Latest Patent - Robotic 3D scanner to detect vehicle faults

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Problems solved by this invention
Modern vehicles, such as automobiles, typically have a variety of built in sensors, as well as various microcontrollers, microprocessors (processors) designed to detect a variety of different problems. These sensors can detect problems such as improper fuel/air mixes, alternator problems, overheating, low oil or water levels, improper tire pressure, low brake fluid, and other types of component malfunctions.

Nonetheless, there remain many situations where such built-in sensors fail to detect various types of worn or damaged vehicle components. To compensate for this problem, automobile users, for example, are often instructed to bring their vehicles in for maintenance inspections at various standard intervals (e.g. every 5,000 miles). During these maintenance inspections, a human mechanic will visually inspect various portions of the vehicle, such as the engine and suspension. The mechanic will, for example, visually note various engine problems such as cracked or broken radiator hoses, worn belts (e.g. fan belts, alternator belts), as well as note various suspension problems such as broken or slipped leaf springs, leaking steering racks, and the like.

Solution proposed by this invention
Automated 3D scanner is used to diagnose the mechanical status of substantially intact vehicles. The 3D scanners utilize optical and other methods to assess the exposed surfaces of various vehicle components. Computer vision and other computerized pattern recognition techniques then compare the 3D scanner output versus a reference computer database of these various vehicle components in various normal and malfunctioning states. Those components judged to be aberrant are flagged. These flagged components can be reported to the vehicle users, as well as various insurance or repair entities. In some embodiments, the 3D scans can be performed using time-of-flight cameras, and optionally infrared, stereoscopic, and even audio sensors attached to the processor controlled arm of a mobile robot. Much of the subsequent data analysis and management can be done using remote Internet servers.

Patent Information
Patent Number: 9,153,079
Patent Title: System and method of automated 3D scanning for vehicle maintenance
Inventors: Wood; Robert Bruce (Los Gatos, CA)
Family ID: 1000001385043
Appl. No.: 14/218,934
Filed: March 18, 2014

Abstract: System and method for using automated 3D scans to diagnose the mechanical status of substantially intact vehicles. One or more processor controlled 3D scanners utilize optical and other methods to assess the exposed surfaces of various vehicle components. Computer vision and other computerized pattern recognition techniques then compare the 3D scanner output versus a reference computer database of these various vehicle components in various normal and malfunctioning states. Those components judged to be aberrant are flagged. These flagged components can be reported to the vehicle users, as well as various insurance or repair entities. In some embodiments, the 3D scans can be performed using time-of-flight cameras, and optionally infrared, stereoscopic, and even audio sensors attached to the processor controlled arm of a mobile robot. Much of the subsequent data analysis and management can be done using remote Internet servers.

US9153079

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