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The Evolving Vehicle

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Cars have come a long way since the first “production” vehicles made by Karl Benz. Power steering, automatic transmission, ABS systems and even TPMS, these technologies seem light years ahead of the technology in the first road car.

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Today we’re going even further, entering a new era of vehicle – the “smart” car.

The autonomous vehicle, or driverless car, is one smart vehicle that still feels a bit like science fiction to me. However, if you listen to some car manufacturers, and Google engineers, the autonomous vehicle is just years away from public use. Based on some estimates, my future children will have no need to take a driving test.

While I’ve seen videos of these driverless vehicles operating, I’m still skeptical on the realistic timeline for public release and nationwide adoption of these cars. The one thing I know for sure is this technology is coming and will impact you, the tire dealer. Just how autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles may affect a dealer is still unknown.

In January, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced a “10-year, $4 billion investment to accelerate the development and adoption of safe vehicle automation through real world pilot projects.”

As part of this initiative, the government is working with industry leaders to develop guidance on the safe deployment and operation of these autonomous vehicles. Government agencies are also working to consolidate state policies on autonomous vehicles so there is one consistent national policy.

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With the government clearing the way for the implementation of these vehicles, it is important for dealers to keep their eyes and ears on these developments.

Who is liable for vehicle crashes following a repair? Can these cars only be fixed at car dealerships? These are things that could be discussed and may impact your business.

Once these vehicles are on the road, dealerships may have to invest in new equipment to properly maintain these self-driving cars. And, in addition to traditional technicians, tire dealerships may have to hire “master coders.”

Now you might be thinking, “this technology is down the road and won’t impact me anytime soon,” but there are similar smart technologies used in cars that will affect your business today.

Forward collision warning, lane departure warnings, rearview video systems, automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, and adaptive cruise control are just a few of the smart technologies out in the marketplace now.

When some of these technologies were first implemented they only appeared on high-end vehicles or as part of a “premium package.” Today, many of these technologies are considered to be safety features by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and some have been mandated to come standard on all future vehicles.

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For example, as of March 2016 the NHTSA has agreements with 20 major car manufacturers to make automatic emergency braking a standard feature on all vehicles by 2022.

With vehicles already equipped with this technology, and every new car being outfitted with this capability in just six years, it’s an important vehicle feature for dealers to understand.

If you can’t properly service these vehicles and your customer has to go to the car dealer for service, you may lose out on future business. Why should someone buy their tires from you if they already have to make a stop at the car dealership’s repair facility?

Vehicle telematics is another smart technology that is shaking up the auto repair industry. These systems are collecting vehicle data, and transmitting this information to the car manufacturers. In turn, consumers are provided with a “health” report of their vehicle that directs consumers to car dealerships for service.

Imagine if your customer could set your location as the preferred shop to receive their vehicle information. You could contact your customer and remind them of upcoming oil changes or that their brakes may need replacing soon. Scheduling appointments would be more efficient because you would know exactly when customers are due for service. Additionally, inventory management would be more precise.

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There is an ongoing debate of who should own the vehicle information collected through telematics, the car manufacturer or the consumer? Currently, the Auto Care Association and the Automotive Service Association are meeting with policy makers to ensure that automotive repair shops don’t get left out of the conversation.

Similar to the “Right to Repair” fight, the telematics battle will impact your business for years to come. Getting involved and voicing your opinion with representatives when legislation arises will help serve your business and customer base.

The vehicle evolution is powered by new technologies. If your business is not changing to keep up, it may just go extinct.

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