Autonomous cars and similar new technologies are on the brink of changing our world. Much debate has focussed on their potential benefits and the social issues they may cause. However, are the new technologies being introduced too quickly? In the latest Brake blog; Jeremy Rochfort, National Sales Manager at Autoglass®, says many fleets are struggling to adapt to the rapid rate of change and emphasises the need for safety to be maintained as the main priority.
Automation is a hot topic in the automotive world. Every day we hear news of how driverless cars are getting ever closer to being the primary mode of transport. In March, Nissan trialled its first driverless car in London and more and more automotive companies seemed determined to make this once science-fiction dream a reality.
The potential benefits of these new technologies are much heralded. Safer roads, less congestion and better fuel efficiency are all put forward as the great changes that driverless cars will bring. However while these lofty ambitions are all well and good, the social and political implications will be significant. We have seen predictions that in the future no one will own a car, but rather merely use one of the driverless fleet operated by Uber or Google. Mass change on this scale is bound to cause issues, and already discussions have begun as to how driverless cars will be insured and who would take the blame in the case of a collision. Livelihoods are also at risk. In the US, truck driving is one of the most common occupations, but the development of driverless trucks threatens to replace thousands of these jobs in the next few years.
All these are major concerns and should be carefully thought out and planned for. Clearly the designers and manufacturers of this new technology are keen for it to be introduced so they can demonstrate its capabilities and stay ahead of their competitors. With this in mind, it’s important not to lose sight of the practical consequences of the fast-paced mass roll-out of new products and features.
Herein lies the crux of the issue. The almost constant stream of updates and new capabilities can be bewildering for the end user. As often seems to be the case in our ever-changing world, some drivers and fleet managers may feel that the moment that they get their head around one piece of technology, a new device comes along. Yes, they have the potential to change our world, but people need help and support to get used to them.
For example, a recent survey by Autoglass® of 250 British fleet managers found that although just over a third (34%) of the vehicles in car and van fleets have some Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) enabled safety features, 27% of fleet managers acknowledge a lack of awareness about how the technology works as the biggest potential challenge. ADAS-enabled safety features include technologies like autonomous emergency braking and lane deviation warnings. Essentially, these are the ‘building block’ technologies that driverless cars rely on. Another recent poll found that two fifths of drivers don’t know how to use the technology in their new car. Without at least a basic level of understanding, it’s a no-brainer that any intended benefits will fail to materialise.
As people become increasingly dependent on the technology, maintaining and checking that it is working correctly will become essential to ensuring the safety of the driver. The survey by Autoglass® found that 20% of ADAS-enabled car fleets and 15% of van fleets admit that they do not include ADAS calibration as part of their checks during vehicle repair and maintenance (17% overall). Uncalibrated systems may fail to warn drivers about potential hazards or take appropriate corrective action to avoid collisions, which presents a growing safety concern. In this sense, if the technology is not working correctly and the driver is completely dependent on it, it presents a greater danger than if there was no technology at all. There is no doubt that the technology should be respected, but the need for regular and accurate checking increases with our dependence on it.
So, who should drivers and fleets turn to for help? It’s not yet as clear cut as it should be, considering one recent survey which found that many dealers’ knowledge of new advanced safety and infotainment features is lacking and they struggle to explain many of the features of the car. This is a trend that needs to be altered – if the people selling the cars are not aware of the technologies’ capabilities, then how is the user expected to know? As a business, we have invested heavily in understanding the technologies and developing convenient solutions for our customers. The aftermarket has a crucial role to play in supporting commercial fleets that have introduced ADAS into their vehicles, and ensure they are getting the correct advice about calibration.
Autoglass® believes calibration and making drivers and fleet owners aware of the importance of ADAS maintenance are incredibly important. We are entering a new age in the automotive world. All of us must be ready to adapt to ensure that safety standards are maintained. New technologies will bring great changes – and no doubt numerous benefits – but the number one concern should always be safety. While they may not be as glamorous, checks, maintenance and calibration are as essential to the success of this new technology as any public policy or flashy gizmo.