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Transportation companies around the world are taking note of the coming autonomous vehicle (AV) revolution. Some regions, like the European Union, are more prepared for AV technology and have a clear roadmap for navigating these changes. With AVs expected to represent 25% of the passenger vehicle population by 2030, fleet managers need to understand autonomous technology and how it will change their landscape.

Most vehicles available today are classified as level two autonomous vehicles meaning that drivers must remain attentive at all times with hands on wheel. Equipped with semi-autonomous technology, such as adaptive cruise control and automatic braking, these vehicles can correct human error and make the driving experience safer. As we climb the autonomous scale to level five, humans are no longer involved in the driving equation and the car becomes a space for working, socializing or relaxing. While level five AVs are not expected to be on the roads for at least 10 years, technology moves fast and we may see increased levels of automation within the next two years. Devising a plan to readily engage with autonomous technology will ensure that your company is not left behind in the future of transportation.

Step on the Gas: What Fleet Managers Need to Know Before AVs are Available

1. AVs Will Increase Safety (and Save Money!)

Safety should be a main concern for anyone who manages a fleet of vehicles. In the United States alone, there are more than 300,000 distracted driving incidents every year, resulting in billions of dollars in medical, legal, personal and administrative damages. AVs equipped with ever vigilant sensors, such as LiDAR, which are not distracted by a ringing cell phone or a bad sleep the night before, are expected to dramatically reduce accident rates. In fact, AV technology could eliminate traffic fatalities by up to 94%.

Our prediction: Fleet managers who integrate autonomous technology into their fleets can expect to see a reduction in accident rates and associated costs.

2. AVs Will Put Fleets in the Public Eye

Despite fewer accidents, AV technology is not infallible. During a recent demonstration of a Mobileye AV in Jerusalem the sensing technology failed to identify a red light and did not stop. Thankfully, this incident did not involve fatalities and was fairly innocuous, but it does highlight an important point for early adopters of AV technology: every accident will receive a huge amount of publicity. When fatalities are involved, as was the case when an autonomous Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona, the results can be devastating. While accidents involving pedestrians are unfortunately common across the world, the fact that this accident was caused by an AV resulted in heavy public scrutiny through the media. As a result, Uber decided to shut down its entire autonomous driving program in Arizona.

Our prediction: Even minor incidents could cause negative publicity for fleet managers when autonomous technology is to blame.

3. AVs Will Improve Management and Maintenance Systems

Connected cars are vehicles which are connected to the internet and may communicate with external sources. When connected cars are also autonomous, some fleet management tasks may be performed by the vehicle itself. For example, AVs use a GPS (Global Positioning System) to determine where they are in the world. Combined with an internet connection, AVs will have access to real-time traffic data and have the ability to select the best route and follow it without human input. Vehicle maintenance may also be taken on by AVs using a sophisticated telematics system to monitor exactly when they require maintenance. With the right technology, the vehicle may also connect to a mechanic’s scheduling system and book its own appointment, and even drive itself there.

Our prediction: By combining existing technology with AVs, fleet managers will no longer have to micromanage their fleets. This will free up time to focus on other more important tasks.

4. AVs Will Be Expensive (It’s Time to Save Now)

Fleet managers should understand that initial autonomous technology will not be cheap. Equipped with a range of technology from cameras and sensors, to LiDAR and GPS, AVs have much more under the hood than a traditional car. Estimates vary, but fully autonomous vehicles could cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for early adopters.

Our prediction: Fleet managers who understand potentially high initial costs will be prepared to make intelligent investments when the time comes.

Don’t Be Left in Dust of the AV Race

Smart fleet managers and transportation companies need to monitor these trends now and create a plan to engage with AV technology as it becomes available. There are both risks and benefits for early adopters, but it’s most important to not be left behind when these changes arrive.

Are you prepared for the AV revolution? Learn more about how this new technology will impact the transit industry or find a DDS solution that will work for you.

Image: Shutterstock / Morocko