Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are set to change the fundamentals of the entire transportation industry. Whether it’s via a taxi booking service or a paratransit dispatch system, connected and autonomous vehicles will change fleet management, both challenging and benefitting the industry. Smart providers will plan for and embrace the coming changes. Here, we take a look at just how automation is set to impact fleet management.
A Slow Start: The Top 3 Challenges for Fleet Managers Integrating AVs
There is no doubt that the costs of acquiring an AV will be much higher than a traditional vehicle. AVs are outfitted with a significant amount of computing ability and sensing equipment, including LiDAR and powerful GPS systems; estimates vary, but many agree that the price tag of this additional equipment could reach up to $100,000 on top of the base cost of the vehicle. While the price of AVs will drop eventually—some estimate by 90% in the next seven years—the upfront investment will be a hurdle for fleet managers to consider.
Today, maintenance of vehicles is sometimes passed on to the driver. For example, truck drivers and taxi drivers own or lease their vehicles from a parent company and are responsible when the need for maintenance arises. For companies that do manage their own repairs, general maintenance is easily tracked and performed by software like Pathfinder Cloud. But what happens when autonomous vehicles enter the mix? Forward-thinking companies in the transit space, such as rideshare apps, are planning to purchase fleets of autonomous vehicles in the coming years. Without traditional drivers to cover maintenance costs, it will become the responsibility of the company to maintain the vehicles. Also, maintenance will involve new, highly-skilled technical work to successfully care for the reams of software on board.
3. Data Security
AVs generate an immense amount of data about their location, surroundings, route and systems. Waymo’s self-driving car gathers nearly one gigabyte of data every second. This data is valuable, and should be adequately protected from hackers interested in stealing competitive data or—more nefariously—causing an accident. Fleet managers face the challenge of ensuring their software systems are both state-of-the-art and constantly updated to mitigate the potential for hacking.
While there are challenges to be expected for early adopters in the transit industry, there are also many benefits.
First in the Field: The Top 3 Benefits for Fleet Managers Integrating AVs
1. Fewer Accidents
Accidents happen. And the costs—both in human life and in resulting financial damages—are high. When it comes to fleet management, accidents are even more expensive, causing lost productivity, liability payments and increasing repair costs. Distracted driving is a significant cause of accidents in both the US and UK. In fact, safety regulators in the US claim that 94% of all crashes can be blamed on human error.
It is no surprise, then, that taking humans out of the equation will result in fewer crashes. While AVs have yet to be used outside of test conditions, and there have been notable failings, early projections are optimistic: Waymo, which has been testing AVs for nearly a decade, has reported only two dozen crashes, just one of which is blamed on the autonomous technology itself. With the potential for significantly fewer crashes, fleet managers can expect to benefit from AV safety protocols.
2. Increased Productivity
In the near future, Level 4 AVs—which do not require human input but require a human supervisor—will be commercially available. By allowing an AI to take command, human operators will be able to perform other tasks. Whether it be booking the next fare, communicating with clients or planning vehicle maintenance, drivers will be better suited to performing fleet management and dispatch tasks while assisted on the road.
3. Reduced Operating Costs
While the initial cost of converting a fleet to autonomous technology could be high, the costs of operating that fleet will be lower. For example, fuel consumption is expected to decline by as much as 44 percent for passenger vehicles and 18 percent for trucks by 2050. The reduction in vehicular accidents is also expected to fundamentally change the insurance industry. Some predict much cheaper insurance, while other see the entire insurance industry becoming obsolete. Regardless of what the future holds, it is clear that an autonomous fleet will be cheaper to operate than a traditional one.
Anticipating a Driverless Future
Changes are coming to the transportation industry. Smart companies and fleet managers will recognize these changes and have a clear plan for how to adapt. The coming AV revolution—and your fleet’s response—can make the difference in your company’s future in the transportation space.
Image: Shutterstock / shutterlk