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Less Mech; More Tech

The leaves will be changing soon, and so will everything that you have learned or thought you knew about automotive technology.

Coming up over the horizon is a whole new breed of cars and trucks. These will depend less and less on automotive mechanics and more and more on automotive technology. Even trucks and buses will not be left out of the technology revolution.

The automobile industry is the second largest industry in the US economy and every American is dependent upon it for all the necessities of life. Emergency health care, firefighting, police, food, education, clothing, fuel, mail, friends, and relatives are all delivered to us via trucks and cars. They travel a network of highways and roads that were designed and built for their use. They are fueled and serviced by conveniently located stations.

For almost everyone alive today, this is not just current events, this is history – but so were flat vinyl sound discs and film.

With the pending arrival of smart cars, self-driving cars, all electric vehicles, and smart highways to support them, the future of automotive technology is speeding our way. What does this mean for us?

Do you remember when cars did not have GPS systems, or backup cameras? How about seatbelts or airbags? For drivers and pedestrians, new automotive technology means greater safety. Sometimes this backfires. When drivers had to keep both hands and both feet occupied with driving, they were less likely to lose focus. Certainly, they wouldn’t have been able to text.  Inattention is now the most likely cause of accidents.

A current solution are sensors on the outsides of vehicles that alert the drivers to anything too close or too closely parked to the car. These help. A more radical solution is to take the driver out of the car. Self-driving cars are already being tested.  The primary difference in these automobiles is their dependence on computers. And they will probably be electric.

In Europe they are experimenting with special highway designs that will charge these cars and trucks while they carry their passengers and materials along the road. So far – zero accidents.

How will this affect us? All change is incremental, so changes will first appear on major highways and more developed areas, just as is happening with the placement of charging stations for electric automobiles. It is possible that the most advanced automotive technologies will never cover local and private roads. So there will still be times when the human interface will be necessary between your vehicle and the road. The thrill or boredom of guiding yourself through traffic on the long haul will be gone. All that road rage will have to find another target – perhaps your own vehicle. Or we can just sit back, play with our technology, or even snooze.

The highways will be greener and cleaner without gas fuels and fumes. Fewer emergency vehicles; less roadkill; cheaper travel. Trucks will still be staffed, of course, as someone will have to be in charge of the delivered products. Buses will have customer service representatives. Delivery vans will have salespeople.

Service stations will need computer maintenance experts – technicians; not mechanics.  This will be the greatest change and will mean a change in a major career field.

Automobile technicians and mechanics are part of a direct service economy. Like doctors, dentists, hairstylists, and other hands-on workers, they are impervious to outsourcing. They are in demand today, and will be in demand tomorrow. But everything will be subject to change. The challenge of retraining current workers and redesigning educational automotive technology programs must be ongoing.

New York Automotive and Diesel Institute is undergoing a program of renewal and expansion to meet the coming needs of the industry – new technology, new tools, new syllabi.  Find out more at