There has been understandable excitement about driverless lorry trials that TRL will be carrying out on Britain’s roads.
I’m one of those to be excited. This technology is the future and the safety benefits could be considerable. But we need to be realistic.
Driverless vehicles will not be joining fleets any time soon. Certainly no fleet director should be basing their budgets on the promise of autonomous vehicles.
My message to fleets is that if safety is their number one priority – and it should be – they can find safety improvements, as well as cost savings and other efficiencies, much closer to home than the autonomous dream.
The vast majority (90%) of collisions are caused by human error, when the driver is not paying attention at the moment of the crash and neglects to brake at all.
Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) installed on vehicles will, of course, start to tackle this problem. But factory-installed AEB adds costs to vehicle renewals and can’t happen overnight.
Fleet renewal timescales are significant. High turnover vehicles like rental cars will see the new technology built in soon. But a London bus, for example, can be on the road for approaching 15 years.
It will take a long time before the latest safety technology will find its way through a bus fleet.
The cost of road fatalities in the EU amounts to around €100 billion a year. One report puts the cost of serious injuries and fatalities involving buses in London during 2015 alone at £93m.
These are extraordinary figures and we must work together as an industry to tackle them.
Mobileye has developed retrofitted safety technology that provides automatic alerts to drivers if they’re in danger – at all speeds.
So fleets have to do a cost/benefit analysis and make smart decisions about where to invest limited funds.
Whatever route you take now with safety, autonomous vehicles should not be a factor. Be excited about the future, but know it as exactly that – the future.
We can talk about autonomous fleet vehicles in the late 2020s – not now.
There are safety benefits to find today that will save lives, save money and keep your drivers safe. Fleets need to find them.
By Gil Ayalon director for Europe at Mobileye