It's always a bit tricky when you start to forecast the future. In the 1950s, for example, it was thought that cars would be rocket-powered, or at least nuclear-powered, in the not too distant future. But 70 years later, we can assume that passenger cars will very probably never be driven by means of a nuclear reactor under the bonnet. And that cars on our roads will ever be rocket-propelled is also hardly likely as things stand today. However, what we can say with certainty is this: mobility will continue to change. And also there will continue to be exciting innovations in the automotive workshops of the future.
Two of the very big trends that will contribute to changes in the automotive industry alongside autonomous driving and electromobility are the phenomena known as "artificial intelligence" and "augmented reality". And both have the potential of changing the style and method of working in workshops in the long term.
Augmented reality, for example, will enable completely new ways of working during the everyday routine in the workshop. But what is "augmented reality" anyway? This is the somewhat awkward definition: “augmented reality" (AR) is the term used to describe the computer-aided representation that expands the real world to include virtual aspects. Examples taken from the automotive industry show us how augmented reality can manifest itself: a few car manufacturers have already started to provide the operating instructions for their new models as a smartphone app. In this way, car owners can interactively explore their car: by moving the smartphone over the dashboard, they then receive information on functions and operation procedures directly on the screen of their smartphone, information which complements the image of the dashboard appearing on the smartphone. In other words, you could say that the real and virtual worlds are merging.
This technology has also already been used in independent vehicle workshops in some cases. With special AR glasses, automotive mechatronics technicians can, for example, consult specialised experts in technical call centres: these experts can see everything that the AR glasses wearers see on their screen – and can then give them instructions or tips in real-time dialogue and even show markings or videos on the smart glasses monitors in order to provide technicians with the desired result as regards complicated assemblies they have to set up.
Especially in times when vehicle technology is becoming increasingly complex, augmented reality could indeed make an important contribution to efficient work in independent workshops as we head into the future. With the help of such augmented reality, specific work instructions and step-by-step guides could be used to instruct technicians on challenging work procedures.
Artificial intelligence (AI), too, could revolutionise the way of working in workshops. The research studies of the Deutsche Automobil Treuhand (DAT) have shown what this could look like. The DAT has developed an analysis tool for accident and wear damage, a tool that is completely AI-assisted.
A special app on the smartphone guides users through the process: the first step deals with the identification of the vehicle, for example via licence plate recognition or the chassis number. Based on photos that users have taken on their smartphone and uploaded to the application, all manner of damage is automatically analysed. The artificial intelligence then automatically recognises the relevant body parts including damage. As soon as all damage is identified, the system performs an initial calculation of the extent of the repair based on information in the DAT vehicle database.
DAT, however, emphasises that the system cannot replace the experts in this field. Nevertheless, the artificial intelligence-based system could complement technical expertise and speed up processes.