Hutchinson believes that this long, slow, continuous, but also definite run up to fully autonomous Level 5 cars over the next 10 to 20 years, plays right to the strengths of Canadian distributors and dealers. For the foreseeable future, he figures Canadian roads will be home to an intriguing mix of conventional and increasingly automated vehicles before any steady influx of fully autonomous vehicles are ready for society.
“We call that the hybrid highway, and all those vehicles will need to be sold, serviced and maintained. Technology will be added step by step, for years,” Hutchison said. “The complexity of these technological changes will drive more retention to your dealerships, and require a heightened level of technical competence in the shop.”
Hutchinson also believes dealers will even have an even larger role to play in their interactions with customers, who are the end users of this technology.
“Customers will need an ever increasing level of attention to understand the technology, and how to get the most out of their vehicles,” he said. “As the technology goes up and up, and gets more complex and more intimidating, we need to be the ones that continue to partner with our customers, engaging with them, to build relationships and trust. What you don’t want happen is a third party or intermediary coming into your industry, and taking away that relationship, because you’re not serving the customer.
Huge and continuous efforts will be needed in the areas of technology, especially in the machine learning and artificial intelligence behind the sensors, cameras, and radar.
The same amount of effort will also be needed to sort out the ethics, infrastructure, and regulations, and general cultural acceptance of driverless vehicles.
Hutchison said the benefits of autonomous vehicles to society are just too awesome for automakers to pass up.
“We have challenges. Yet they will be solved,” Hutchison said. “Every major OEM is invested, as well as big tech companies and start-ups. It will happen…the investment and brain power dedicated to this is frankly incredible.”