A “long time ago” and before his days with Apple, Steve Wozniak had a Jaguar.
“And it broke down a lot. Things were broken on it a lot,” Wozniak told a group of reporters at J.D. Power’s Auto Revolution conference here last week.
“And I took it into the dealer and instantly, every time, they fixed it in a fraction of a day, part of day,” the Apple co-founder said.
“Every time they fixed it, I said, ‘It’s better to have good service than a good car,’” Wozniak said. “And I carry that thinking about service these days.”
Speaking of service, the Apple Store is an example that is often brought up in the car business when the discussion turns to parallel or even alternative retail models whose best practices could also apply to auto retail.
What’s usually discussed is the consultative approach of the Apple Store and having a trusted advisor in the buying process.
That can be paramount in retail and service — automotive or otherwise — when technology might outrun the human touch.
Wozniak gave the example of an experience he had with a food delivery app, where his phone number was left instead of the driver’s. He said he received constant phone calls regarding food delivery and went everywhere on the company’s website to stop the calls, to no avail.
The only remedy Wozniak found was an email request, which he said did not work. He wanted to speak with a human about the issue and the only way to do so was to sign up for account with the food-delivery service.
“That’s a typical technology company. You have a problem. It’s a little unusual. And I need to get to a human. It could be a cellular (service), data or your phone. Or any of these apps. You just want to get to a human. It can become so hard,” he said. “It’s something that a human would solve instantly.
“We’ve gotten away from humans. Technology versus humans,” Wozniak said. “Technology has really won in a lot of these areas.”
And of course, as he relayed in a keynote session to Auto Revolution attendees earlier that day, Wozniak has “always” believed technology and change can be a positive.
“It takes us to newer and better places, does more for us than we could as humans before,” Wozniak said during the keynote. “That was even my thinking (in) bringing personal computers to the world.”
But technology comes with limitations, and sometimes necessitates human intervention.
Human-centered problem-solving is certainly needed even as the vehicles themselves become more advanced — and possibly become self-driving.
Wozniak had previously “totally bought into” the notion that by now, vehicles would be able to decipher the environment on the road and “think about it the way a human does,” albeit with use-case training.
“And I just totally bought into it ... there was going to be a car by now without a steering wheel. I was hoping it would be Apple that sold it. And then a couple of years ago, I just sort of gave up that thinking,” Wozniak said. “And I thought that there’s a lot that technology can do to help us drive cars, to make them safer in certain situations, to do a lot of the tasks for us.
“But you’re gonna really need at least the dumbest human to make some (decision) when anything new comes up,” he said. “My wife and I take tons of road trips on the interstates.
“And nothing is ever predictable enough that you don’t have to take control whenever you run into some kind of unusual situation or more crowded situation.”
Sometimes, you just need an actual human to intervene.