It’s been a month since we said goodbye to 2016 that has given us Tesla 3, Uber’s self-driving fleet in Pittsburg, and the NHTSA autonomous car guidelines. Now we are all wondering what 2017 will bring to the table.
Below you may find some considerations that, as many experts believe, will shape the coming year for fleet managers and automotive industry as a whole. For convenience purposes, we have divided them into three groups.
ENVIRONMENT AND SAFETY
According to the NHTSA, the total amount of road deaths in 2016 soared by 8%, compared to 2015. Besides, the last year was marked by a number of fatal accidents involving vehicles with semi-autonomous functions (for instance, the Tesla Model S’ crash into a tractor-trailer). In both cases distracted driving is claimed to be the main reason. So one of the major fleet management concerns in the coming year will be how to cost-effectively employ telematics to change driver behavior, reduce distracted driving, and thus enhance road safety.
State governments are likely to follow suit, and apply stricter road regulations to the cases of distracted driving. A week ago, Iowa became the 47th state that prohibited using hand-held devices to send and receive text messages while driving. The ban lobby stated they would continue seeking full prohibition of hand-held devices, now existing in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Besides, experts suggest in the coming year fleet managers will consider using specially designed hardware and software to control the usage of cellphones while a vehicle is moving.
Despite a certain number of fatal crashes involving semi-autonomous cars, it is semi-autonomous features that are likely to be entrusted with insuring a vehicle safety in 2017. Most important, we are going to watch their further expansion beyond the luxury segment. Manufacturers will continue equipping basic car models with crash avoidance systems, adaptive cruise control, adaptive headlights, etc., thus allowing fleets to save money on upgrading to high-end vehicles.
As for the environment protection, the ever-growing popularity of ride-sharing will continue contributing to the reduction of privately owned cars. The road is still very far; however, combined with the proliferating number of electric and hybrid vehicles, and increasing investment into alternative fuels, this tendency will produce visible outcomes relatively soon. Eventually, our cities will become less congested, much more livable, and people-centered.
TELEMATICS AND CONNECTED CARS
Year 2017 will be marked by the ever-increasing pace of telematics adoption. Partially, it is determined by the introduction of electronic logging devices that are intended to facilitate tracking, managing and sharing of records of duty status. It will create both additional challenges and benefits for the suppliers, who will have to come up with new software solutions to automate the process of status updating. However, the demand for them will skyrocket, so will the profit.
Other important trends include, on the one hand, consolidation of major vendors to reduce cost, and design more sophisticated and universal solutions. On the other hand, fleet managers claim they are overwhelmed by the road, vehicle and driver data generated via telematics every day. So, according to some experts’ suggestion, in 2017 custom-tailored automotive software is not going to lose its positions among fleet managers.
Analysts expect increased car connectivity that will be reached by combining telematics and predictive analytics. Data will become more actionable and universally applicable on the one hand, and more customized on the other, thus catering for the needs of each particular fleet, and the mass of fleets as a whole.
SEMI-AUTONOMOUS AND AUTONOMOUS CARS
In 2017 major OEMs will be further expanding their self-driving fleets on the way to full autonomy by 2020-2021. Thus, Ford announced, it would triple its fleet of autonomous hybrid cars to reach the total number of 90. The tests of the new “recruits” are currently taking place in Michigan, California and Arizona.
In general, the number of vehicles with semi-autonomous features, such as auto-brakes, advanced driver assisting systems, auto-pilot mode, etc. will proliferate. As we have already mentioned, these features will become more standardized, step by step expanding beyond the luxury segment.
Though Elon Musk states self-driving cars are round the corner, Sherb Brown, the vice president for AutoGroup, says we are not even close to it. He is possibly true. In the long run, fully autonomous cars massively roaming streets are unavoidable, but not until the infrastructure, both road and legal, is built. Despite the great progress made on this field so far, self-driving fleets are still a matter of 10-20 years.
Thus, while fleet managers, tech experts and OEM representatives make plans and predictions for the coming year, one thing is crystal clear: in 2017 the tendency towards more connected and intelligent cars will remain strong, and we are going to witness a kind of industry democratization as semi-autonomous functions will be steadily becoming affordable across all price segments.