The impact of autonomous vehicles (AVs) on fleet management

carTelevision viewers and internet users may be familiar with last October’s advertisement featuring NBA superstar, LeBron James testing a driverless vehicle. Contrary to his fearless character on the court, he initially looks at the front seat and refuses to get inside. However, after experiencing a ride in the Autonomous Vehicle (AV), James is delighted and exclaims to want the car.

While this technology is spreading at a high rate, some factors indicate that it will take years before the utility of driverless fleet cars hits full throttle. This low paced progress is mainly due to the following reasons.

1. Technological errors are causing accidents

Although vehicle manufacturers are focused on moving from testing AV’s to a full rollout of cars, a rise in public awareness and acceptance is likely to take a significant amount of time. The lack of confidence in this technology is only heightened by various negative reports and headlines such as,woman struck by Uber’s AV.

The use of AVs on UK roads will depend on the safety and trust of this transportation model. As well, as the creation of regulatory policies governing the use of self-driven automobiles.

2. People’s distrust towards self-driven cars

One obstacle derailing the widespread adoption of driverless vehicles is consumer doubts around the technology. This is further compounded by the isolated cases of accidents caused by semi-AVs, which have made consumers slightly less accepting of self-driven vehicles.

Recent research by AAA revealed that 78% of road users said they are afraid of autonomous automobiles. In addition, AIG conducted its own survey and found that 41% of the sample population said they wouldn’t want to share the road with driverless vehicles.

According to Intel’s chief architect of autonomous driving, consumer reluctance should act as a warning sign. However, despite these high levels of public distrust, those invested in the technology continue with its development regardless.

3. Loss of employment

The valuation of the “Passenger Economy” following the introduction of autonomous driving is estimated to reach $7 trillion. Which, unfortunately, will occur at the expense of millions of people employed in a variety of fleet-led industries.

With the introduction of autonomous driving, countries such as the UK are more likely to see a rise in new positions such as remote vehicle operators. However, the rise in positions can hardly surmount the unemployment rate, especially at a time when pre-Brexit negotiations are taking a financial toll on the UK economy. Additionally, people assuming new positions will experience the challenge of acquiring new skills.

A study by MIT Technology revealed that almost 4 million people in the US occupy driving positions. Relinquishing these positions to automated technologies seems like an expensive trade-off. Regardless, the technology is gaining ground, and it seems inevitable that the number of driving positions will either disappear or decrease.

So, what next? The best approach is to ensure that drivers switching to these newly created jobs receive adequate training to enable them to remain valuable during the transition between transportation models.

How autonomous driving will redefine fleet management

According to a survey by the Swiss RE, the adoption of the driverless vehicle is expected to reduce road accidents by 80%. For fleet managers, this technology will reduce commonplace disruption and also raise the level of productivity.

Improved productivity

Autonomous vehicles will enable people to attend to other tasks while commuting. Self-driven cars have been reported to reduce the “commuting time” by 90%, as they allow the passenger to focus on responding to emails, taking phone calls etc., instead of the road ahead.

Unlike the majority of road users today, AVs will be automatically programmed to take the most efficient routes and drive economically at all times. When combined with the wealth of benefits that vehicle tracking systems have to offer, such as evidencing time spent on site, providing accurate arrival times, and identifying the closest driver to an emergency job, fleet operators will be able to improve customer satisfaction, increase driver safety and reduce CO2 emissions with greater efficiency and accuracy than ever before.

With an autonomous transportation routing system, one autonomous commercial vehicle can also serve several drivers within its vicinity. That increases utilisation, which, in turn, boosts productivity and reduces operating costs.

Rapid infrastructural evolution

AVs have the potential of catalysing infrastructural development. With many rail transit systems deteriorating due to poor infrastructure, the cost of repairs continues to rise.

And while poor infrastructure causes many commuting problems, government agencies find it difficult to keep up with both the cost and demand for repairs. However, if this problem is resolved, UK roads can be maintained with AVs in mind. And since the adoption of self-driven automobiles is an inevitable reality, the infrastructure is likely to be as integrated into rail transport.

Efficient “last-mile” logistics

Automakers forecast that by 2025, all vehicles operating on American roads will be fully autonomous. With freight transportation being one of the major areas that autonomous technology will impact, it will face the challenge of last mile logistics.

A positive aspect is that last-mile time is significantly contracted due to the fact a self-driven car can transport products from warehouses to a delivery location. Additionally, managers can effectively conduct the fleet activity to achieve the desired results.

Reduced fleet size

Self-driven cars drastically reduce fuel costs and maintenance concerns. However, there is still slight uncertainty regarding the depreciation rate and the residual value. In the future, organisations may be able to reduce their fleet size significantly using a car-sharing system, or an Uber-like vehicle reservation platform that requests AVs from one central vehicle pool, based on hourly services.

Summary

There is no doubt that the IoT in the “Passenger Economy” will transform the means through which fleet managers conduct business. However, it will take a considerable while (even a decade) before the adoption of AVs is commonplace. If consumers or organisations are ever to place their full trust in AVs, industry stakeholders must come together, collectively, to formulate the policies necessary to properly govern the use of driverless vehicles in the UK.

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