Driverless Cars – Are We Ready?

Monday, August 18, 2014 - 09:32
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Nickie Brooks

Nickie Brooks, Managing Director, Alternative Route Finance

It’s safe to say that the driverless car is here and being taken very seriously.

As of January 2015, the fully autonomous vehicles are going to be tested on UK roads. Research by IHS Automotive predicts that over 100 million driverless cars will be fully functional and sharing the roads with us by 2035.

This raises a plethora of questions by those involved in the fleet industry. The driverless car is exciting technology, but this is a multi-faceted issue that needs to be addressed – carefully. What, as an example, are insurers to do? How will governing councils quickly adapt? Where does the blame lie should a company car driver find themselves in an accident? These are the questions that ring in my head.

Richard Lee of the RSMA has already come forward to say that 50% of the UK’s local and national road network markings need replacing. Driverless cars rely on these signs and markings to be at tip-top condition; otherwise they currently can’t be read by the computers sensors.

Where does this leave the person who is responsible for a company fleet? In a bit of a situation, I can only imagine. The complexity of running a safe, compliant and effective fleet is already a challenge – add onto that difficulties we are bound to face from driverless cars – well, it’s going to be a headache. Unless clear and concise guidance comes from the powers that be then problems will arise, potentially big ones.

Consider the Corporate Manslaughter Act. We already know the implications should a driver be involved in a fatal accident, but what if the driver wasn’t actually driving? Who is liable for their accident? This also opens many other doors including grey fleet risks and vehicles being fit for purpose – it would all need reassessing.

I look forward to seeing how this technology will change the automotive industry but I do worry that it may grow faster than we can adapt – but change is here, whether we like it or not.

Nickie Brooks is the Managing Director of Alternative Route Finance, a a leading provider of car leasing, van leasing and fleet management solutions. She has spent her entire career in the motor and finance industries

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