How Tech Will Affect The Future of Auto Repair Shops

Posted by: Lydia on 21/02/2018

Category: General

We live in an era of rapid change within the auto industry, and the pace of progress is speeding up. Between 2009 and early 2016, Google’s self-driving cars had logged over 1.5 million autonomous miles. In contrast, Tesla’s autopilot fleet drove over 47 million miles in just 6 months. Change is coming fast - and soon the effects will be seen in your local mechanic’s shop.

Every mechanic has to regularly upgrade their skills and shop as new technology emerges,
but this time it will be different. AI and automation are set to deliver some sweeping changes.
So, what will this new era mean for you and your mechanic? Here’s a look.

Efficiency drives change

If you’ve been a customer of your local mechanic for a long time, you’re not rushing for change.

If you’re a mechanic who is committed to the business, you probably feel a bit nervous about change. As both drivers and mechanics look at the future of AI and robots in cars, there’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of unanswered questions; but the benefits of AI integration in our vehicles are difficult to ignore.

While a good mechanic will work hard to run an efficient shop, they are only human. This means some days they’ll be tired, or injured, or maybe struggling to figure out a solution to an issue. Over time, these periods of diminished output can add up to a lot of lost productivity. This also means customers will have to wait longer to get their cars back.

The integration of AI and robotics at your local mechanic’s would do away with these issues. It would also mean that shops could conceivably operate around the clock. No longer would you need to drop off your car and come back in a couple of days. With an AI-optimised mechanic, you could drop off your car for service after work, and pick it up first thing the next morning, ready to go.

Knowledge and resources

In addition to providing service more quickly, AI integration in a local repair shop could provide new solutions to existing problems. The auto world already has a number of recognised experts and specialist mechanics all over the globe. Car fans who have an old classic will often seek out one of these specialists, trusting their knowledge to properly fix their car.

This is understandable, but can also be impractical. The great potential of AI here lies in its ability to learn, transfer its knowledge to other devices, and then apply it to work on cars. No longer will a Ferrari need to go back to Italy for a precision restoration - Ferrari could ship an AI robot to the desired country to complete the work via remote instruction. This also means the collective knowledge of the auto industry can be shared more easily, and that promises to drive future innovation.

So will a mechanic do the same work?

It’s clear to anyone who has imagined this era that the opportunities will also come with challenges. In particular, in a era of disruption where many traditional jobs are either blending into other roles or disappearing outright, what will happen to the sorts of tasks a mechanic does now in 2018?

While precise changes are hard to define, it’s clear that tasks being performed by AI will create the need for new duties to be performed. An AI robot may be able to fix a flat tyre or do an oil change, but cutting-edge technology will be of no use if it encounters an error and needs a mechanic to fix its coding.

Generally speaking, most industries in our global economy are getting set to undergo a ‘digital revolution.’ Ultimately this may mean mechanics in the future spend more time wandering their shop floor with a smartphone or tablet as opposed to a spanner and drill, as the end of old jobs gives rise to the need for new skills. It’s here that tech-savvy mechanics will find new market demand.

This new way of working will also bring many positive benefits. As opposed to primarily working on one or a couple of cars at a time, for example, the next generation of mechanics may run shops that service dozens of cars at a time. It’s the Star Wars factor - robots are present, but the humans keep star billing.

There might also be a shift from work that’s focused on car repairs, to design and customisation. Considering many electric and self-driving cars suffer from ‘sameness,’ it’s easy to predict a spike in demand in these other areas.

The human factor

There’s no doubt machines will be able to do tasks similarly to how they’re presently done. But technical performance isn’t all we look for in a mechanic. We also look for great customer service and friendly conversation. And think of a cool breeze, the sunshine on your face, and the grin you get when you hear the roar of the engine - ultimately, machines will never be able to appreciate what those moments deliver in the same way people do, and that makes a difference. A hello, a handshake, and a chat from one car fan to another will always beat out C3PO (even if you are a big Star Wars fan).

Keep it simple, Sally

There are new songs released every day, and ‘instant classic’ albums are released each year. Then there are those songs like Mustang Sally that had a purpose in the past, and still have it today. The same principle applies to the future of tech in auto repair shops: yes, change will come and new tech will arrive, but everybody loves an old favourite, and car fans know this best.

All up, the best progress will be made when manufacturers have a real recognition of what car fans want, versus what car fans need. Quicker service and lower prices? Sure. Having a cyborg start work on your car then stop midway because its battery dies? Not so much. Car fans have always embraced new technology, but we’ll keep the classics, too.

What else excites you about the future of AI in your local workshop? Let us know in the comments below:

Image: Pixabay