Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, car servicing is mobilizing and digitizing while technology offers new solutions. In the second of our special reports, we take a look at the services going contactless and the touch-free disinfection technology that is lighting up the future.
Delivering Touchless Repairs & More
Mobile repair service provider, YourMechanic.com reports twice the number of its usual bookings after sending out emails announcing a no-contact car repair service. Key exchange methods include having a service dog carry it out, lowering the key out of a window or leaving it a plastic bag in a planter or under the doormat.
“We’re still providing mobile pre-purchase used car inspections,” says YourMechanic.com CEO and President, Anthony Rodio. For car buyers who are considering buying a used-vehicle sight-unseen and having it delivered, “We can also make sure the car looks and smells clean.”
YourMechanic.com has seen strong demand for touchless or ‘no-contact’ car repair. Repairs are performed in driveways or lots without customers having to leave their homes. Appointments are made through an app or web portal. Payments can be processed via the phone. Mechanics follow best practices of hand washing, surface sanitization, and social distancing.
“We believe YourMechanic.com’s model is the future of car care,” says Rodio.
In the UK, online contactless car repair provider Fixter announced that when drivers pick up cars and take them for service, they return the cars freshly sanitized including the keys before they are dropped into the letterbox. The company saw ‘a huge increase in demand’ due to the lockdown. Garages are still performing well during the Covid-19 crisis.
A Fixter survey found 87% of participants believe that ‘essential businesses’ such as local garages have responded with appropriate procedures to deal with the Covid-19 and the UK government’s social distancing measures.
In a press release, Limvirak Chea, Founder and CEO of Fixter, says: “We have seen a huge increase in demand for our service in the Covid-19 crisis as customers want to minimise contact or even leave their house. It is also becoming clear that customers see their private car as a key part of their armoury to protect themselves and their family in the crisis, so they have been getting serviced and prepared for what might lie ahead.”
Delivering Disinfected Vehicles
“Touchless delivery is a great and clever first step that is perceived as a nod toward safety. But at end of the day, it still doesn’t guarantee protection from germ transfer,” says Derek Vita, Senior Analyst, Strategy Analytics, who notes that it’s difficult to prove there were safety procedures before delivery.
Many automotive dealers are offering concierge servicing options with picking up and delivery of vehicles such as Ford, Lincoln, Volvo and Genesis. Volvo USA recently announced Volvo Valet, servicing pick-up and delivery through its smartphone app.
Mobile eco-conscious vehicle cleaning service RideKleen announced EPA-approved surface disinfection that kills up 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, including human Covid-19 and hygienic vapour air treatments for removal of odours, contamination and pollution. RideKleen is partnering with Clutch Technologies to deliver disinfected vehicles for car retailers.
Technology Helps to Estimate, Inspect & Take Temperatures
Some car inspections are being performed digitally. Collision shops are going digital and touchless with photo estimates.
“Repairers are adapting quickly to social distancing. In fact, for the second half of March, we saw a 250% increase in the number of photo estimates initiated by consumers and sent to repair facilities,” says Mark Fincher, vice president, market solutions, CCC Information Services. CCC Engage enables estimates from photos without in-person interaction.
The UVeye team added a new feature to its drive-through vehicle inspection platform to help during the pandemic.
“We added near-infrared thermal sensors and integrated them into the UVeye platform,” says David Oren, CSO of UVeye, “It enables the detection of the body temperatures of people inside the vehicle which can indicate if someone has a fever and should be tested for Coronavirus.”
UVeye did it very quickly to support emergency vehicles such as ambulance services that were using UVeye’s solutions to make sure the vehicles were safe by scanning the undercarriage for leaks, tires for safety and other visual anomalies.
Another use of UVeye technology is for digital inspection of vehicles for wholesale and retail sales which would be especially useful when vehicles are purchased sight-unseen.
