Science and Technology

Smart mobility and the collision repair industry

iMOVE CRC

The increasing amount of transport technologies available now and in the future will result in much improved driving and better travel options. This trend will lead people away from a traditional car ownership model where need for a ‘second car’ disappears, and eventually perhaps replaces the first, proposes iMOVE Managing Director, Ian Christensen, at the Australian Collision Repair Annual Symposium.

Rapid changes ahead

Mr Christensen delivered a wide-ranging address on the state of play in ‘intelligent transport’ as well as a few thought starters for collision repairers about what the future could hold for them. He thinks that rapid changes in mobility will lead to significant challenges for the traditional repair shop owner, but that these challenges could also generate some interesting opportunities in related services.

New technology needs to be maintained and repaired. New software systems and additional hardware in the form of sensors demand skills to ensure that repair is up-to-scratch and testing is carried out correctly. It is unclear whether this would happen through upskilling the existing workforce, a change in workforce, or a business model where the more complex tasks are done by an external provider.

Opportunities

In a world where there is potentially a smaller market for collision repair, becoming such a specialist provider of a new core service could be an opportunity for the savvy shop owner. Other such opportunities could be in the provision of services generated by the switch to fleets, thinks Mr. Christensen.

As cars become more automated and technology allows for easy sharing of vehicles, there will be larger fleets of cars with higher rates of use. These will require:

  • continual monitoring to check the state of the vehicle; and
  • the ability to rectify any issues at very short notice – particularly the interior

This could range from a standard or specialist clean, to the replacement of interior material or parts. There may also be a market in allowing for the personalisation of such vehicles to suit the individual for a defined period of time.

As the line between who (or what) is driving the vehicle becomes increasingly blurred, so does who is going to take responsibility for incidents. Some car companies are so worried about the grey transitional period to highly automated cars that they are opting out of developing mid-level automated vehicles altogether.

iMOVE Managing Director, Ian Christensen.

New responses from old industries

Some industries do not have this option. The transitional period will need to take place and – along with the collision repair – the insurance industry is one that has to respond to the new environment. Insurance companies worldwide are racing to understand what increasing automation means for them and develop the appropriate products for customers. Even for companies at the forefront of this thinking in Australia (such as iMOVE partner IAG), there remain a lot of unanswered questions about how it will all work. It would be prudent for collision repairers to be up-to-speed with thinking in this area to ensure they are timely in offering the necessary service options to insurers.

How ready is Australia for change?

When asked if Australia is ready for all this mobility change, Mr Christensen suggests that Australia is not far behind the top tier of countries in mobility thinking (US, some European countries, Japan) and points to a number of key initiatives happening in Australia; the Melbourne ITS test-bed and the fact that large international player, Cubic Transportation Systems, is making Australia an international R&D hub for its smart mobility ambitions. Not to mention a number of trials, including the Queensland Transport and Main Roads connected ITS (C-ITS) trial in Ipswich and autonomous bus trials in Perth.

In short, the change is happening whether Australia is ready or not. Fortunately, there are many entities and industries in Australia taking steps to make sure that we benefit from the evolution. The collision repair industry, suggests Mr Christensen, should ensure that it does the same.

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