Autonomous Fleet Driving: The Future of Fleet Management.

Part of what it means to be a successful business owner is being able to keep one step ahead of emerging technologies. One of the emerging technologies that are relevant to every business owner who must send his products to market via fleet driving is semi-autonomous vehicles. The whole concept should not be foreign to anyone who has ever used cruise control which provides autonomous driving to a certain degree. Fully autonomous vehicles will be, and to some extent already are, capable of performing actions independent of the driver, such as adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance braking, parking assist as well as other traffic maneuvers. The hope of companies that are poised to use autonomous vehicles in their fleet is that they (a) will reduce the number of accidents; (b) they will increase driver productivity, and (c) maximize fuel efficiency.

That is the hope. However, just as with every other emerging technology there are anticipated downsides to increasing the number of autonomous vehicles in any given fleet. Some of the negatives that experts anticipate with this trend towards automation include:

  • Higher Acquisition Cost: Acquiring autonomous vehicles and adding them to a company’s fleet will initially be expensive. For example, an IHS Automotive forecasts predicts that the price for self-driving technology will add between $7,000 and $10,000 to a car’s sticker price in 2025. Fleets that integrate this technology will experience an even higher initial cost.
  • Potential negative effect on local governments – Since autonomous vehicles are designed to strictly adhere to the speed limit and other traffic regulations it is difficult to know how this will affect local government’s efforts to collect taxes from fines.
  • Increases/Changes in Governmental Regulation - With the trend towards autonomous vehicles increasing, government will have to craft a whole new set of regulations related to trucking and commerce. There is no way to anticipate how these changes will impact trucking companies.

Yes, it is difficult not to sit and marvel at things such as Google and Tesla’s efforts at autonomously piloted cars. However, for people who ship items back and forwards across this land take a more measured approach to the implications of this autonomy. Business leaders must consider the above factors and law-makers have to consider the impact autonomously piloted may have on legislation. Ultimately, it is a matter of when and not if major companies will add autonomous vehicles to their fleet.