Distracted driving is inevitable — whether it’s checking an urgent text message from the boss or mopping up spilled coffee — any fleet manager would be hard-pressed to find a member of their team that hasn’t experienced a time when their eyes weren’t exactly glued to the road. While not a comforting thought, it’s a reality for field service technicians who are juggling full schedules, heavy traffic and route navigation, to name a few. However, distracted driving may soon be a thing of the past. This week Google showed off a prototype of its self-driving car, a vehicle without a steering wheel, gas or brake pedal, “because they don’t need them,” Google said in a blog post.
While the current prototype can only go as fast as 25 mph, the promise for the future of fleet management could include better route and fuel efficiency, safer driving, and giving field service techs the ability to answer email and work while on the road. For urban fleets, the vehicle could even drop the field tech off at the service location, go find parking for itself and then be summoned to pick the tech up once the call is finished. This scenario, however, is contingent on the California Department of Motor Vehicles adjusting their regulations for autonomous vehicles to allow them to travel without a licensed human driver behind the wheel.
“Ever since we started the Google self-driving car project, we’ve been working toward the goal of vehicles that can shoulder the entire burden of driving,” says Chris Urmson, director of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project. “Just imagine: You can take a trip downtown at lunchtime without a 20-minute buffer to find parking. Seniors can keep their freedom even if they can’t keep their car keys. And drunk and distracted driving? History.”