Driverless fleets: Is Australia edging closer?

We're always on the look out for new ways to make fleet management easier, more cost effective and better overall. Our range of fleet services, which has been built with fleet managers in mind, is testament to this.

It also means that we're constantly keeping our finger on the pulse of the automotive, transport and fleet management industries. However, even for those with relatively little knowledge on these subjects, driverless cars will certainly be a concept that comes up every now and again.

Taking the "I" out of driver

The idea of getting into a self-driving car is polarising at best. Some people believe it can make roads safer, while others wish to keep the visceral partnership of man and machine intact.

Meanwhile, vehicle manufacturers (and others such as Google) are in a race to get the first completely safe driverless car ready for mass production.

Incredible advances in vehicle technology have been leading to this point. The number of advanced driver assist systems in modern fleet vehicles is taking more direct control away from the individual, with innovations such as computer-controlled parking and automatic emergency braking.

Driverless technology is a huge step, however, using cameras, sensors, GPS and shared data to plan the safest, most efficient route. And it's one Australia is getting ready for.

Australia preparing for driverless fleets

Earlier this year, South-Australian policymakers showed an enthusiasm to lead the way in self-driving technology, particularly in bus fleets and for helping elderly or disabled individuals get around.

This week, Mark Borlace, senior manager for mobility and automotive policy at the Royal Automobile Association (RAA), continued to ramp up the debate around the state's future.

"We think this type of technology will solve a whole range of mobility issues for our members, and we want to see it trialled on Adelaide streets as soon as possible," he explained.

"Adelaide could lead the way when it comes to putting this technology to the test."

The downsides of self-driving fleets

When it comes to the safety improvements of removing human error from the road, driverless cars have been widely promoted. It will no doubt be a weight off any fleet manager's mind knowing that drivers will be safer from road accidents than they are now.

However, the University of Michigan discovered one possible downside in that many passengers may suffer from car sickness on their journeys, as researcher Michael Sivak explained.

"Motion sickness is expected to be more of an issue in self-driving vehicles than in conventional vehicles," Mr Sivak said.

"The reason is that the three main factors contributing to motion sickness - conflict between vestibular (balance) and visual inputs, inability to anticipate the direction of motion and lack of control over the direction of motion - are elevated in self-driving vehicles."

The study shows that 6 to 12 per cent of adults suffered "moderate or severe motion sickness" from being a passenger in a driverless car.

So there are certainly issues to iron out. However, with the speed these vehicles are approaching in Australia, self-driving cars may be pulling into your forecourt sooner than you first imagined.