The age of the driverless vehicle is upon us. Auto dealers, trucking companies, and tech powerhouses have all thrown their hats in the ring. Established brands such as Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, and Daimler AG live alongside upstarts such as Google, Cruise, Apple, Waymo, Tesla, and Uber.
Ford will spend $4 billion on this technology by 2023, Toyota put $2.8 billion into its own self-driving company, and General Motors plans to invest $100 million.
In this new age of autonomous transportation, what will happen to your friendly neighborhood auto technician? Contrary to popular belief, it looks like they will be in high demand for the foreseeable future; TechRepublic estimates that 75,900 new jobs for skilled workers will be created over the next 10 years. And trade schools are rushing to keep up with demand.
What’s behind this potential bonanza of auto tech jobs?
More Driving, More Repairs
Although driverless cars look on the surface to be flawless super-machines with an endless list of gadgets and features that can solve any problem, the reality is quite different.
Automated vehicles aren’t just for your daily commute. Unlike the car you have now, which sits idle in your driveway or a parking lot most of the day, a self-driving car can drop you off at work and then continue throughout the day (and night) shuttling family members or ride-share customers.
This 24/7 potential means that cars and trucks will rack up far more mileage, and wear and tear than today’s standard models. At some point, someone will have to step up and fix them.
Different Skill Set
To work on tomorrow’s automated vehicles, auto technicians need to learn new skills that can be applied across interconnected systems. These may include physics, math, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), data science, robotics, and a wide range of software applications. This set of talents is in demand but also in short supply, leaving repair shops with a persistent talent gap.
In addition to the traditional, physical parts of a car, there will be a dizzying array of sensors, including several cameras, as well as ultrasonic, radar, and LIDAR units. These will break down over time, and skilled technicians will be needed to identify and replace problematic units. With several dozen sensors per autonomous vehicle (and millions of vehicles like this on our future roads), there will be plenty of work for repair shops.
Automated vehicles will also include a ton of computer processors and memory banks that would keep any IT professional busy. And when these systems go down, the car of the future becomes a 4,000-pound pet rock—nice to look at, but lifeless.
A majority of driverless cars will likely be electric or hybrid vehicles. Though these vehicles are good for the environment, it means another layer of tech that repair shops need to be prepared to handle. And the unknown performance of these new parts and systems means your shop will need the tools and talent to handle whatever comes their way.
The Road to the Future
Though the future of auto techs in an era of driverless vehicles looks bright, the ramp-up in demand will likely be slow. Automated vehicles will first be owned and operated by major corporations (Google) or innovation startups (Tesla). Eventually, the technology will trickle down to dealerships selling to retail customers, and that’s when the need for folks to repair them will truly hit its stride.
Demand for talented, flexible workers has never been higher. If a career as an automotive technician looks appealing, the time has come to take the first steps. A vocational school can pave the way for a fulfilling career that marries cutting edge technology with age-old repair techniques.
Get started today with our e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Transportation Tech Careers.