Keeping up-to-date with emerging technology associated with connected and autonomous vehicles and planning innovative ways to adapt and operate their businesses represent the biggest challenges facing Dealers over the next 15 years.
It’s hard to imagine but by 2030 we will be living in a sci-fi world, with most of the cars on our roads being driverless.
It is the most significant change to the automotive industry since the Model T Ford.
For Dealers to meet these challenges, it depends largely on the Federal Government supporting the recommendations of the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI) and agree to a five-year funding and incentive package to explore mechanisms to fund and manage the introduction of autonomous vehicles (AV).
The ADVI has recommended an ‘AV Accelerator Program’ be initiated to ensure that, by 2020 at the latest, near-to-market technologies such as high speed highway assist with drivers in control, remote car parking using a hand held device and potentially truck platooning, can occur to enable products be sold and utilised.
The program will focus on research, development, demonstration and deployment, similar to the Intelligent Mobility Fund in the UK.
AADA fully supports the ADVI initiative, but it will require a unified national approach by all interested parties to make it work.
By way of background, the ADVI emerged in 2014 out of a Driverless Vehicle Roundtable at the ARRB Conference. Senior executives from government, industry, peak bodies, universities and other relevant organisations attended to discuss what steps were needed to enable the effective introduction of self-driving vehicles in Australia.
There are different levels of entry for connected cars before they are classified as fully autonomous vehicles. We already have park assist, traffic jam assist – which is partial automation – and highway patrol, defined as conditional automation. The next step is high automation before arriving at the final stage of full automation.
The economic benefits AVs will generate are staggering, if we take notice of forecasts made by KPMG on the UK automotive industry last year.
KPMG says connected and autonomous vehicles in the UK will lead to the creation of 25,000 new jobs within the automotive industry.
They also say more than 25,000 serious accidents will be prevented and more than 2,500 lives saved on UK roads between now and 2030.
AADA CEO, David Blackhall, believes these figures will be reflected proportionally in Australia over the same period. ADVI agrees, forecasting 20,000 new jobs being created by 2025.
But Mr Blackhall warns that while there will be overall economic benefits, there will also be unintended consequences such as a decline in motor body repairs, a downturn in the parts supplier business and a decline in traditional service centre business due to fewer accidents.
“If Dealers want to succeed and take advantage of these changing times they will have to start adapting to this new technology now,” he said.
“We need to take notice of forecasts from people like John Krafcik, CEO of Google’s self-driving car project, who says people who buy self-driving cars will travel 160,000 kilometres annually or seven times more than the average motorist travels today.
“And with the likes of Uber, Gett and Lyft dominating the fleet business, individual car ownership could come to an abrupt end and be totally replaced by these providers.
When asked what then happens to dealers? What kind of business will dealers be in if the roads are taken over by fleets?
David Blackhall admitted nobody really knows and that it is a major concern.
“We have a lot of work to do to make sure we are part of it and to do everything possible to safeguard our businesses,” he said.
Automotive Industry Observer and Advisor to the AADA