Fleets should resist the proposed introduction of elements of automated driving on UK roads next year, according to the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP).

The Department for Transport is consulting on plans to allow automated lane keeping systems (ALKS) to be used on motorways, with drivers able to take their hands off the wheel, from spring 2021.

The plan has already been opposed by safety organisation Thatcham Research and the Association of British Insurers (ABI), and now the AFP has added its concerns.

AFP chair Paul Hollick said: “We’re probably going to see a lot of debates of this kind over the next few years as the advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) fitted to cars become more and more advanced and offer increasing degrees of autonomy.

“Already, we’re seeing some manufacturers making fairly broad claims about the autonomous capabilities of their technology and there will doubtless be pressure for them to be made legal.

“However, our view is very firmly that employers should err very strongly on the side of caution and the doubts expressed by the ABI and Thatcham over the planned use of ALKS on motorways only underlines this position.”

Hollick said objections the organisations had raised about the limits of the technology ,and the speed with which drivers can re-engage when they need to take over, were genuine questions that needed resolving before use on public roads could be allowed.

He said: “For the foreseeable future, company car and van drivers should be keeping their hands firmly on the steering wheel. That is the responsible risk management position.”

Hollick said it was also important for fleets to ensure the same rules were extended to grey fleet vehicles.

He said: “One of the effects that we’re expecting over the next few months is an increase in grey fleet for many organisations as a result of the coronavirus crisis, and compliance in issues of this kind should be identical for employee-owned cars.”

Hollick said that the AFP was very much supportive of autonomous vehicle technology in general, but that it was the role of fleet operators to ensure that it was deployed in a safe, compliant and controlled manner.

He said: “Safety has to come first, and it needs to be proven that any form of autonomy does not being any inherent issues that could affect the well-being of drivers and other road users.”