Are autonomous cars the future of your fleet?

With many cars already containing the technology that enables them to park themselves, a fully automated driverless car does not seem that far-fetched to many industry stakeholders.

In fact, a number of major vehicle makers have already invested in the future of self-driving cars - and it looks like the technology is not far from being available publicly.

Nissan believes it will be able to make autonomous versions of its vehicles available for purchase in the US by 2020, according to an August 27 announcement from Nissan Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn.

Currently, autonomous cars are a few years away from serious testing due to the difficulties switching between computer and driver control.

While having the technology to drive itself, autonomous cars will still require the human occupant to stay alert and prepared to take over control if an issue occurs. As the system would be computer-based, it is possible sensors or connections could fail which may result in accidents if the occupant is not able to resume control quickly.

One option to overcome this possibility is to keep the responsibility in the hands of the human occupant and keep the computer system on standby as a regulator - ready to react if the driver does something that puts the car and passengers at risk.

Self-drive vehicle testing has shown that adding a few autonomous cars to your fleet has the potential to improve fuel consumption rates, thanks to smoother and more efficient driving. 

Road tests completed by Google, Nissan, Lexus and many other car-makers show the advanced hardware within these self-driving vehicles can manoeuvre a vehicle more economically than a human driver.

Additionally, experts agree the majority of road accidents are caused by human error. If this element is removed from behind the wheel, autonomous cars could potentially create safer roads.

While this technology is still a few years away, many fleet managers could benefit from investing in vehicles with autonomous parking systems and other software developments.