A couple of recent pieces examine self-driving cars, one calling it a “buggy-whip moment” for all kinds of doomed industries (including ours), and the other more skeptical.
San Sewitch of WD-40 predicts the ripple effect of a crashless autonomous car in this San Diego Source/Daily Transcript column. Among his collision-repair related points:
“The repair industry will convert to preventive maintenance service centers or simply go out of business because dealers will offer lifetime preventive maintenance for a monthly fee. No one will be able to work on their own cars anymore, even for simple things, because all the operational components will be integrated into the navigation and control mechanisms. …
“Since mechanical repair centers will be nearly out of business, service will be mostly large-component replacement: whole engines, transmissions and control systems, for example. If leasing increases, you’d just turn in your leased vehicle and get a replacement. The leasing company will handle recycling and refurbishing the vehicles.
“Companies that provide labor rates and part costs for insurance claims and repair centers will be out of business as well for obvious reasons: Nobody will need the data.”
Marco della Cava of USA Today is slightly more skeptical of the technology, which might give auto body shops a little hope. His commentary is more self-referential than the purely macro-level view Sewitch offers, but on the plus side, della Cava doesn’t use words like “zeitgeist.” Among his points:
“Just because cars can do this, do we want them to? Simply because the front seats on the futuristic Mercedes-Benz F 015 concept car unveiled at CES swivel, do we care to face backward as our cars zip forward? What if our self-valeting car accidentally hits another vehicle or a person while heading to pick us up? Are we liable even if we weren’t in the car?”
Shop owners also losing sleep over the technology might also want to ease their minds with this extensive take on the Auto Body Repair Network site from Greg Horn of Mitchell International. It’s from 2013, but its points hold up well today.