Self-driving vehicles are becoming increasingly popular, with 10 million projected to hit the road by 2020. This new, game-changing technology is best described as a vehicle that operates without direct driver input to control the steering, acceleration and braking. The most compelling benefit of the new vehicles is that, when operating in self-driving mode, they relieve the driver of having to constantly monitor the roadway.

Placing a person’s physical safety in the hands of automated technology might seem like a risk not worth taking. Yet it turns out that some 81 percent of car accidents are caused by human error. Using a well-made, self-driving vehicle can help eliminate the error factor – and even benefit companies with a fleet of field service vehicles.

As these driverless vehicles become more advanced, companies with after-sales service organizations are realizing how they can reap the benefits. Here’s a look at how the industry has adopted these new vehicles, predictions for the future, as well as some hiccups they may face.

Limiting Liability Concerns

A key reason for the growth of self-driving vehicles is that they may limit liability, which is always a significant concern – and cost –  for field service organizations. Driver and road safety is a pressing issue in the U.S. especially, and driverless vehicles are thought to reduce accidents and make roads safer for all vehicles. In fact, earlier this year, the government proposed spending $4 billion to expedite regulatory guidelines for driverless vehicles to help them reach the market faster.

Enhancing Vehicle Performance

According to Gartner, more than a quarter billion vehicles with enhanced connectivity will be on the roads by 2020, bringing an influx of previously unavailable data to field service teams. And as vehicles become more intelligent, companies will be able to keep better tabs on things like the length of time of service appointments, and how many appointments are completed within a certain timeframe, as well as the performance of the vehicle itself. This means existing field service software and service parts planning solutions could integrate into the vehicle’s existing systems. This will not only bring field service teams additional data to optimize every point of the repair, but also will help them stay ahead of the curve regarding maintenance on their fleet, keeping more vehicles on the road and more revenue coming in.

Building an Efficient Field Service Engine 

For logistics purposes, self-driving vehicles have already become common for various operations in warehouses, outdoor applications and transportation. The vehicles are literally on a fast track, as businesses look for ways to improve both speed and efficiency. When it comes to field service, driverless vehicles mean technicians can multitask – something that they can’t (or at least shouldn’t) do behind the wheel today.

Multitasking allows technicians to use their field service app to ensure the upcoming appointment is as efficient as possible while en route to the call – reading up on customer history, service part inventory and equipment data – so that the technician walks into the appointment ready to make the repair quickly and successfully. The possibilities are endless – if a vehicle is not equipped with the correct service part, it could self-drive to a warehouse to retrieve it while the technician is working on other aspects of the repair. Or, a vehicle could even be stocked with a 3D printer to produce parts on the spot! Essentially, self-driving cars provide new and easy ways for technicians to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

While driverless vehicles are by and large a worthwhile venture for field service organizations, there are still some potential hurdles for manufacturers. It’s inevitable that companies using driverless vehicles will have to deal with regular updates as technology becomes more advanced, for example. According to a DHL report, some of these improvements will include greater precision in digital mapping, better algorithms to predict the behavior of other road users and improve decision-making, and better flexibility for easier integration and deployment. So, it’s up to the manufacturers to understand and stay on top of changing technology and ensure the necessary updates are regularly made.

Driverless vehicles offer exciting benefits for the future of field service. The driverless “revolution” is a fast-moving trend that manufacturers must watch closely to ensure they stay ahead of customer needs and keep a competitive edge.