Nobody Asked Me, But...

Five Unpredictions for 2017

January 13, 2017

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My crystal ball is still a little foggy these days, so making predictions about what actually will happen in 2017 isn’t going to be possible this year. However, fogginess aside, I can still make some accurate predictions about some things that aren’t going to happen this year. It may not be quite as useful as predicting what will happen, but it’s better than nothing at all.

1. Autonomous vehicles will become a huge part of our lives.

This is not going to happen any time soon. Really. I don’t care what Elon Musk says. We’re not there yet, we’re not even close. We will see continued development in many driver-assist technologies, such as adaptive cruise control, but we are at least a decade away from any widespread adoption of autonomous or even semi-autonomous vehicles. The infrastructure, both real and regulatory, is not in place and won’t be for years.

2. Alternative Fuel vehicles will make a huge comeback.

This, sadly, is also not going to happen. Despite the recent weak attempts by the OPEC nations to curtail production, it looks like we’re going to have cheap gasoline for a long time to come. And most of those folks who swore up and down that it was really about greenhouse gas emissions seemed to lose interest once gasoline and diesel dipped below $3 per gallon.

3. Telematics adoption will slow down.

This is also a surefire not-going-to-happen prediction. Our best estimates today are that less than 40% of commercial and public sector fleets have a telematics system in place. If you aren’t part of that 40%, figure out a way to get there. It will be the best single fleet decision you have ever made. It will make your fleet more efficient. It will make your drivers safer.

4. Fleet vehicles are going to become less expensive.

This, sadly, also is not going to happen. The looming CAFE requirements are imposing a significant cost burden on the auto manufacturers. The hurdles they face over the coming years are staggering, and the only way to get over them is with massive investments in technology — whether you want it or not. On a positive note, the vehicles are going to get better fuel economy, be significantly safer, and perform better for your drivers. On a less than positive note, the OEMs seem to have lost their appetite for massive fleet incentives so don’t count on that to keep your costs down this year. (Another reason to take the telematics plunge. See No. 3 of this list.)

5. The fleet industry will become stagnant and boring.

The chances of this coming true are slim to none. And slim has left the building already. The pace of change will continue to speed up. We’re going to see more innovation in vehicle design, upfitting, technology, and safety. Those innovations will mean that you can’t take your eye off the ball. Change is coming at us fast and furious. If you thought managing a fleet was a nice easy place to sit back and ride out the road to retirement, you were wrong.

My favorite ancient adage/curse has always been “May you live in interesting times.” We may not be able to predict the future here at Automotive Fleet, but we can confidently predict that 2017 will be very interesting.

If you disagree, let me know.

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Sherb Brown

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Sherb Brown is the vice president and group publisher for BBM's AutoGroup. Sherb has covered the auto industry for more than 12 years in various positions with Bobit Business Media.

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