30 Aug, 2016

How Will Self-Driving Cars Impact the Fleet World?

How will fleets handle the upcoming era of self-driving cars?

How Self-Driving Cars Will Impact the Fleet World

With automotive companies making great strides in the development of self-driving cars, it’s not too far-fetched to say that self-driving cars will hit the market soon. Some major companies have already started rolling out prototypes and showcasing them to the public. We can probably assume that, in the next few years, driverless cars may be common sights on our roads. Whether these automatic vehicles will be able to successfully penetrate the market is definitely up for debate. But, if and when these self-driving cars do go mainstream, how will this impact the fleet world specifically?

Transportation companies rely heavily on fleet drivers and managers for running buses, trucks, taxis, delivery vehicles, etc. Therefore, the human aspect is very much the lifeline of the fleet management world. When self-driving cars or autonomous vehicles enter the fleet world, the relevance of manpower will be severely challenged.  Whenever automation enters any industry, a lot of people risk losing their jobs. Back when factories and bottling plants embraced automation, many workers were shown the door. Now the question is whether the fleet world will suffer a similar fate.


What It Means for Fleet Managers

At the moment, the role of fleet managers in transportation companies is similar to that of a director on a movie set. The fleet managers monitor the entire network of vehicles, communicate with drivers, and provide necessary guidelines and instructions to the field staff. In short, fleet managers are used to wearing multiple hats. But with the appearance of self-driving cars in the fleet world, will this change?

The answer is likely both yes and no.  

1. Fleet managers won’t be as busy. Communications to relay instructions and guidelines won’t be necessary, as self-driving vehicles will automatically receive assignments.

2. The role of fleet managers will possibly be limited to monitoring and error reporting.

3. A single fleet manager will be able to maintain a relatively large number of self-driving vehicles, as the aspect of communicating with the driver will no longer be necessary.


Impact on Fleet Drivers

The need for drivers may decrease, cutting the costs for companies but leaving thousands jobless. Before jumping to conclusions, it is necessary to explore other scenarios as well.

A fleet of self-driving cars will rely heavily on servers and data centers to receive feeds and road assignments. And, when a server goes down, what will happen then? The transportation companies can’t afford to keep their customers waiting. Therefore, it’s very unlikely that any company will completely automate their entire fleet, which means there will always be ample opportunities for drivers.

Taxi services and passenger vehicles are likely to keep putting their faith on humans, rather than automatic vehicles, mainly due to security and reliability concerns. Even with the possibility of self-driving cars hitting the market, drivers will still be relevant and important in the fleet world.