Auto Service World
Feature   October 1, 2012   by Tom Venetis, Editor

The Shop of Tomorrow, Today! . . . Or Sometime Very Soon!

When I was a kid, Tex Avery at MGM had a set of animated shorts that parodied the World of Tomorrow films that one came across at various World’s Fairs. These films depicted the world of the 1970s or 1980s as one of boundless...

When I was a kid, Tex Avery at MGM had a set of animated shorts that parodied the World of Tomorrow films that one came across at various World’s Fairs. These films depicted the world of the 1970s or 1980s as one of boundless technological optimism and possibility. People zipped around in hover cars, homes had the newest time-savings gadgets, big-industry hummed along producing more goods and Mom, Dad and the kids had lots of time to play with their ever-helpful household robot. Avery’s shorts skewered those films mercilessly, my favorite being the Car of Tomorrow with a Mother-in-Law attachment, an open-air buggy pulled behind the family car.

Technology does move forward, if at a somewhat different pace and direction than we would like it to be. What Avery was quick to realize is progress often involves more complications than simplicity. When he parodied the Car of Tomorrow, he took aim at how complex vehicles were becoming, peppering his Car of Tomorrow with a mind-boggling array of gadgets, dials and levers on the dashboard. While today’s vehicles certainly don’t have dozens of dials and knobs to spin, they are just as complex underneath, as if Rube Goldberg was allowed to run amok in the engineering department. I have one colleague who purchased a new vehicle and spent weeks just trying to get the SatNav system working correctly, not to mention trying to figure out all of the other electronic devices that are supposed to make the driving experience more enjoyable and stress-free. I expect him to enter therapy soon.

It is not much better for technicians. In my last editorial, I spoke about technicians needing to get on-top of the new engine technologies and electronics that will come about with new fuel mileage regulations adopted in the United States. Well, the Car of Tomorrow is already starting to appear. While it is not a hover car – I’m still awaiting my JetPack – today’s cars, like my colleague’s, are filled with an ever increasing array of electronic gadgets and telematics designed to provide real-time information on the state of the vehicle. These will have to be accessed in order to provide the needed service and maintenance, and you can bet OE dealers are jealously guarding the keys for how you access that telematics information. The challenge for independents in the next few years is going to be getting access to the tools and codes for those telematics, and to have the tools needed to conduct the needed maintenance and repair work based on the information advanced telematics provide. Just to show you how important are telematics, in the United States insurance groups are now starting to demand telematics information from vehicles in order to investigate claims and determine damages, knowing that advanced telematics can often reveal critical information about the state of the vehicle and what the driver was doing. I know of some service operations who have been told by vehicle owners that their insurance providers regularly check telematics information to make sure they are adhering to the information they provided for their coverage. If they are taking the car for long trips or doing a lot of regular highway driving, you can bet their insurance representative will know about it, especially if they claimed they only take the car out on weekends and only to pick up groceries.

The AAIA in the United States is already working on getting independent technicians up-to-speed on telematics and are watching closely the telematics trends in the retail automotive market. A few years back, the AAIA did a presentation on the Shop of Tomorrow and how telematics will change service operations (, which is interesting to watch. I just wonder what Avery would have thought of our visions of the future.

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