Systems that allow company cars, vans and trucks to book their own repair and maintenance appointments are potentially just a matter of years away, according to fleet software market leader CFC Solutions.
The company says that one of the key enablers to this kind of technology is now becoming more commonplace in the form of vehicles having their own onboard diagnostic systems as well as dedicated mobile internet access, such as the new Audi A8.
The main obstacle that now remains is actually the driver – in order for a car or van to book itself in for servicing or repairs, a mechanism needs to be established for checking when the driver will be free to take it to a garage or have it collected.
Neville Briggs, managing director at CFC Solutions, said: "Vehicles are now capable of self diagnosis in terms of both regular and unplanned service and maintenance. They can communicate their need through a mobile internet link to one of our fleet software systems, which can itself authorise any work required with fleet managers and check directly with dealer or in-house workshop diaries to find available dates.
"All of this can now potentially happen without human intervention in a matter of seconds. The only part of the process that needs to be resolved into order to make fully automatic service, maintenance and repair booking a reality is to check driver availability."
Briggs added that this was more problematic than it initially sounded – even if the fleet software was given access to a driver’s online diary and found a day that was ostensibly free, the date available may still not be convenient.
He explained: "A driver’s work diary may show that they are strictly free on a particular day but to have their car unavailable with a dealer may still be inconvenient for them.
"One of the possibilities that we are looking at is that the fleet software will e-mail the driver saying ‘Your car needs servicing and this garage at this location is free on these dates. Please click on the one that you prefer’. This may well be the best solution."
Briggs added that the underlying technology needed to make these kinds of systems work was already available and that whether it became widespread was dependent on enthusiasm from manufacturers, fleets and garages.
He said: "In terms of making the technology work, the processes should be quite straightforward to implement. Whether it becomes commonplace will depend on the level of momentum that becomes apparent in the marketplace – but it is potentially only a few years away from happening."