“It’s a digital visual inspection, using advanced computer vision and deep learning algorithms to create an objective report of the vehicle’s undercarriage, body, and tires,” says Oren.
“Providing a UVeye report could be a deal-breaker in used vehicle sales because our research shows that a used vehicle sells for a higher price when there is an image of the undercarriage and detailed visual inspection.”
Oren says the UVeye car scanning platform is deployed all over the world for used car marketplaces, dealerships and car manufacturers.
UVeye’s ‘Helios’ undercarriage scanning detects fluid leaks, corrosion, damages and also quickly identifies if there are no problems for fleets and emergency service vehicles. UVeye’s production has not been affected and can be shipped to dealerships and fleets wherever needed.
What is the Future of Shared Mobility and Transport for the Post-virus World?
“With safety and cleanliness top-of-mind for riders, we’re going to see a greater interest in cleaning operations or an interest in disinfecting riding spaces themselves,” says Vita.
Since the pandemic, there has been a dramatic drop in ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft and an increased demand for car-sharing services. The car-sharing service, Evo in British Columbia saw a large increase in ridership which made it harder for essential workers who needed the service to get to work.
The CEO of Evo, Eric Hopkins, requested that subscribers only use Evo for essential trips.
Hopkins also advised users to bring and use wipes at the start and end of trips on everything touched including “the steering wheel, door handles, gear shift, seat belt, parking brake, blinker and any buttons.”
On 31 March, Evo allocated 250 Evo vehicles for healthcare workers, each car is “designated for that individual to use for free until the end of April.”
What About Touchless Disinfection for Public Transport?
Public transportation use is also down significantly due to the outbreak – a major contributor to spreading the virus is that airborne in droplets can be breathed in an enclosed place.
A solution for disinfection of buses is 222nm Excimer Wave Sterilray (EWS), using far UV-C light with properties that disinfect while not being dangerous to the eyes or skin like UV-C light.
“EWS is more effective than UV-C light and it makes pathogens explode within less than a second,” says John Neister, President and Co-Founder, Excimer Wave Sterilray, that is effective against Covid-19.
In 2005, John’s brother, laser scientist and co-founder Ed Neister, was contacted to find a way to treat wastewater. The wastewater system using UV-C light was not effective. Ed Neister started looking into alternatives and found early research from 1940 about far UV-C light that led him to invent and patent the Excimer Wave Sterilray.
“EWS lamps in the ventilation system of public transportation vehicles will provide the maximum degree of protection to all riders,” writes Ed Neister on the Sterilray website.
Global Railroad Materials has entered into a licensing agreement with TradeMed and Excimer Wave Sterilray Technology to help reduce disease and infections caused by viruses and bacteria found in the air and surfaces.
“We are working to implement devices in trains, subways, stations and workplaces to help mitigate effects of pandemics,” says John Neister.
“I would not touch anything and wash my hands, because the Coronavirus is airborne.”
EWS light technology is good for disinfecting equipment that shouldn’t be exposed to liquid, says John Neister. Disney bought a Sterilray device to disinfect camera equipment.
“There is an ophthalmologist in Florida who is testing EWS on corneas to disinfect eyes without harming the cornea,” says John Neister. “Our physicist has developed the excimer wave technology to be skin safe (without a filter) that is pending FDA approval.”
The company is ramping up of production to meet demands using carbon fibre 3D printing to make devices.
The price range for Sterilrays can be in the thousands of dollars depending on the usage, power, wattage and application. However, coming within the next few months will be a 100-watt Excimer Wave Sterilray Disinfection Wand with an expected price at $1,700, which in theory could be used by automotive servicers to disinfect vehicles.
“Excimer Wave Sterilray technology should be in every autonomous vehicle,” says John Neister.
In the meantime he warns: “I would not go in an Uber or Lyft car unless I was wearing a face mask and the windows were open. I would not touch anything and wash my hands, because the Coronavirus is airborne.”
To read the first part of our special report on virtual services, click on the link below.