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Company car drivers remain nervous of fully autonomous vehicles, reveals Lex study

Company car drivers remain nervous of fully autonomous vehicles, reveals Lex study

Despite growing investment in driverless technologies, last year saw only a 1.3% rise in support for fully autonomous vehicles from company car drivers, according to an annual study from Lex Autolease. 

In contrast, the number of fleet decision-makers who expect to see driverless vehicles on the UK’s roads within 10 years jumped by 17% year-on-year.  

In 2015, a quarter of company car drivers supported greater adoption of driverless cars that require no human input, rising to just 26.3% in 2016.  

Nearly half of company car drivers surveyed in 2016 still opposed fully autonomous vehicles. A total of 51% also believe that the transition towards driverless vehicles, which could see a mix of driver-controlled and autonomous vehicles on the roads, would be confusing.  

Lauren Pamma, head of consultancy at Lex Autolease, said: “Autonomous vehicles require a culture shift as drivers learn to hand over the responsibility of driving to a machine. In this transition from human drivers to autonomous vehicles, there will inevitably be a period where the driver is not sure what is expected of them or what they need to do in certain circumstances. This risk needs to be carefully managed in the transition stage.”  

The most recent study, which surveyed more than 600 company car drivers and 300 fleet decision-makers, found that although the majority of drivers embrace partial autonomous features that can improve safety, such as automatic braking systems that take over when the vehicle senses an imminent accident, there was still a nervousness towards fully autonomous vehicles.

Ms Pamma continued: “The reality of driverless vehicles is creeping ever closer and we’re seeing that reflected in the expectations of fleet decision-makers. Most, if not all, major manufacturers are investing heavily in autonomous and connected technologies. How quickly these new technologies are adopted by fleets, and drivers more broadly, will be driven by price and availability, driver attitudes, and most importantly by an appropriate legislative framework and infrastructure.  

“Given the pace of change, regular driver training and continually updating driver policies is crucial for fleets, both to stay on-top of technological advances and manage the behavioural shift towards autonomous vehicles.”