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Industry must come together before autonomous cars hit the road

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Dr Chris Davies, head of global technical superiority at Autoglass

As Project Endeavour, the UK’s mobility project designed to accelerate the adoption of autonomous vehicle services, expands, there are still issues to be addressed before self-driving vehicles can be safely introduced to our roads.

A recent survey by road safety charity IAM RoadSmart revealed over half (60%) of motorists consider the growing ability of vehicles to drive themselves as a serious threat to road safety.

While autonomous vehicles will no doubt reduce accidents, many motorists remain fearful of handing over control to their vehicles.

The introduction of autonomous vehicles poses several questions for fleet managers, particularly around legislation and the guidelines for responsibility.

As the Government continues to push forward with plans to introduce cars with Level 3 autonomous driving capabilities, it is crucial that fleet managers understand the following safety issues before they hit the road.

As we have seen with the growth of vehicles equipped with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), more automation means a greater need for education of fleet managers and drivers.

Currently, there is a real disconnect in the understanding of ADAS technology along the supply chain.

Whilst awareness of the technology and how it mitigates driver risk, provided the systems and cameras are accurately calibrated, has improved in recent years, many drivers remain unaware of which ADAS systems their vehicles are equipped with.

Similarly, fleet managers lack clarity around supplier requirements. This creates problems for both repairers and drivers and needs to be addressed before we can enter the next stage of autonomy.

I have worked in the automotive industry for more than twenty years, and I have never witnessed a period of change quite like we have seen over the last four to five years.

ADAS technology is becoming more complex all the time, and while most fleet managers are aware of the technology in their own fleet, they also need to know what else is on the road and what technology will soon be introduced to ensure their fleets are ready.

Staying on top of the latest developments is vital to ensure that fleet managers benefit from the latest technology whilst keeping drivers safe.

There needs to be a trickle-down effect whereby the Government strives to educate the wider industry and fleet managers take on the role of educating drivers.

Another key element to ensure these systems are managed safely is to choose the right supplier with the necessary scale and expertise to maintain these systems correctly.

This includes ensuring your suppliers have the right tooling as unfortunately it isn’t a ‘one tool fits all’ scenario when it comes to recalibration.

As the technology develops, working with a supplier who is up to speed with the technology and can fix any issues quickly and safely will be essential to maintaining your fleet and getting your vehicles back on the road.

This will involve considerable investment by suppliers to ensure they have the necessary skills and expertise to keep up to date.

As we continue to see more automation rolled out over the next few years, having confidence in your supplier is absolutely crucial to managing your fleet.

The Shift Autonomous Vehicle Deployment Report recently identified the key challenges for the roll out of autonomous vehicles, including coping with vehicle downtime, charging infrastructure and interaction with public transport.

In my opinion, tackling these challenges will require an industry-wide approach.

The whole automotive industry needs to step up and do their part to prepare for the increasing number of autonomous vehicles we are seeing on our roads if we are to introduce self-driving vehicles to our roads without compromising on the safety of drivers.

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