How to Become a Mechanic in the Age of Autonomous Vehicles

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In the summer of 2019, there were over 1,400 self-driving cars, or autonomous vehicles (AVs) being tested in the United States. Over 80 companies are throwing their hats into the AV ring. Beyond technology outfits like Tesla, companies like Ford and Toyota are also developing self-driving vehicles.

Here in Canada, at the University of Waterloo, an AV called the Autonomoose was recently unveiled, and its detection and reaction systems have since been used by commercial companies.

What does this mean for auto mechanics today and going forward? Even when AVs are on the road, manual vehicles will likely still be necessary in specific places and industries. On the surface, this may not affect much about your training and certification immediately, but it’s worth looking how things are changing in this important trade and what to expect in the near future.

Start by Learning About Hybrid and Electric Vehicles Before Your Automotive Course

Before self-driving cars become a regular consumer product, there will likely be an increase in the number of hybrid and electric vehicles coming into shops and dealerships for maintenance and repair. There are major differences between maintenance for an electric engine versus a combustion engine, and all mechanics will need to be prepared to deal with both in the years to come.

If you’re training to become a mechanic, it’s a great opportunity to learn about electric cars
If you’re training to become a mechanic, it’s a great opportunity to learn about electric cars

Fortunately, however, many of the other common maintenance issues you will encounter when dealing with electric cars are quite similar to those of traditional gasoline vehicles. For example, electric vehicles still require attention to brakes, coolants and battery care, among other issues drivers may need assistance with.

Having knowledge of these kinds of shifts in the market and what services are required before you begin an automotive course will prepare you for future changes toward AVs.

Increased Usage, Increased Repairs

Lance Eliot, a transportation expert for Forbes, claims that driverless cars will be used more than the cars of today. Why? Because they can operate without a driver, of course!

There may be more public transit or private ridesharing involving AVs that has these vehicles running for longer periods of time every day and racking up more kilometres faster, which likely translates to more maintenance and repairs.

Also, remember that just as electric vehicles will still require a lot of traditional maintenance, self-driving cars will too. Steering, suspension, brakes, tires, and other components will still need to be maintained for these cars to be on the road and endure higher levels of usage overall.

Partnerships and Learning Opportunities for Auto Mechanics in Cambridge

More and more, the technology in cars may require teams of people with different skill sets to maintain a vehicle properly. Maintaining on-board computer systems, sensors, and other non-traditional car parts may require the help of engineers or IT professionals, making the process of carrying out routine repairs more complicated.

Want to take a nap behind the wheel? We’re not quite there yet
Want to take a nap behind the wheel? We’re not quite there yet

This represents a challenge, particularly for smaller shops who can’t afford to have a large staff of different professionals on hand, or work in regions where they can’t easily access the help they need on-demand.

One way forward may be for auto mechanics in Cambridge and other smaller cities to partner their shops with other local businesses in the car and technology industry, so they have a direct line to collaborate with other professionals.

If all of this sounds intimidating, then don’t worry! Autonomous vehicle technology is still in its relatively early stages, and there may still be decades before drivers take their hands off the wheel completely.

Want to know how to become a mechanic?

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