With GM currently testing 180 Chevy Bolts and Tesla Motors testing more than a dozen, the future of self-driving cars in America is looking very bright; in fact, automotive engineers are already considering what the future will look like for repair and service shops. To this effect, Google and Mercedes Benz have been working on self-driving technology even longer than Tesla and GM, which means that they are already familiar with some maintenance and repair issues. In fact, these test cars pretty much spend all their time in the shop when they are not actually being tested on the road. Some autonomous vehicles have even been involved in slight collisions, which have thus far been caused by human drivers behind the wheel of other cars sharing the road during testing; all this means that self-driving cars are constantly being looked at by engineers, technicians and mechanics who are laying the foundations of the next generation of auto repair and maintenance.
With the above in mind, here are some of the ideas being pondered as we look forward to the future of self-driving:
More Systems to Repair
The car you drive these days is made up of various systems such as ignition, power plant, cooling, power train, suspension, temperature control, infotainment, and others. If your car is a hybrid or plug-in electric, you have additional charging and electrical storage systems.
Self-driving cars have numerous systems other than the ones mentioned above. At the very least, they are controlled by an internal supercomputer that communicates with quite a few sensors and cameras. There is also a data network that may communicate not only with the sensors but also with other vehicles, emergency response systems, and the automaker. Your future self-driving car may even communicate with the repair shop to let technicians know the type of service that will be required in your next visit.
The mechanical parts of self-driving cars will not change too much over the next few years, and they will still require repair and maintenance. If you think that more systems in your car translates into more repair, you are right; however, you have to remember that all these new sensors and self-diagnostic components are monitored and controlled by the car’s supercomputer, and this means that you will be immediately notified if maintenance is required or if a part is failing.
Naturally, not all shops will be able to handle all repairs. Until more technicians are trained to repair all the new systems in self-driving cars, some shops may need to disassemble parts for the purpose of shipping them to authorized repair centers; this is not so different from taking apart a fancy car stereo unit that is still under warranty and sending it off to the retailer or manufacturer.
More Driving, More Maintenance?
It is interesting to note that cars these days spend most of their time parked than on the road. Engineers predict that owners of self-driving cars are bound to keep them on the road longer than they are today. This would normally mean that autonomous cars will require more maintenance if they are being “driven” longer, but there is also the issue of efficiency to consider.
Engineers and scientists working on autonomous driving technology are integrating as much efficiency as possible into the vehicles that will drive you around in the future, and this includes minimizing the odds of major mechanical breakdown so that you do not have to worry about your car spending too much time in the shop. An Uber research project, for example, is testing taxicabs that drive themselves to the shop after a number of miles under certain driving conditions.