Unlimited car wash plans are growing in popularity, and it's no wonder why. They help drivers keep cars cleaner and operators guarantee revenue every month. Everyone gains from subscriptions, but the trend brings along unintended consequences.
Customers with unlimited plans have an incentive to "get their money's worth", and that results in more people washing cars more often than ever. More trips to the car wash is a wonderful thing, at least until in-tunnel collisions are considered. That's because driver error causes more collisions than anything else. Simple mistakes like shifting out of neutral or tapping the brakes cause vehicles to hop the roller. It creates risky situations because cars pile into each other if the tunnel isn't stopped.
Over the past ten years, Jim Mulholland, the owner and operator at the Florida-based Busy Bee Car Wash, has found the number of these collisions to be increasing at an alarming rate. To further complicate matters, the resulting litigation he’s seen is every car wash owner’s worst nightmare. And even if lawsuits weren’t enough, there’s the potential for insurance fraud. A tunnel that’s prone to pileups presents the perfect opportunity for criminals to intentionally cause a pileup in the tunnel — thereafter collecting the insurance money and disappearing. Up until recently, Busy Bee was having at least four pileups per month between their three locations — which meant a loss in production and serious risk to his business’s reputation.
Mulholland and his team tried just about everything to prevent collisions at Busy Bee Car Wash, from placing no-braking signs in the tunnel to installing a remote conveyor stop, but nothing seemed to help. On especially busy days, Busy Bee couldn’t run the conveyor as fast as they needed and had to use more safety rollers in order to keep large gaps between vehicles — all in anticipation of a pileup. After ten years of unsuccessfully battling this growing problem, Mulholland knew something had to change if he wanted to remain profitable.
Reduce (and ideally eliminate) the number of pileups at each Busy Bee Car Wash location, with the following goals:
- Improve the customer experience
- Increase production
- Eliminate the potential for customer-initiated litigation
- Ensure the business maintains its good reputation in the community
In late 2016, Busy Bee Car Wash began using NoPileups at one of three locations. Within a year, they were using the service at all three Busy Bee sites.
How NoPileups Works
NoPileups uses computer vision and machine learning to monitor car wash tunnels and intervene to prevent collisions. Unlike the human eye, the service maintains focus at all times and reacts immediately when threats, like hopped rollers, are detected. Rapidly intervening to prevent collisions results in more uptime, faster production, and increased revenue, plus insight provided by NoPileups analytics helps car wash owners improve operations even further.
In Busy Bee’s case, the decision to implement NoPileups’ services was what Mulholland calls “a no-brainer.” What originally began as the simple intent to avoid collisions has resulted in a major improvement to his company’s bottom line. He says the system has allowed him to increase chain speed and shorten the gap between cars, allowing Busy Bee Car Wash to operate with speed and confidence never before seen by the business.
Not only have all Busy Bee locations been pileup-free (and litigation-free), managers are no longer bogged down by administrative duties related to customers’ car repairs and payments. On busy days, they also don’t have the added pressure of mitigating the damage resulting from a tunnel pileup.
"Overall, it's a no-brainer. I think this service will be the industry standard moving forward.”Jim MulhollandOwner
The rise of unlimited plans is great for car washes and customers, but it's important for operators to understand how the risk of in-tunnel collisions increases as more customers wash cars more often. To compensate for the increased risk, operators should consider additional safety measures like full-tunnel collision prevention service. The service effectively reduces the risk of collisions and also helps increase production by boosting operator confidence and improving operational intelligence. If trends continue as they are, it's easy to see safety requirements evolving and services like NoPileups becoming industry standard.