There are a host of questions raised by the technology of driver-less cars. Many people in the automotive industry worry about insurance premiums, ticketing, loss of employment, and even ownership of a self-driving car. Would people actually own a driverless car or just call for one on their smartphone whenever they needed a ride somewhere? Would a self-driving car eliminate the revenue generated by DUI’s and speeding tickets? Would a fleet of self-driving cars and trucks eliminate the need for taxis and trucks needed for the shipment of freight, thereby severing the jobs of truck drivers and taxi drivers?
They still need to be fixed
Despite all of these questions (and many others) eventually the self-driving vehicle will need to be fixed. Tires will wear out, brakes will need to be replaced, body work will have to be done if the car is ever in some sort of accident. And since the car is monitored by several computers, software and firmware upgrades will have to be downloaded to the car, either by a shop or by an owner, sensors will have to be replaced, and general maintenance will have to be done. The autonomous vehicle will still have hoods, fenders, batteries, tires, steering linkages, and the like that will have to be either maintained or replaced. And people will still question who is supposed to do the maintenance if no one actually owns the vehicle, and even ask if the vehicle will drive itself to a repair shop. Hey, those are valid questions in a time where that type of technology is not yet mainstream.
If someone does actually own a self-driving vehicle, would the technology be lenient enough to allow the owner to do his or her own preventive maintenance? Thousands of people still like to change their own oil, flush and fill the radiator, add fluids, change a tire if needed, or even fix their own brakes. It saves them a lot of money when they can do it themselves. It is really going to depend on how the autonomous system is rigged up – would the vehicle be owner-friendly, or will the manufacturer program the vehicle to have all of the maintenance performed by a qualified repair shop? Personally, I prefer to do whatever preventive maintenance I can do, and take a vehicle to a repair shop for maintenance that I cannot do on my own, such as fixing brakes or rotating tires. And at some point the self-driving vehicles are going to need someone to flush and fill the tranny. And you cannot tell me that those cars and trucks won’t need a lube job at some point!
Technology education is critical
Even companies who in the future use entire fleets of self-driving vehicles would realize that maintenance and repairs will have to be performed. The vehicles are, after all, objects with moving mechanical parts that will need maintenance at some point. That’s just the nature of the beast. But what will change is the technology and training required to maintain those vehicles, much as the technology has changed from vehicles built in the 1960’s and 1970’s with most vehicles nowadays having extensive onboard computers. Repair of the autonomous vehicle will certainly require a higher level of training than what is required today, but that also means that the person or shop repairing those vehicles will be just that much more valuable. Acquiring the technical skills and education necessary for repairing self-driving vehicles is going to be critical for any shop that wishes to adapt to the new technology in order to increase its existing business and create future technicians who are able to diagnose and perform critical maintenance and repairs.
A somewhat personalized experience
Self-driving vehicles are here and the technology is already on the marketplace. There are already vehicles with collision avoidance technology that do the necessary braking when the driver is not paying attention. The degree to which an automobile is utilizing the autonomous technology will certainly vary depending on the manufacturer and the vehicle, and that utilization is going to depend on what buyers want. Many people still want a vehicle that they can drive 100% of the time; others may prefer to take advantage of a fully autonomous vehicle, especially if they have children riding with them so that the driver is not distracted from the road by a child who needs attention.
We’re not going anywhere
Automotive repair and collision repair will certainly not disappear with the advent of newer, safer technology. If anything, it will rise to meet the challenges of autonomous vehicle technology. Even if a self-driving car avoids any collisions, it will still be subject to hail damage and other damages, like those pesky shopping carts. Autonomous vehicle technology is just the next step in automotive technology, and if it saves someone’s life from being hit by an impaired driver, that’s wonderful. We will still be here to fix anything you need.