Vehicle manufacturers are investing billions of euro in new in-vehicle technology and there are predictions that by 2020, autonomous vehicles will be a common sight on the road. In the meantime, many of the features needed for full autonomy are already available. From the perspective of managing the safety of drivers in your organisation, what do you need to know – and what should you be doing?
Some years ago, I had a conversation with a fleet manager who was very excited about a deal he had struck with a car dealer to provide the whole sales force with cars with hands-free phone facilities at a “knock-down price.” He had not considered the existing risks, nor the risks he would be creating. Was there, I asked, a problem with staff currently trying to use their mobiles hand-held whilst driving? None that he was aware of. So, his 'great deal' would actually increase the road risk, by encouraging staff to make calls whilst driving. There is plenty of evidence that the distraction caused by hands-free mobile phone use adds to road risk.
The lesson from this is that when considering the new in-vehicle technology available, start by identifying your hazards and assessing the risks. If most of your accidents involve reversing, consider cameras and reverse collision warnings (RCW). But RCW will not help if more of your accidents result from fatigued drivers, vehicle speed or tailgating. Look at where and when accidents occur. If you understand the problems, you are better positioned to determine how all this new tech can help you. For example, Caterpillar identified that 65% of their truck hauling accidents were due to drivers being tired, so they installed driver alert systems to overcome this.