Connected, driverless cars coming soon, AAA official tells NASTF

Connected and driverless vehicles will change the U.S. driving experience more significantly than any technological change in many years, according to Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering and industry relations for the American Automobile Association (AAA). Hence, the automotive aftermarket must be prepared for a very different industry in the next 15 years.

Brannon shared his thoughts during the fall annual meeting of the National Automotive Task Force (NASTF) at the Sands Exposition Center during the Automotive Aftermarket Product Expo (AAPEX).

Driverless cars, which have been developed and tested by Google, offer the following benefits: safety, convenience, peace of mind and infotainment, Brannon said. He said GM’s Onstar telematics marked the first phase of the Internet connected car and the second phase is the driverless car.

Brannon said connected cars will become adopted faster than telematics has. He predicted that half of the cars in the U.S. will be driverless by 2025.

Connectivity reduces accidents, increases transportation efficiency and provides automatic emergency assistance. He said AAA has confirmed these benefits in its own tests. Other benefits include traffic warnings, automatic braking, crash avoidance, adaptive cruise control, alternative routing, remote diagnostics and in-car infotainment.

The major automakers are testing connectivity, he said. “The technology is in the cars today to make it happen,” he noted.

As these cars come on the market, Hughes said there will be aftermarket tools developed to provide these features in older vehicles.

Infotainment will make riding in cars enjoyable. Connected cars will provide travel information, music, videos, food and lodging reservation services, entertainment coupons, shopping information and merchandise discounts.

AAA supports connected vehicles in the interest of public safety, Hughes said.

The issue of who will own the information vehicles generate needs to be addressed, he said. He noted that General Motors and Ford have both “opened” their connective systems to third party developers to get the technology to market. “It should speed the innovation in these systems,” he said.

Consumers need to be educated about connectivity in cars, he noted.

“How are you as the independent repair shop preparing for that shift?” he asked.