There’s a lot of talk about autonomous vehicles, and rightly so, it a big and exciting change. Plus we know from recent research that fleet managers expect their drivers to be quite open-minded towards this new technology.

What is apparent though is that much of the focus is on the end game – fully autonomous vehicles – and we mustn’t forget that there will be several steps in-between. We expect the development of this technology to follow a “feet-off, hands-off, brain-off” pattern.

We’ve had ‘feet-off’ technology in the shape of basic cruise control for decades and the arrival of radar cruise is a development that is now becoming available on mainstream fleet cars.

The next step is ‘hands-off’ and we are just starting to see this on production cars with perhaps the best known example being Tesla’s Autopilot, which provides automated motorway driving. We expect to see many more features of this type over the next few years.

In both cases, ‘brain-on’ remains important. While the vehicle is providing a high level of assistance to the driver, it is essential that they continue to concentrate on the road ahead and the traffic around them in order to stay safe.

Therefore the third step, ‘brain-off’, is a huge change and to some degree a leap of faith. It is when we will see effectively driverless cars and will clearly represent a revolution in the whole business of driving.

Each step represents a different set of challenges for fleet managers and something that they will need to stay on top of, especially from a risk management point of view. As we get further down the line, we will start to question whether the car or the driver is responsible for safety. These are complex matters which will give the modern fleet manager plenty to grapple with!