Chevin praise UK’s R&D investment into next-generation vehicles 

The 2017 Budget should have removed any scepticism over whether the future of transport will be autonomous.

In support of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s statement that there is perhaps no technology as symbolic of the revolution gathering pace around us as driverless vehicles, Ashley Sowerby, Managing Director at Chevin Fleet Solutions, said:

“The £150m that has been set aside for self-driving research and training means that Britain will spearhead the development, testing and ultimately sales of autonomous vehicles”.

Hammond predicted that the sector will be worth £28bn to the British economy by 2035, “but this will only be true if we seize the initiative now” explains Ashley.

Whilst the Government is currently focused on electric and driverless cars, Ashley believes that commercial vehicles will also play a crucial role in the industry’s autonomous future.

“It is clear that, for transport companies where the primary function is the mobility goods, there is much to be gained by driver automation, and we expect the number of fleet vehicles to decrease as mobility becomes more important than asset ownership”.

“One of the main arguments in support of a fully autonomous future is the increase in safety, removing potential driver error and all elements of unpredictability.

Ashley said that despite a shift in attitude, this does not mean a decline in the importance of data. In fact, the focus on performance will become much more important.

“Data analysis is already key when it comes to measuring and managing a large number of performance areas across fleet, and moving into an autonomous era is, as much as anything else, likely to empower procurement.

He added that from a technical perspective there are not many negatives attached to autonomy, so the budget allocated to development in this area could not come soon enough.

“People do, however, enjoy driving and autonomous vehicles will have a big impact on driver experience – potentially changing the culture of vehicle usage which could turn out to be the biggest challenge to overcome”.

Importantly, Ashley emphasised that none of the proposed changes will happen overnight, and that UK fleet must follow a gradual path which will lead to full automation. Initially, the concentration will – and should – be on electric vehicles, and complete vehicle autonomy will incremental.