Exploring the role of telematics integration in fleets, investigated by Graham Jarvis [Tele.Jarvis.2016.08.02]

Traditional fleet management systems that monitor driver behaviour, maintenance and fuel economy are increasingly being integrated with new Internet of Things (IoT) functionalities and infrastructure such as with the smart city or the smart road. Automated tolls, traffic light management systems, truck weigh stations and road user charging systems are being increasingly used to make fleet management as well as fuel and traffic management as efficient as possible.

“Telematics integration with weigh station bypass is being used by quite a few companies and it enables trucks to avoid having to stop at weigh stations,” explains Clem Driscoll, president of C.J. Driscoll & Associates. He adds: “There are road usage tax trails in Oregon and some other states and several GPS fleet management suppliers are involved, such as New Zealand-based EROAD, and California-based Azuga.”

He says the main focus is on accurately measuring in-state mileage charges. These could be used by government agencies to replace fuel taxes.  Meanwhile, he claims that traffic light pre-emption has been around for quite a while. “It’s used by public transport and public safety agencies and it’s an example of integration with telematics and the environment around it,” he explains. These are only just some of the example of how telematics integration is moving forward.

Collaboration

Driscoll says that if opportunities are to be realised transport management systems providers need to work more closely together than they traditional have done in the past. Some are already collaborating with each other. “In the case of weigh station bypass, the solution providers, like DriveWyze, are working with GPS fleet management suppliers in the trucking sector,” he reveals.

Harold Leitner, vice-president business development at GPS Insight, thinks that there are a couple of different angles to telematics integration. The first is about position, velocity and time data. This, he explains, is being used by third party traffic monitoring companies who aggregate the data from telematics companies and from cell phone networks. It enables them to know how fast and where their vehicles are moving.

“Telematics based driver behaviour data is also being aggregated by commercial driver information services. These services aggregate telematics, toll violation, speed camera violation, red light violation and accident data”, he says. Insurance companies, for example, can use this to generate a driver safety score for their customers.

Electric and hybrid

Fleets with electric and hybrid vehicles have special challenges because “they want to more easily dispatch vehicles to charging stations once they have reached a certain battery threshold”. These fleets use location data to assess when they will arrive at a charging station, how long each vehicle spends at a charging or re-fuelling station, and the technology can log when a vehicle leaves to go on their way to their destination.

With one partner supplier called Lytx, Lee Barnes, director of Connected & Autonomous Vehicle Business at Ricardo, says his company is engaged in a truck platooning project with Texas DOT by providing an in-vehicle driver monitoring system. “So if the driver gets in and accident, slams on the brake, or crosses lanes without signalling this system captures data 20 seconds before and after an incident, the system can track the driver’s behaviour,” he explains before adding that this capability is being leveraged now and there are other systems similar, that have been in existence, that capture and transmit critical information. “One of the key enablers for platooning is V2V communication, and once this technology is pushed by the government, fleet management systems will have the foundation to expand great features, like driver health monitoring,  platooning back office support, advanced route mapping, traffic management etc.,” he says.

Fleets and connected mobility

The data gained from the fleet can certainly play a role in the connected mobility ecosystem but the main challenge in Driscoll’s opinion is entails finding the types of users who can benefit most from the data that is collated. “Fleetmatics has people trying to find a market for the extensive data they’ve collected over the years, and they are talking to governments and insurance companies,” he says. He thinks that governments are logical users because they need to plan for all kinds of traffic management situations regarding roads and for the development of transport infrastructure that is impacted by traffic flow. “The business challenge is to work with these potential data users to educate them on what data is available and how they might benefit from it,” he suggests.  

Barnes adds: “I think – just like everyone else – more data is good but the challenge with the data is who owns it and this data can be used to continue to build better traffic and route management apps.” This question of data ownership will gain more public attention once the ecosystem’s players have worked out how it is to be transmitted (e.g. networks, DSRC, Wi-Fi, etc.). At the moment OEMs are “looking to develop better ADAS and autonomous systems as well as to leverage vehicle, sensor, and driver data to enhance their technology”. 

Anonymised data sharing

There is potential for TSPs to work together to pool anonymised data between each other for mutual benefit. It can, for example, be used to reduce turnaround times at shipping ports for fleets. “I think this data sharing is happening already and it can be replicated for ports, tunnels and bridges to provide speed and time data to more accurately assess port operation efficiency,” believes Leitner who stresses that it has to be driven by the governing authorities.  Barnes concurs that there are tonnes of opportunities for everyone within the ecosystem to work together. For example this could be to develop semi-autonomous functionality to reduce accidents at ports, to manage maintenance costs as well as to ensure safety and efficiency. Key to this is solving the issue of how to work together to encourage people to collaborate and to share data, experiences and knowledge.

Are these utilitarian use cases real or feasible? The answer seems to be yes. “I think the technology exists today”, says Leitner before asking: “The question is about who is going to pay for it, how it is going to be monetised and who is going to drive it forward?” To a degree he thinks it is going to be driven by the government, OEMs and to a lesser extent fleet management companies. “I think it’s absolutely feasible but it will take a decade for all of the parties to agree to co-operate,” he adds.

Barnes concludes that fleet management can gain from IoT and fleet management can also give to it: “Fleet management has the opportunity to leverage the latest technology from IoT market and its suppliers; it’s an exciting time for both groups to leverage new technology being developed by both groups because the opportunities are tremendous.”

The move from ADAS to fully autonomous connected mobility will open up many new business opportunities in his view, and in turn this will create new opportunities to develop technologies that address needs such as reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions, monitoring driver health and to improve safety. In fact it seems that telematics integration and the connected mobility ecosystem has a prosperous future ahead. 

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