The march toward "automated everything" continues apace. Wendy's is putting thousands of self-ordering machines in its restaurants, and now Ford is trying out a similar strategy, but, you know, for cars. The company announced it has partnered with Panasonic and GoMoto, which specializes in car dealership technologies, to create so-called Smart Service Kiosks.
First, customers enter their contact information into the outdoor kiosk by using the touchscreen and scanning their driver's license. Then they input certain key vehicle information and create a security PIN for key pick-up. Next, they can request basic maintenance tasks like alignment, oil changes and inspections, among other things. Users also have the option to enter more details about their service needs so technicians aren't left guessing what they're looking for. When that's done, users drop off their keys and pick up keys for a loaner car.
Once the dealership is finished with the vehicle, users will get an email alert. That email contains a QR code customers will need to scan at the kiosk in order to pick up their keys. After also entering the PIN they created earlier, car owners can pay for the service and pick up their keys any time of day.
The service is beginning a 90-day trial at a dealership in Birch Run, Michigan. Tom Hodges, Dealer Connectivity Manager at Ford, says the kiosks could potentially "do for dealership service [...] what ATMs did for the banking industry." Indeed, that sounds like an apt comparison. The kiosks seem capable of handling basic needs, but ultimately, car owners will still need to talk to a real person for bigger or more complicated problems.