Here's One Way Autonomous Vehicles Could Make Owning Old Cars Better

Illustration for article titled Here's One Way Autonomous Vehicles Could Make Owning Old Cars Better

There are many, many ideas and concepts and startup companies around right now that envision shared autonomous vehicles as a way to eliminate private car ownership. For many people, that’s great, but for people like us, filthy-fingernailed car lovers, there’s not all that much appeal to these ideas. But autonomy doesn’t just have to serve those who don’t care about cars—autonomous vehicles have the potential to make car ownership better, too, and I think I have an idea how.

Illustration for article titled Here's One Way Autonomous Vehicles Could Make Owning Old Cars Better

When we think of autonomous vehicles as robots and not just self-driving automobiles, the perspective changes. A robotic vehicle can be tasked with helping you with whatever you want, even if that whatever is working on your old human-driven car.


With that in mind, imagine this: There’s a company that you can buy a membership into, a company designed to help make owning and maintaining and repairing classic cars easier.

The company is, fundamentally, a co-op for wrenchers, with a huge pool of tools, specialized and common, that you can borrow to work on your projects. So many specialized tools we may buy spend most of their lives sitting—brake drum pullers, spring compressors, special huge wrenches for taking off flywheel nuts, or whatever. Stuff you desperately need for one job, but probably don’t need around all the time.

While organizations like this exist, what could make this different is how you get the tools and parts you need. Our hypothetical company, which we’ll call Wrenchelper (not a great name, but it’ll do for now) gets you the tools and parts via a fleet of special autonomous vehicles.

Illustration for article titled Here's One Way Autonomous Vehicles Could Make Owning Old Cars Better

Let’s say you order some parts, and schedule a loan of some specialty tools for the upcoming weekend, when you want to work on your car. You have a driveway or parking lot you can use, but no good garage or workspace or lift or anything like that. That’s where this gets good.

The autonomous vehicle isn’t just for delivery; it’s part of what you’re borrowing, why you pay your monthly fee. It not only delivers all the parts and tools right to wherever you tell it, the vehicle itself also provides a workbench surface on the top, a tablet/display screen to view video tutorials, read instructions, view diagrams, etc, power outlets and air compressor air supplies, and even a lift for your project car.


The autonomous vehicle would be quite heavy with all its batteries and parts, so it should be stable enough as a lift base for most cars, but projects over a certain weight would likely require some additional supports under the lift. Smart engineers will figure all that crap out.

It should also be possible for the autonomous delivery ‘bot to be used to tow a disabled car to a desired location to be worked on, if you’re stuck on the side of the road somewhere, or your project is in a location away from where you can wrench on it.


Essentially, the autonomous parts/tools delivery vehicle becomes a mobile, well-equipped garage that comes to you whenever you need it, and leaves when you’re finished. This could give people access to the tools and setup they need to work on their cars even if they live in apartments or places where an actual shop or garage just isn’t possible.

I’m imagining this as a sort of subscription service, and you can choose what level of service you want. You could just use it to have tools and/or parts delivered to you, and the delivery ‘bot just goes away until you’re ready to return the tools, or you could arrange to have one with the installed lift and work surface show up and keep it for as long as you need to finish your project. Whatever you want!


As always, investors know how to contact me, by burning a pile of hot dogs on my front lawn.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!:

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son of a motherless goat (PSA: wash your hooves)

I already have a Wrenchelper that I borrow tools from. It’s called my next door neighbor, Gary. YOU’LL GET YOUR TOOLS BACK WHEN I’M DONE, GARY!