The Impact of Self-Driving Cars on Fleets and Public Safety

Patrick Peterson of AutoDetective explores the hurdles and benefits of autonomous vehicles in fleet management and law enforcement, from acquisition to maintenance, data security and offsetting expenses.


Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are not new -- established auto manufacturers have been introducing vehicle models with autonomous features for a number of years, as well as spending considerable amounts of time and money on the research and development of future models.

The full automation of vehicles is on the road map for a lot of businesses, and the automotive industry is changing rapidly as new research about automation emerges. Testing of autonomous or driverless cars has shown that their safety is promising, and companies are exploring how autonomous vehicles can work together toward public safety and traffic management.

The anticipated impact of autonomous vehicles is expected to affect vehicle businesses, like fleets, but also to have a profound effect on public safety and law enforcement.

Challenges and Benefits for Fleet Managers Integrating Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicle options are changing the way fleets are managed and introducing a number of opportunities, as well as challenges. The major challenges include:

#1 Acquisition

Vehicles with autonomous features, be they cars, trucks or buses, are much more expensive to acquire, and many of the options available are new and do not yet have a reliable track record that can make their purchaser feel fully secure in their purchase decision. The extra cost can be attributed to powerful autonomous features that offer powerful computing and sensing abilities, such as LiDAR, and GPS systems.

#2 Maintenance

Currently, fleets leave most of the vehicle maintenance up to their drivers. Autonomous vehicles that operate without a driver will place the maintenance burden on the fleet managers and owners, adding additional work and cost to operations. Maintenance of newer autonomous technology is sure to be expensive and may be hard to come by, especially at first.

#3 Data Security

Autonomous vehicles gather a lot of data through their operations. This creates the responsibility to keep that data secure and protect the vehicle owners from hacking and other cyber attacks. Data security is a constantly changing landscape and is also expensive to manage.

On a more positive note, the opportunities offered by autonomous vehicles include:

  • Fewer accidents through accident-prevention technology
  • Increased productivity for drivers and operators as smart technology takes care of many of the previously manual functions
  • Reduced operating costs overall, and the ability to address driver shortages
Anticipating a Driverless Future

Autonomous vehicles are changing everything in the auto industry and redefining what requires human manipulation, and the way business is done. Where recruitment and staffing might have been the focus before, a driverless vehicle future allows businesses to invest in autonomous technology to address staffing shortages. Businesses are also forced to learn about technology and security on a much deeper level, and accept the liabilities that come with autonomous vehicles.

This type of revolution requires companies to change and improve in order to grow. This powerful new direction changes cost models as well. Though AV technology is expensive, these expenses may be offset by reduced staffing needs and expenses.

Overall, fleet, trucking and transportation companies cannot expect to ignore the AV impact and operate as usual in order to stay competitive.”
Autonomous Vehicle Impact on Public Safety

Safety has been the main point of discussion in the conversation about autonomous vehicles. Research conducted thus far delivers a promise of improved traffic flow and fewer accidents when a fleet of autonomous cars work together and exchange information.

Safety alerts that are built-in as autonomous features, like automated braking and various view cameras, are already making the roads safer. At the same time, the industry must keep an eye on how autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles interact on the road.

The shift to autonomous features becoming mainstream and the promise of fully driverless cars is a massive change to the auto industry and the agencies that regulate its safety. This transition will continue to involve various hurdles prior to autonomous vehicles dominating our current state of driving.

Police departments and other public service agencies that deal with safety and traffic management are facing a major change with the rise of autonomous vehicles. These vehicles are different than the traditional models, and thus require different regulation.

Police and the Department of Motor Vehicles must decide how to register vehicles with autonomous features, and how to track what features they offer. They must add autonomous features to the list of items that get inspected in annual safety inspections. If accidents occur that involve faulty AV features, it needs to be made clear who is held responsible: the auto manufacturers or the vehicle owners. Fully driverless vehicles will require a major overhaul of regulations.

Aside from rehauling regulations and redefining safety precautions, police departments can utilize the highly sophisticated technology of autonomous vehicles to access important data about traffic infractions and flow. They can use AVs to patrol areas and keep their officers safer.

Police departments can conduct training for new officers in different ways due to AV features. Information can be accessed rapidly, even in real time, leading to faster and more accurate investigations. Autonomous vehicles can undoubtedly help police departments run more efficiently and require less human labor.

As with anything new, there are still many unknowns. Still, the opportunities tied to autonomous vehicles are abundant and exciting, and sure to be impactful to individuals, businesses and public safety agencies. Many new directions for autonomous vehicles will emerge in the next decade.

Patrick Peterson

Patrick Peterson, born and raised in the automotive world, regularly test-drives new vehicles on highways and back roads. As the editor and publisher of AutoDetective, he is passionate about everything related to cars.