AS the earliest potential adopters of autonomous technology, fleets need to make their thoughts clear to a new official inquiry.
Peter Golding, managing director at fleet management software specialist, FleetCheck, said the new Transport Select Committee inquiry into self-driving vehicles could be an important influencer on the creation of the legal infrastructure surrounding their use.
“We’ve already had the Law Commission look at this subject in some detail and this new inquiry should build on that work alongside other investigations into how autonomous technology might be used in the future.
“Our view is that fleets need to be a big part of this. As almost certaintly the main buyers and earliest adopters for vehicles with these kinds of capabilities, we should make sure that our voices are heard.
“Our view is that concerns are likely to fall into two parts. One is that as employers, fleets need to know that any technology fitted to cars and vans used by their drivers is absolutely as safe as it can be. Our people and other road users must be protected.
“The other is a complete understanding of how autonomous tech fits in with existing duty of care responsibilities. Giving a third party control of a vehicle is a significant change in this area and not something that should be done lightly.”
The new inquiry will look at the development and deployment of self-driving vehicles, the progress of research and work in the UK and abroad, and what needs to happen to prepare for their arrival. This includes regulation, perceptions of safety, the role of government, implications for infrastructure and for existing car use.
Peter said: “I don’t think I am being controversial if I say that I hear quite a lot of scepticism among fleet operators about this technology and the temptation for manufacturers to push for its use before it is really ready.
“Certainly, every commentary I have read on the subject in recent years contains the same message – that engineers have 90% solved the issue of self-driving but are having trouble with the last 10%. That would be too big a risk for any fleet.
“The industry is relying on regulators – over whom the Select Committee should have an influence – to ensure that no vehicle makes it to market carrying tech that is not fully proven in real world conditions.”