- Insights

Removing the road-blocks to driverless technology

By Jean-Michel Boyer, CEO, BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions UK

The UK stands to gain substantially from investment in driverless technology, however the government has not done enough to prepare the industry for adoption or address the potential challenges. We need more research into all opportunities within the autonomous vehicles sector, as well as how driverless technology will affect the HGV and courier based industries.

The success of the technology will depend on how readily society and industry adapts to it – and is willing to pay for it. Driverless vehicles are inevitable, but the technology will need to be perfect,  widely accepted and affordable. Any incidents involving self-driving vehicles tend to be well publicised, and damaging to perception of the technology. In the US, fully autonomous vehicles are still illegal, however semi-autonomous vehicles, where responsibility still lies with a human driver, may actually be more dangerous.

A human back-up might be appealing to regulators, but there is a real risk that drivers won’t transfer their attention back quickly enough in case of emergency. If drivers are otherwise occupied, their response time might be too late to avert an accident. Research has shown that drivers of semi-autonomous vehicles take up to six times longer than drivers of manual vehicles to brake in an emergency. The solution is to push for fully automated vehicles and remove any chance of human error.

For fully automated vehicles to become a reality, we also need more detailed regulation to control the acquisition and use of data. New EU data protection rules contained in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) aim to protect personal data for individuals within the EU, but there needs to be greater clarity around what exactly constitutes personal data, and who controls that data. Drivers, fleet operators and manufacturers all have a stake in the data generated by connected and autonomous vehicles. Whilst fleets have the greatest business need for control of that data, it’s important that collection and use is transparent and secure. As the technology advances, definitions of ‘personal data’ may also change and legislation must keep pace with the technology.

Driverless technology presents a promising but uncertain future – time for government to take the wheel.

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Suhale Vorajee
Head of Marketing and Communications
BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions UK

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