Matt Dyer's blog: 6 June 2013 - The reality of driverless fleets
06 June 2013
Matt Dyer is commercial director at Leaseplan
The impact of driverless technology on the lives of the average UK citizen would undoubtedly be vast, but business drivers and the fleet industry would perhaps reap the greatest benefits.
Google has been leading the way, publicly at least, in the development of self-drive technology.
Experimenting since 2005, the company is now talking to leading car manufacturers to gauge interest, which could mean we'll see a mainstream commercial uptake of the technology within the next decade.
Meanwhile, a team of 22 from the Department of Engineering Science at Oxford University are developing their own driverless technology in Britain, prompting the UK Department for Transport to change regulations, which will allow the team to test their cars on public roads.
While this and other recent developments mark a crucial step in acknowledging the possibility of a future of driverless cars, we still have many years to wait until the technology becomes part of everyday life or indeed the fleet vehicle of choice.
However, it is interesting to think about the implications that self-drive vehicles will have for fleets.
Safety remains one of the most major concerns regarding driverless cars; however, statistically we would actually all be a lot safer on the roads if we removed the element of human error.
Therefore a company fleet of driverless cars would ensure employee safety behind the wheel.
Crucially for the economy, driverless vehicles will give businesses a huge boost in productivity; an employee could write emails on their way to work while a lorry would drive itself to its destination.
The structure of a company fleet would also be revolutionised, and rather than one car per employee a pool of cars could be shared by a workforce.
A single car could be used for multiple commutes within a day, travelling back to the office to pick another person up after dropping someone else at home.
Self-driving cars are an exciting possibility for the future of transport but it is unlikely they'll be changing the industry anytime in the near future.
I imagine some of the technology being developed, however, could find its way into mainstream cars sooner, perhaps in the form of advanced vehicle sensors and even more complex emergency-stop systems, which can only be a good thing for safer business travel.