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How Self-Driving Cars Could Change Field Service

How Self-Driving Cars Could Change Field Service

Imagine a highway where all the cars obey traffic laws, there’s no traffic, no road rage, and no accidents. This is what highways around the world could be like once driverless cars become more popular.

But If you think self-driving cars will be limited to car sharing businesses like Uber and Lyft, think again. Juniper Research conducted a study that revealed that by 2025, there will be 20 million driverless cars on roads around the world. With consumer adoption of self-driving cars anticipated to become popular in 2021, North America and Western Europe will be the first regions to see self-driving cars on their highways.

Technology and car companies, such as Google, Volvo, Apple, and Tesla are leading the development and creation of driverless vehicles. These companies have already completed live on-the-road trials with their self-driving vehicles and have determined the scale and potential of market opportunities.

And one of the markets that’s set to be affected by this new technology is the field service market. The question is: How can driverless cars help field service technicians in their daily work routines?

Connected Cars in Field Service

Adopting fully self-driving cars may be a few years off, but the automated features on cars that already exist now will continue to improve (such as ADAS and cruise control). These technologies will help drivers become accustomed to cars driving themselves.

Additionally, connected car systems are on the rise, as the Juniper Research study, “Consumer Connected Cars: Telematics, Insurance, & In-Vehicle Applications 2015-2020” points out. Over the next four years, consumers are expected to increasingly adopt car infotainment systems such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, amounting to revenues of more than $600 million in 2020. Wirelessly connected on-board vehicle software that does not require a connected smartphone to work will also become increasingly popular.

These applications won’t be limited to new releases from Apple and Android; other in-vehicle applications from various software developers will become available as well. For field service, this means that field service software applications could also be integrated directly into service vehicles. Technicians would automatically be given the best route to the customer and the car could provide a smarter way of re-routing around traffic problems.  

Use Less Resources and Save Money

Driverless cars are more convenient for drivers because they won’t floor the gas or brake suddenly, and they can intuitively avoid traffic, idling, or hunting for parking. Successfully navigating roadblocks without stress, human errors, or human fatigue theoretically means that road safety will increase.

The costs of maintaining a fleet of service vehicles and truck rolls can add up. From gas to repairs, vehicles require money and people to manage them and keep them on the road. However, driverless cars mean that field service organizations would need fewer vehicles because technicians would be able to share vehicles. And according to a study by University of Texas Austin researchers, shared self-driving vehicles use 12% less fuel than average cars. So for field service, fewer vehicles means less gas needed for technician’s truck rolls.

Currently, companies need to maintain several vehicles, since each tech needs to drive to every service call on their schedule for the day. However, when an autonomous vehicle is included in your fleet of vehicles, one technician can be on-site fixing a piece of equipment while the van that dropped off the first tech goes to pick up a second tech and take that person to the next job.

Multi-Task and Be Everywhere at Once

One of the best things about field service mobility is that it allows technicians to find or order the parts they need while on the go. Let’s imagine there’s a situation where a tech is on-site, fixing a piece of machinery, and realizes that a spare part is needed. The tech pulls out a smartphone, pulls up their field service mobile app and discovers that the spare part is located on another truck. The tech could send a driverless car to pick up the part, and in the meantime continue with other fixes on the machine or other machines on-site. Once the autonomous car returns with the needed part, the fix can be completed much faster than if the tech had to stop working (or worse, reschedule another visit) to go pick up the part himself.

Driverless cars could make field service technicians much more efficient and fast at their jobs. Technicians benefit from having time to brief themselves on customer history, parts inventory, equipment data, etc. before arriving on-site. Now think of how much more time efficient technicians would be if instead of having to review customer information or history once they arrive on-site or take time out at another job site to review previous notes, what if they could do it en route to the job? Time spent traveling from client to another is the perfect time to prep, and self-driving vehicles would make that kind of prep time a reality.

According to Juniper Research, there are multiple ways companies could use driverless cars, but either licensing the vehicles or open sourcing the automated systems would most likely be the easiest and most cost efficient way for field service organizations to add self-driving cars to their fleet, and provide new and easier ways for technicians to do their jobs.


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