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OBD III Do We Need It

Let us review what has been accomplished with OBD I and OBD II, in this way we can make an informed decision as it relates to OBD III. The demands by the government for OBD I and OBD II were to reduce the pollutants created by vehicles. This reducing of the pollutants was the reason for the creation of the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor and enforce those laws. 

To reduce the pollutants it was necessary to get better controls over the ignition and fuel systems. With the introduction of OBD I, electronic ignition had pretty much replaced the ignition points and condensers used previously as switches to trigger the ignition coil field circuit. There had been minor advances in fuel controls such as electrically heated chokes, EFE, and the most important being controlling / storing fuel vapors from the gas tank.

With the start of OBD I in 1980 model year GM vehicles, the monitoring and fuel systems added many new components that were not there earlier. Components like the Baro Sensor, MAP Sensor, TPS, and Coolant Sensor just to name a few. Unfortunately, most of these components would only turn on the “Check Engine Light” with a catastrophic failure, but they did lay the groundwork for future enhancements.

About 1985 OBD I fuel controls accelerated their movement from carburetion to fuel injection. This allowed a more finite control of air to fuel ratios than with carburetion. Fuel Injection started to become the defacto fuel system with many variations including Sequential Fuel Injection. Ignition controls progressed in their migration from a distributor to crank and camshaft sensors mounted on the engine.

These refinements kept increasing fuel economy, reducing weight, reducing pollutants, and increasing the life expectancy of the power train. This permitted system engineers the time to focus their efforts on increasing the available power from the engines while maintaining good idle quality, and further reducing the pollutants with even tighter controls.

By 1996 and the introduction requirement of OBD II the vehicle controls were becoming more of a refinement process rather than advances such as those earlier. The engineers started applying their skills to other areas like Traction Control, ABS, and others. They did continue their quest and new systems such as Variable Valve Timing started to appear and permitted even more power from smaller displacement engines, without sacrificing idle quality.

For the most part, these systems are extremely dependable when normal maintenance is performed on schedule. When maintenance is skipped, then the vehicle systems degrade and pollutants rise. The “Check Engine Light” warns the driver of a malfunction and suggests that the vehicle needs diagnostics and repair to return it to emissions laws compliance. Sometimes the “Check Engine Light” illuminates because of a defect in the programming of the PCM, and this requires the PCM to be reprogrammed or flashed by a competent mechanic with a J2534 reprogramming tool like the Actia.

Where the problem exists for the state mandated emissions inspection programs is that still many motorists ignore the “Check Engine Light” and continue driving. Then when they take the vehicle for the yearly checkup, and the light is on, it fails. These results are tabulated and sent to the US EPA, which withholds funds from the states.

The state Air Resources departments are looked upon as failing, so the US government wants to bring online OBD III which will have roadside monitoring stations that can detect the moment the “Check Engine Light” illuminates and can identify the vehicle by the VIN, the codes in the vehicle computer and more. This type of system has been in testing since 1994 by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Even when a current OBD II vehicle has its “Check Engine Light” on it is still running cleaner than the pre OBD and OBD I vehicles and many early OBD II vehicles.

I am all for the idea of maintaining vehicles as I have seen the results of failing to do it and the trouble it causes not only for the vehicle owner, but the repair shop and the mechanic as well. Not to mention the most common problem which is added expenses, from not solving the problem earlier.

However, the part of me that believes in our rights to privacy which is being compromised daily, believes that any further intrusion into our lives like the automatic retrieval of information from a vehicle traveling on the highways is unwarranted. Yes, I know the governments can make a case that it is to protect the air, or can be used to track an automobile that has an abducted person or child in it, or to track criminals. But we really need to think about these things, as the governments have clearly shown us that no matter how noble their intentions are, they eventually pervert it into something a lot more sinister.    

If OBD III makes it into law, and adds this ability to retrieve data from roadside monitoring, the function of law enforcement will have a new meaning as your car WILL tell on you for speed violations among other things. This will allow the government to simply send you a ticket in the mail, which will increase your taxes further. Plus we will loose one of the last areas we have privacy in our lives, such as where we go, when we go and how we get there.

You can hope that this invasion would be challenged in the US Supreme Court, but even if it is and that function is overturned it could take years and in the meantime the damage is done. Perhaps some like minded automotive electrical engineers can look at this broadcasting and find a way to block the signals and make this technology affordable and available to the public. I personally do not believe that blocking this signal would trigger any tampering aspects of the Clean Air Act, as it would not effect the vehicle only the governments ability to track and monitor it.

Updated Information

The point of whether or not your vehicle and you can be monitored by roadside equipment has been rendered moot. In 2014 many car makers joined together to form an organization aimed at securing the car networks that currently exist and those of the future. These networks of course as well as their concerns are for the "driverless cars" they are producing.

A press release from this new organization disclosed that many of them have already been monitoring your car using the wireless technology incorporated into the vehicles, For Several Years Now!

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