Recent news suggests that driverless car trials could start on UK motorways as soon as 2019, with the tests likely to focus on fleets of vehicles, rather than just single tests. This will allow the cars to communicate with each other about potential hazards, involving an insurance company to look at potential risks of the different stages of the journey. With the government committing around £100m in total to autonomous driving projects, and testing taking to public roads it seems to be an area which will become important to both the private and business sector over the coming decades.
But will people be able to trust autonomous vehicles enough to hand over such responsibility to a machine? And what about the potential for hacking and interference – something that was cited as a significant concern among 2,000 people surveyed by Expert Market, with 85% of respondents stating they had major concerns about driverless vehicle technology. However, 54% of respondents also stated they’d be happy to receive goods (food/clothing etc) through automated cars highlighting promise for the business sector.
A study from Lex Autolease revealed that whilst support for fully autonomous vehicles is slow to gain traction amongst company car drivers, there is growth in the number of Fleet managers and decision makers who expect to see driverless cars on the roads within the next 10 years. What the study also revealed was the willingness of this sector to embrace autonomous technology that could help enhance the safety of current vehicles, such as automatic braking systems, warning systems that sense if a driver is losing concentration and automatic steering systems that aim to keep cars in their lane.
Whilst the likelihood of our roads being taken over by completely autonomous cars in the near future is unlikely, given the funding and attention it is being given by large technology companies businesses would be advised to keep an eye on progress as it happens. Whilst we wait for testing and confidence to grow enough to allow fully autonomous vehicles on the roads, we are also seeing, possibly because of the interest in autonomy, technological advances in today’s driven car which are aimed at improving vehicle and driver safety. Keeping on top of these advances and introducing newer vehicles which utilise such technologies as and when possible as well as investing in regular training for drivers should be of priority to fleet managers. As well as helping to manage what seems like an inevitable shift to autonomous vehicles over the coming decades, making these changes in the short term could also have a significant impact on the risk management of your business, something which is looked on favourably by insurance companies.