Are Digital Vehicle Inspections better than Human Inspections?

Is it Human v Machine? Like most things, the truth is in the middle.

10th Jan 2023 Wondle

Digital Vehicle Inspections in 2023

In today's automotive environment, highly trained, experienced vehicle inspectors are an extremely valuable asset, but they are also becoming increasingly scarce, not to mention expensive. The good ones have seen most things before, can work quickly and efficiently with high levels of accuracy and understand the context of the inspection; this means they can apply both expertise and common sense to their work. This high level of competence reduces costs up the value chain by reducing queries, complaints and escalations over inaccurate, incomplete or inconclusive vehicle condition assessments.  


The challenge the industry faces is that elements of the trained workforce are either retiring, leaving the UK or being attracted to other professions, who themselves have addressed the skill shortage by jacking up salaries to new employees. So what action can be taken to mitigate this societal and industrial change, does action need to be taken or will the problem sort itself out?


What are the relevant questions to be answered?


  1. Will the skill shortage likely ease any time soon?
  2. Is there any reason the cost for inspectors is likely to come down?
  3. Is the demand for vehicle inspections in the market likely to decrease in the future?


The answer to these questions are simple; no, no and no. 

No, the skill shortage for vehicle inspections won’t ease quickly. In 2022 the BVRLA said of its members, While 94% expect staffing levels to remain the same or increase over the next 12 months, 54% are struggling with the recruitment of new staff’. In addition, few candidates are entering the market from school or college. 

No, the cost of the remaining talent will not come down due to simple supply and demand pressures.  The inspectors will know their value and likely become transient workers with highly portable skills. Even if an organisation solves the problem by throwing cash at it, it is likely a temporary home until the next best offer is tabled.

No, with new trading models such as subscription and flexible rental, vehicles are likely to have up to 7x more users in its first three years, which moves the number of inspections from a minimum of  2 inspections(delivery and collection) to a minimum of 14.


So, other than paying more to compete for the remaining talent and forcing your price points up to customers, how should you approach the challenge of inspection and condition reports? 


The answer is to embrace new technology, which offers a clear path, to not only prevent your costs from rising but proactively reduce them.

How good is digital inspection in 2023?

First, a little about digital inspection efficacy.  We get asked a simple question a lot, “Is your technology as good as a trained and experienced inspector?’. Our answer is, ‘It’s very close, but not quite…yet.’ In many ways, we feel whilst it is the obvious question, it’s not the right one.


Here are two other questions which provide more revealing answers ‘Can your technology make a trained and experienced inspector more productive?’ Our answer is ‘Absolutely!”. Another question is, ‘Can your technology enable a member of the public to do a quality inspection?’ Again, our answer is ‘Yes, we can get to around 90% of the accuracy of a trained inspector from someone using it for the first time’  for a non-experienced inspector with repeat usage, this increases further to close to the Gold standard of a trained, experienced and motivated inspector.


The benefits are there to be taken.

These two alternative questions provide two exciting and highly accessible approaches. Firstly,  where experienced expertise is used in a supervisory centralised function, quickly assessing inspections but only where elements are identified by the AI as inconclusive (i.e where the confidence level of the model is not high enough to triage automatically).  This could be to increase the accuracy of reporting or to apply nuanced damage charges etc.  This requires much less expensive resources to gather data and targets the high-cost expertise at the value-adding moments, not at data and image collection. This produces equivalent accuracy as experienced inspectors but with significantly higher productivity and less cost.


The second possibility is for applications where damage identification at around 90% accuracy is good enough.  Remembering that Computer Vision is most likely to mislabel or not identify damage on barely visible damage or microdamage.  In many Mobility use cases, this type of damage is not necessary to be identified due to the age or next use of the vehicle.  In these cases, there is little need to employ high-cost inspection labour to conduct the inspection; either low-cost non-skilled employees or even ‘free’ customer self-inspection utilising fully guided technology would suffice.  This dramatically reduces time and cost whilst capturing the vast majority of the damage.


Often Mobility processes are legacy processes and have been built or borrowed from old business models.  This technology provides an opportunity to remove waste from the process and really examine what is required from an inspection, and more importantly, start to drill down into the unit economics of vehicle condition reports by identifying the cost of each percentage point of accuracy versus the financial benefit of each percentage point. The results are often revelatory and can deliver efficiencies into old processes.


Each use case has its own demands and requirements but at Wondle have yet to see an inspection process that could not deliver improved benefits, in speed, cost or customer experience, from the introduction of a combination of either Inspector/AI or AI alone. The implementation is extremely fast and is designed to refine and re-energise, not replace existing processes and personnel.


If you are interested in understanding how this technology can help your mobility business, then get in touch with one of the team today and let’s talk about examples of other organisations that have already started on their productivity journey of AI digital inspections.

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