THE arrival of Ford’s new BlueCruise – the first legal hands-free driving product available on UK roads – raises a whole series of questions that fleets need to answer.
Peter Golding, Managing Director at fleet software specialist FleetCheck, said that the fleet industry has been discussing the theoretical implications of hands-free driving for some time but the real-world availability of BlueCruise has brought everything into immediate and sharp relief.
He added: “Probably the first question it raises is a really fundamental one – do fleets feel that it is safe for their drivers to be using the technology? Obviously, it has been officially signed off and Ford say that millions of miles have been safely covered, but do employers feel those assurances are sufficient for what remains quite a fundamental shift in driving practice?
“Certainly, allowing its use on your fleet would mean that it needed to be incorporated into your risk management policy and that drivers understand how and when it can be used. This is a legitimate criticism that is sometimes levelled at less sophisticated Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, that drivers are not given sufficient information about how to integrate devices into their day-to-day driving while also recognising their limitations.
“With BlueCruise, there appears to be a high level of safeguarding built in, with the driver being monitored to ensure they are paying attention to the road, but fleets providing vehicles still need to ensure they have a high degree of understanding when using the technology.”
G9lding said that a further question was a financial one. BlueCruise is being sold on a subscription basis on £17.99 per month to drivers of the Mustang Mach E electric car.
“This is not necessarily a new idea. BMW has been selling several of its options on a subscription basis for a while, including some related to safety, but it does raise issues.
“Who pays for this? Does the company feel that £17.99 per month is worth spending to reduce stress on motorway driving and even potentially improve safety? If the driver wants to pay, do you as an employer feel that this is appropriate? These all need consideration.
“Certainly, while BlueCruise is the first hands-free subscription device, others are likely to follow, and all of these questions will need to be tackled. There is potentially even an argument for fleets to write a short policy document covering this area. It is something that will only see further increases in sophistication in the future.”