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Fleet industry urged to start autonomous driving dialogue now

Fleets are being urged to start taking action to navigate the various different ‘stepping stones’ towards fully autonomous cars to address the challenges that each new evolution of autonomous technology will bring.

Ford is developing autonomous tech

Ford has announced its intention to deliver high-volume, fully autonomous vehicle for ride sharing in 2021

The call comes from Arval, which says that before we reach a point where driverless cars are potentially available as company vehicles, there will be a number of interim steps, and fleet managers will need to know their way around them in some detail.

Shaun Sadlier, head of consultancy at Arval UK, said that each step in the evolution of autonomous technology represented a different set of challenges for fleet managers.

“For example, the arrival of Autopilot-style features raises a whole series of questions. Where do you stand from a risk management point of view? How does your insurer view such technology? Will drivers use it responsibly or is there a risk of abuse?

“Steps beyond this towards full autonomy create even more questions. You start to move into an area where you are questioning whether the car or the driver is responsible for safety. These are complex matters, especially bearing in mind that a legislative framework for such vehicles doesn’t even exist yet.”

He added that if the recent announcement from Ford that they intend to have a fully autonomous, mass-market car available within five years comes to fruition then the fleet industry needed to start a dialogue now.

“There are a whole range of people who need to be involved in such a discussion – manufacturers, legislators and insurers alongside fleet decision-makers. Certainly, as a company, we closely monitoring the technology that is becoming available and developing the advice that we provide to our customers.”

Recent research completed by Arval showed that 43% of UK fleets believe that employees will easily accept using these vehicles.

Sadlier concluded: “Bearing in mind that virtually no fleet managers will have yet had the chance to examine an autonomous car, we believe that this figure is quite high. However, it shows that there is definite enthusiasm for the technology.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.