Hello driverless cars, goodbye dealerships?
From test drive to test ride and beyond, driverless cars could revolutionise how consumers buy and own as well as how they travel.
The UK government has just announced that ‘real world’ tests of driverless cars can begin immediately on British roads – part of its aim to see the country become a world leader in driverless technology.
There are, of course, myriad technological, legal and social challenges to be overcome. But we can assume they can be – and that driverless cars will likely see a phase-in, as their introduction and use gains greater acceptance from the general public. But what does this mean for dealerships?
To begin with, it seems likely that customers will go to a dealer and take a test drive. Yet driverless cars could also go direct to the customer, firstly with but maybe later without the sales person. The impact on automotive retailing could be enormous, perhaps seeing the end of the dealership as we know it: cars would no longer be displayed in large showrooms, and would drive themselves to service centres.
This isn’t going to happen overnight – but, like augmented reality and the prevalence of mobile devices and user reviews, it’s on its way and it’s going to change hugely the way we interact with our customers.
For anyone who doubts the potential enormity of the driverless car’s impact, check out this vision of the future, as envisaged by software developer and former Google engineer Mike Hearn. It’s a vision in which the car is self-owning, self-upgrading and an active contributor to social and economic development: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-30998361