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If you’ve been reading (or watching) the news lately, you’ve probably heard about these self-driving cars which are on the horizon. Although they are probably a decade or more away from commercial viability (and regulatory approval of any kind), the tech is currently quite advanced. Google has logged hundreds of miles with its self-driving car and recently released a video which showed the vehicle helping a blind man run errands.

That video got us thinking. The implications of these self-driving cars in terms of auto repair probably won’t be too significant (cars will still need service and you’ll still need to stop into your local auto shop). We aren’t worried about these cars putting us out of business (if anything they will add more components that could break into the mix).

Self Driving Google Car
(photo by Saad Faruque via Flickr)

But, the implications for American car culture could be significant. What if all of the sudden you could travel anywhere without even paying attention to the road? And, like Google’s video demonstrates just imagine the impact that this could have on those who are currently unable to drive. Especially in rural areas this could massively impact people’s lives for the better.

But, this new technology could even more radically alter the shape of transportation, as a recent piece in the Canadian periodical The Globe and Mail points out. That piece questions whether parking lots will come to be viewed as wasteful and pointless if self-driving car technology becomes widely adopted. If the cars can drive themselves, why should they just lie in wait and be wasted for 80% of the day. Why not have your car pick up other people (perhaps at a fee) or do some other work?

Autonomous cars would be like the ultimate assistant. Need to pick something up, but don’t have the time to get there? Send your car. Just tell the guy at the dry cleaners to hang your laundry in the back when the car arrives and set it to return to you. Pretty cool, huh?

The possibilities for this technology are almost endless. One thing that is for sure as far as auto repair goes is that there will be a lot more technology for your technicians to familiarize themselves with at your local auto shop. Many auto shops may even have to hire on programmers and computer experts in order to identify issues with the driving software. And all of the sensors and computer work that will need to go into these vehicles will initially be quite overwhelming. But, still the benefits are likely worth all the work. Okay, we’ll admit that part of the allure is simply how cool the self-driving car would be.. We just really want to be able to send our car to pick up our friends.

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