AI CERTAINTY AND THE FUTURE
Amid four years of studying, one conversation in 1982 with a maths lecturer stood out, and still rings true today. He explained the probability of computing delivering more at lower cost (‘Moors Law’) but this did not take into account the full effect of innovation. In essence, he explained, those who seek profit and only see everyone else as a route to that profit, will invest in ever more complex ‘machines. Eventually, driven by greed and arrogance, the investors won’t care what the machine does as long as profit is delivered.
The end game is where the ‘service’ is reduced to a handful of people, none of whom understand anything about the complex ‘machines’ delivering profit. Backup consists of the belief that ‘others will step in at short notice, should a problem arise, and that those people will be paid nothing until that eventuality. I could see the logic, but thought is often overstated.
Fast forward to this decade. The banking system is mostly ‘on line’, help is delivered by automated systems working on algorithms which can only deal with questions imagined by the programmers who created the system. Physical bank branches have been stripped back, as have ATMs. It begs the question: What are banks for?
AI and the physical
The collision repair business, from recovery to storage to repairers to accident management to parts delivery to ATFs, not forgetting the many financial services involved, is centred around personal mobility – a real physical vehicle. For the businesses which do something physical – from moving a vehicle, supply paint or parts through to the process of repair – people will do something ‘real’. That in a way, is job security.
The number of jobs is directly related to the number of vehicles in use, so if we were to follow the WEF declared aim to reduce the number of cars by 70 percent in 2030 (a truly unhinged declaration), this would lead to a 70 percent reduction in collision repair business, which is not likely to happen by 2030, 2040 or even 2050.
For some of these businesses which do not have any physical interface with a vehicle, all kinds of computing is possible to increase efficiency, and ultimately reduce costs, including headcount.
Artificial intelligence (‘AI’)
The term is hotly contested, but the land of ‘disruption’ and sale of systems to solve problems few knew existed, who smear all existing services as ‘legacy’/‘dinosaurs’/‘technology blockers’, the bankers of Silicon Valley, this is pay day. This is a whole fresh seam of over-hyped ‘solutions’ to be sold to unsuspecting company execs with no guaranteed outcome. Perfect Silicon Valley business.
AI is nothing more than computing. Humans create software and computers create fresh data points between known data inputs. Is that really artificial intelligence? Or what a computer has been doing since Charles Babbage started making his first ‘analytical device’ in 1833?
However, there is a huge issue. Thousands and thousands of office-based and remote working administrators who expertly feed existing computing systems with information. It is where the great cut-back will take place, replicating what manufacturing saw in the 1970s. Ironically ‘admin’ has for more than 50 years remained mostly protected from this evolution, but the end of the road is nigh.
Some people should be very afraid of the ‘AI’ fashion wave – because they will be out of work. However, for anyone who deals with vehicle or physical activities around the vehicle, that risk is lower. The upside is AI has and will continue to make software systems more flexible, more intuitive and connected to more services. In essence, ‘AI’ is right now simply a rebranding exercise whereas the real innovation is happening in financial services with uniquely identifiable transactions.
Hopefully AI will herald the transparent vehicle, where based on the external damage and probability of disruption beneath the skin it will be possible to produce automated estimates – although, when used in conjunction with a qualified VDA the operational result will be much more powerful, thanks to verification of the ‘possible’ damage to actual damage.
Several lease and rental car companies have generated traffic by ‘knocking together’ designs in a few minutes based on AI. The results are evolutions of what is seen now … vast wheels, dramatic headlights, swoopy lines. Just what an automotive designer with little time could ‘knock together’.
Leasecar, LeaseElectricCar and LeaseAnythingElse have missed the point
3D surfacing and virtual creation is already done and does not end up with a ‘vision’ like this. It still takes time to ensure the thousands of parts beneath the skin perform as designed, and to validate the integrity via accelerated durability or known finite element analysis parameters. Quite frankly a recycled narrow concept leads to extinction, as seen by the North American auto industry in the 1970s, and then once again in the 2000s. Innovation is, after all, the life blood of this sector. With that comes some pain and uncertainty, but overall, better health. The bottom line is to remain ever vigilant, remain flexible, react swiftly, and take care how much is spent on each new innovation. Return on investment is really all that matters.
By Andrew Marsh