their place on the paper version.

The RAC says the electronic book will not render the unfixable fixable, but should enable roadside repairs in some situations where they were not practical with paper manuals because they took too long.

The electronic book also has environmental benefits. The RAC says it will save 30 million sheets of A4 paper in the first year - equivalent to 3,000 trees - rising to 55 million sheets a year within five years.

Like the paper manuals, the electronic book will be updated monthly, simply by issuing a new compact disc.

The software was developed for the RAC by Attica Cybernetics of Oxford, which specialises in electronic books.

Most of the company's work to date is in the education market, but Paul Furner, the production manager, says there is great scope for companies to replace technical manuals, directories and catalogues with electronic books.

At the moment though, he says, companies prefer to struggle on with manuals, because electronic books cost much more than paper equivalents. Developing the software costs at least pounds 10,000, and the CD- ROM units are around pounds 250 each.

Last year Attica completed a pilot project for British Rail in which the information needed by signalling engineers doing trackside repairs was turned into an electronic book, but BR decided not to go ahead with the project because of cost.

Panasonic began selling the CD-ROM units two years ago, but says that the time taken to develop software means that to date the RAC and British Rail are the only applications in the corporate sector.

The unit can hold the equivalent of 160,000 pages of A4 paper on one of its miniature 8cm discs (music CDs are 12cm). At the moment the RAC is using only a quarter of this and is now planning to use the rest of the space to make its patrolmen even more useful, with lists of local hotels, car dealerships and repair shops, and the entitlements of the RAC's 150 different membership schemes.

There is also an audio-function on the units, which will be used to play back various stages of complex diagnostic processes, leaving a patrolman working under the bonnet with both hands free to carry out the job.

The electronic book will also enable the RAC to give manufacturers better feedback about problems with their cars. Patrols look up fault codes in their manuals, which they then enter into the the RAC's rescue system from on-board computers. Introducing the electronic book is allowing the RAC to make the fault codes much more detailed, providing better information.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Sport
Mario Balotelli posed for this selfie during AC Milan's 5-1 defeat to Manchester City
sport
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + ents
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Extras
indybestSpice up your knife with our selection of delicious toppings
Sport
sport
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

.NET Software Developer (.NET, C#, ASP.NET, front-end)

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

C# Web developer (C#,MVC,ASP.NET,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: C# Web d...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried