What are Autonomous vehicles?
Autonomous vehicles are ‘intelligent’ vehicles capable of communicating with other vehicles around them and using technology to make driving both safer and easier. These are not just self-driving vehicles, but encompass a range of technology to read traffic and communicate with other vehicles to prevent accidents, ease congestion and make the roads safer.
Where are we now?
Current vehicles are filled with autonomous technology, which adds extra safety and comfort to modern road users. Park assists are now common in modern vehicles, with cars able to parallel and bay park either automatically or with the help of reversing cameras and sensors. Front collision warnings and adaptive cruise control are a common safety feature. Not only does this help to prevent front end collisions but manage congestion better, with less need for cars to come to a complete stop.
Route Planning Telematics or GPS systems are extremely commonplace both in commercial vehicles and private vehicle. These have become such a big part of everyday driving that the DVLA now has a SatNav section in driving tests. Other safety features such as adaptive headlights and lane drift warnings are slowly making their way into vehicles too.
What are the plans for the future?
Plans for the future are to increase the technology in vehicles to enable them to drive themselves in traffic and on motorways. By combining road safety features with GPS technology, drivers won’t have to drive their whole journey. Instead drivers will navigate urban areas and be able to switch to automatic during periods of congestion or on long stretches of motorway. Networks of autonomous vehicles should optimise both safety and efficiency on the roads – hopefully reducing accidents and pollution.
There are autonomous vehicles, both small and large commercial vehicles, currently in development and testing phases. Companies such as Tesla see huge potential for autonomous vehicles particularly in the commercial industry.
What would it mean for commercial fleets?
The autonomous vehicle aims to change the nature of the driver’s job. Whilst drivers would still need to be able to drive the vehicle manually in the first and last stages of a journey, autonomous vehicles would allow drivers to focus on other tasks while on long stretches of motorway. By reducing the number of hours drivers are focussed on the road, it would hopefully manage to reduce the human error and accidents caused during motorway driving.
What role can fleet tracking & telematics play?
For the time being, current technology is becoming more readily available in post-production installs. Many Vehicle CCTV and Telematics kits come readily available with features such as front collision warnings and lane drift warnings. These add a significant amount of safety to the vehicle by providing warnings to the driver when the vehicle is in danger. Vehicle Telematics can offer GPS route-mapping for both drivers and operators, providing real-time updates to avoid traffic and reduce both mileage and emissions. Telematics systems can also communicate with the vehicle's electronics, to provide alerts when speeding or when there are maintenance issues with the vehicle. This helps improve both driver performance and can significantly improve the performance of a vehicle too.