Talk to the Hand

  • July 9, 2023

Many people dislike dealing with car salesmen – who are sometimes pushy and sometimes shifty.

But will they like it better when they’re replaced by AI “chatbots”?

Imagine it. Instead of dealing with a human – however pushy – you’ll be dealing with a machine intelligence that  (per the original Terminator movie) cannot be bargained with any more than the “customer service” phone tree that prompts you like the Rhesus monkey they think you are to push “9” for this and “*” for that and – just maybe – you’ll get a reward in the form of something approximating what you needed.

It’s coming soon, to a showroom near you, says Aharon Horwitz – who very much wants it to, as his company, Fullpath could make a lot of money selling its Customer Data and Experience Platform to dealers, who could then save money by getting rid of salesmen.

And customers, too.

They can talk to the Hand – another Terminator reference – in the form of the screen. Where they’ll be prompted through the process like the Rhesus monkeys they are becoming.

“I think we’re talking a year to a year and a half where [ChatGPT is] doing a huge amount of the car-buying process itself in an automated way,” Horwitz told the trade publication Automotive News the other day. 

TrueVideo CEO Joe Shaker – who also has AI/chatbot skin in the game as well as skin in the car-selling game as owner of the Shaker Group car dealership chain in New England (its web site has a predictably Woke main page) says “It will touch every department  . . . I think it is going to be incredible  . . . a lot of people won’t even realize they’re using ChatGPT.”

Italics added.

Well, not counting those who used to have jobs that entailed chatting with customers – who will now “chat” with the bot. The latter will no doubt be suitably “diverse,” just like the images on the Shaker’s Group’s web site but only superficially, as the “non-binary person of color” will only look diverse.

In fact it – and it is an it – will be an image of what no longer is. Not unlike the recorded sounds of the engine that’s no longer there that are piped into the passenger compartments of some EVs, such as Ford’s “Mustang” Mach e.

Shaker  says he expects dealerships to move from being “curious and excited about the technology’s potential to a much wider adoption rate as ChatGPT is woven into dealership systems.”

But what about customers?

Will they be “excited” to no longer have someone human to deal with? To not even know whether the “intelligence” they’re dealing with is human?

And will the reduction in human staff at dealerships be reflected in lower prices for cars? For service? Of course it won’t. Just as you don’t get the slightest discount at the supermarket – or Lowes, Wal Mart and so on – for checking yourself out. The checkers that used to do that for you – and got paid by the store to do it – have largely been done-away with in favor of having you do the work. For free!

Why, that’s their favorite price!

This has been very “exciting”  . . . for the stores that make more money by making you do more when you buy things from them. It has also been habituating. Self-checkout has been common for more than 30 years now. When it was first “rolled out” – to use the lingo – there was usually just one or maybe two self-checkout aisle and these were usually not as popular as the full-service checkout aisles, of which there were – in those days – many more.

Now, of course, it is usually the reverse.

Not because the self-checkout aisles are more popular but rather because it is often the case that’s all there are.

Sometimes, there is a vestigial human employee standing by the self-checkout kiosks. But they are not there to check you out – and they won’t be there much longer. Once the stores figure out a way to limit pilferage to acceptable losses – perhaps by exits that don’t automatically open until another machine intelligence compares what you’ve got in your cart with the receipt in your hand. Or – as the supermarket chain Aldi is rolling out – requiring you to scan a QR code in order to shop.

Regardless, one can see where it’s all headed.

A problem, of course, arises in that as fewer humans are being paid to provide services to other humans, there will be fewer humans who can afford to buy the services – and goods – increasingly handled/transacted by non-human intelligences.

Henry Ford understood that in order for people to be able to buy the cars he made, they had to be able to afford them.

That’s made a lot harder when your job has been replaced by a machine that works for free – and you don’t even get the benefit of that.

. . .

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