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When you think about it, a driverless car is not really that outlandish is it? After all, nowadays sensors that share data and information connect many things. TomTom wrote a blog earlier in the year called “The Rise of the Connected Car” which discussed this phenomenon in more detail, but essentially the information collected by devices can help to alter many aspects of life that we take for granted. For instance, motorway signs that receive information from a sensor further along the road and can adjust the message they are sending to drivers.
The next step in this automated data sharing is surely a car that can not only collect data but act on that data and make decisions for itself. Whilst these vehicles are in the early stages, work has begun on cars that can drive themselves with very little input from a human being.
The industry at all levels is quite excited about the prospect of these new vehicles. The UK government is also pretty eager to get them tested and rolling off the production line. They’ve even gone so far as to pledge £10 million to any city which volunteers to act as the testing area for the country’s driverless cars!
In the US, driverless vehicles have been known to record over ½ a million miles of travel. And on the continent, Spanish “car trains” have been tested on 200km single trips.
But what would a driverless vehicle do? Well, by collecting data about driving conditions it could help to avoid collisions, cut insurance costs and also reduce time lost in traffic. Most vehicles are already fairly automated anyway. Many heavy vehicles now have features that prevent accidents automatically in the form of Advanced Emergency Braking Systems (AEBS).
It’s believed that automated vehicles could reduce accidents by 27%, which equates to around 8,000 fewer deaths on the roads per year. The fuel savings of an automated vehicle could total 15% meaning that they’re a cost effective solution to fleet management.
There are however a few hurdles to clear before we can get too excited about driverless vehicles. Due to current legislation, all cars will need a human driver to react in case something goes wrong, meaning that it could be a long time before they are truly automated.
Driverless vehicles will require a good deal of changes to current legislation, in particular motorway speed limits and overtaking rules will have to be altered. Having a fleet of driverless vehicles is also dependent on having a good navigation system in place. This means up to the minute maps will have to be produced and updated regularly.
The costs also mean that driverless cars are totally out of range for many of us. Average prices range from £120,000 to £170,000.
Finally, until every car on the road is driverless then there is still a safety risk for all vehicles.
Most manufacturers believe that fully autonomous cars won’t be on our roads until 2020, and even then they might not be that commonplace. No matter how far off though, the idea of a driverless vehicle has captured the imagination of those within the fleet management industry, and it’s only a matter of time before they become part of the way you do business.
To see how we can help improve your fleet management today, give us a call on 01928 715 724 to arrange a demo.