So, while cars are not going away, our relationship with them definitely will change. For tire dealerships and auto service shops, this means a fundamental shift in business strategy.
Tire and auto service dealers will need to understand how digital networking will play a role in communicating directly to drivers from the cockpit through on-board systems or other connected devices (such as Android Auto or Apple Car Play).
For consumers, the purchasing decision will look fundamentally different.
As IoT (Internet of Things) makes vehicles more connected, driver and vehicle data will play a greater role in influencing purchasing. Insurance companies, for example, may one day create discounts for drivers if they allow them to install sensors in their vehicles that will track driving patterns.
After all, for these companies, a safer vehicle is less of a risk on the road, which means they'll tell drivers when it's time to have their tires rotated or replaced and even offer to make the service appointment on the spot.
One day soon vehicles will inspect themselves as they are able to connect and communicate directly with advanced computer diagnostics systems.
Consider this scenario: 20 years from now, your autonomous car drops you off at the airport for a flight. Before you exit the vehicle, you tell it to drive itself home and park in the driveway.
Your vehicle recognizes that it is due for preventive maintenance and notes from your Google calendar that you are out of town for several days. It requests if it's OK to take care of this, and upon your acceptance, it schedules itself for the service work.
While the vehicle is at the shop, the technician determines it requires additional service work.
Through the shop management system you get a text message with a link to a microsite that includes a detailed description of the suggested repairs, images of your vehicle showing the issue, links to resources describing why the work may be necessary, reviews of customers who have had similar work performed and an estimate of the repairs for you to approve, modify or deny.
You reply yes, and by the time you get picked up at the airport, you're stepping into a car that is safer than the one that dropped you off.
Repair shops need to be prepared for the connected world of autonomous vehicles. Unfortunately, many shops still are operating in the world of clipboards and paper billing.
A fundamental change in culture is needed. Shops no longer should think of themselves as repair centers. They should be geared more toward providing total service, and they need to communicate with consumers via the new channels they are growing accustomed to: Texting, email and even speech recognition may come into play.
Billing can be paperless and transmitted seamlessly to the customer's mobile device. Video content streamed to their phone should be educating customers on why they shouldn't let their car leave the shop without new brake pads.
A greater effort needs to be made to connect the data points between the driver, the vehicle and the dealer or shop's management system.
As software providers, we need to prepare for the new ways data can enter and exit our applications. Our job is to make those inputs and outputs easy for consumers, no matter if they are individual car owners or large fleet operators.
Think about the fundamental steps of the purchasing journey: Nailing down the appointment, pushing out a quote, getting the approval for work, settling up for payment — we are heading toward a world where all of these steps can be accomplished in an instant, often without the customer onsite.
Getting the competitive edge will not just be about the quality of work, but it will be about getting the convenience right. Any operation that doesn't know how to interact in this new world will fall behind.
Even if autonomous cars aren't yet here, the tire and auto services industry needs to prepare. We will survive — and thrive — if we understand how the new technology works and what we can do today to adapt to its future.
Marc Belanski is president of ASA Automotive Systems Inc., a developer and provider of on-premises and cloud-based shop management systems for independent tire dealers, retreaders and automotive repair shops in North America.