Today, by chance, the service warning indicator on my VW T5 van lit up on the dashboard. This indicator tells me that I need to service the vehicle in 2000 miles. This made me consider what it is that prompts users to conduct preventative maintenance and whether the warning lights actually serve to disconnect users from the actual systems that need regular care or attention.
The image shown at the top of this post contains a selection of the common warning (or witness) indicators that tell the driver of a car there is an issue that needs attention. I struck me that these indicators have always raised a level of alarm when I see one light up and see me searching through the owners manual to find out exactly what the warning means. As cars have become more complex and the electronic systems they contain have become more responsive, these notifications can be delivered with much more information.
These are good examples of where technology is used to monitor the condition of certain service parts and provide an indicator to the user as to when an intervention is required. These indicators provide a convenient solution, but cannot cover all aspect s of the operation of a vehicle. There are also many examples of products where it would be inappropriate to provide so much technology simply to monitor the health of a product. There are other, simpler ways of checking the condition of many of these parts, but this requires some specialist knowledge. I suspect that most people have no idea how the vehicles that they own work, what the indicators mean or which part of the car they refer to. This seems to indicate that owners/users are far removed from the physical care of their own possessions and are unable, unwilling or simply not aware of how they can correctly maintain their own vehicles.
I started this post considering what it is that prompts someone to carry out maintenance and got distracted when thinking about the fact that the indicator lights removing the necessity to check parts of a vehicle could actually prevent people undertaking maintenance. There is more research to be done to help understand the relationship between owners and products that require some form of regular intervention.