Your job is safe in the crash-free future
BY ALLISON ROGERS
What does a collision-free future look like for the autobody repair industry? At the idea of such a reality, many would imagine the collapse of the sector; no collisions mean no cars to repair. But that’s where you’d be wrong.
Honda recently made the statement that, by 2050, the OEM would tout zero traffic collision fatalities per year involving its vehicles and motorcycles, globally. The automaker plans to curb the severity of highway crashes by implementing its omnidirectional advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) to all new automobile models the company introduces in major markets by 2030. The Japanese giant isn’t the only one making such claims. In 2017, General Motors CEO Mary Barra announced what she called to be an “ambitious vision” for GM—zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion—achieved by harnessing new technologies to prevent crashes from happening in the first place.
“No more crashes. One day, no more lives lost,” Barra wrote in the LinkedIn paper. To reach such ambitious goals, OEMs admit technological advancements need to be made. While impressive, it’s not likely that vehicle technology will be, in 30 years, at a point where it is capable of repairing and calibrating itself. That’s where you come in.
Many envision the future of collision repair to be less about restoring a twisted frame and beaten panels and more about the upkeep of such high-tech collision avoidance systems. With hundreds of sensors present on new vehicle models—and more added by the year—a mere fender bender in the grocery store parking lot will result in a complete recalibration of the system so many drivers rely on to keep them safe from more serious crashes. Anyone that’s spent more than 10 minutes speaking to a seasoned repairer knows that the last 20 years of collision repair have seen tsunami-sized waves of technological advancement and change. With the introduction of aluminum panels, plastic welding, paintless dent repair, glue pull repair, three-stage coatings, e-coats and so much more, this industry has handled and adapted to more change—at a faster pace—than most could ever dream of. Not to mention the impressive ADAS technology of today; a whole other beast the industry persistently navigates.
Look to the aviation industry for proof. In 2020, large commercial airplanes saw 0.27 fatal accidents per million flights, resulting in a total of 40 fatal collisions and 299 fatalities worldwide, according to aviation consulting firm To70. Comparatively, approximately 1.35 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes, according to the World Health Organization.
Regardless, careers as an aircraft maintenance engineer remain in the picture. As of 2019, there were 17,662 licensed aircraft maintenance engineers in Canada, and there remains demand for such skilled technicians in the field.
You may be saying, “Well, that makes sense—aircrafts are much more advanced than automobiles,”—but give it some thought. We’re already seeing automakers make sweeping statements regarding the inclusion of ADAS in all new models. Companies worldwide are entering the now-popular race toward autonomous driving.
We may not be driving planes quite yet, but rest assured your job is safe with the amount of technological advancements ahead for the automotive industry. If you stay in tune with the happenings and ensure your skills are aligned with the times, you’ve got a long career in the field ahead of you.
And hey, if we do end up in a collision-free future, that’s a whole lot more time for restorations. Could be worse.