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Autonomous Vehicles: Telematics key to driverless success

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By Nick Walker, managing director, RAC Telematics

What use is telematics technology in a world of autonomous cars, when things like speed and driver behaviour will literally be out of our hands?

That is the question that was posed to me recently in discussions around the future of motoring as we move further towards driverless vehicles.

Actually – and I know I might be expected to say this – the role of telematics will be key to the development and growth of autonomous vehicles. The fact is that we are still a long way off a world dominated by them, and we are likely to have a lengthy period of transition with a mix of different vehicles on the road. That could be a very interesting time.

Telematics will be key to understanding how those vehicles are behaving and interacting with one another. But, more than that, it is going to be about data management.

Autonomous cars are going to have a strong need to be monitored in terms of vehicle health as well as location and ensuring they’re not behaving erratically. That is going to generate a huge amount of information and it’s going to be the job of telematics providers, not motor manufacturers, to interpret that mass of information and make sense of it for their fleet customers.

The future driver is going to become less interested in their vehicle; they are not going to be worried about when it needs a service or not. It’s even possible the car will eventually drive itself to the garage – but that is really a long way off.

So all these alerts around vehicle faults, vehicle management and vehicle maintenance are going to need to be flagged, because the driver is going to be disconnected from their vehicle.

But whatever the autonomous vehicle of the future looks like, it is still going to have tyres, batteries, alternators, gearboxes and all the other vital components that keep a vehicle moving, but which cause a breakdown if it fails.

That’s why telematics, alerting the driver or fleet manager to those issues, will still be vital in keeping that vehicle healthy and on the road, where it should be, and not in a repair garage draining a business of cash due to breakdown.

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