Shaun Sadlier's blog: How will fleets adopt driverless vehicles?
10 May 2017
The poor condition and confusing signage of UK roads, familiar to company car drivers, is likely to be a major factor in delaying the adoption of autonomous cars, according to a new report by the RAC Foundation that I read this week.
Apparently, the current state of connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology means that it requires a high degree of certainty about the surroundings in which it operates to work safely. If there are roadworks, for example, the vehicle is likely to default to a kind of crawling mode.
There are a whole range of solutions to this such as roadside beacons but, effectively, the message is that there is still a considerable amount of work to be done before the real world is ready for CAVs. And even if there is strong political will, the cost will be considerable.
This information started me thinking about how CAV technology is likely to be adopted by fleets. I believe there has been a widespread assumption that manufacturers would create a full CAV vehicle for sale in a few years time, we would take delivery of one, type in our destination, and sit back with a latte and a newspaper.
However, at least until the road network is ready, what will be needed is for fleet drivers and CAVs will share the responsibility of driving in a much more proactive way. It could well be that your car will be able to take you along a long stretch of motorway and then an A road without any intervention but, when you hit a crowded city centre with lots of pedestrians and endless roadworks, you take over.
In a lot of ways, this makes sense. The mundane task - motorway driving - has been given to the machine while the job that makes the most of human sensory processing skills - the city centre environment - is where the driver takes over.
Certainly, it appears that adopting full CAVs will not just be a matter of flicking a switch and there is likely to be a relatively long period where the physical road network catches up with the technology. During that time, fleet drivers might find themselves doing quite a lot less actual driving - but when they do take over control of the car, they will need to be every bit as skilled and alert as they are today.