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Technology: The rise of the connected car

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Nick Walker, MD, RAC Telematics, looks at practical uses of connected car data.

Innovation around the Internet of Things gathered real pace in 2015. What was once just the preserve of future-gazing blog posts, connected devices have started to become a reality, entering our homes and becoming part of our everyday lives. Whether we’re talking about intelligent street lights in smart cities or connected fridges that know when to make the next supermarket order, the future of technology is internet connectivity to everyone and everything.

This year was also the time that the connected car started to become a reality for fleet managers. Telematics is now more widely understood, with businesses of all sizes adopting the technology to better manage their vehicles.

At RAC Business we’ve seen companies ranging from leasing firms,events businesses and private hire taxi firms connecting their vehicles this year. This is because whether you’re talking about fleets of five or 500, the data that can be retrieved on vehicles, their drivers and the journeys they are making is enormous. And that’s set to grow further in 2016.

Telematics has shifted from being the tool that was used simply to track employees, to having potential to deliver business benefits across a range of areas such as saving on fuel costs, reducing wear and tear as well as improving driver behaviour leading to fewer accidents. This will also have a significant impact on insurance, and in particular usage based insurance. Until now pay-as-you driver insurance has largely been marketed at young drivers with high premiums in the personal insurance sector. Now insurers are beginning to look at its application for businesses. So much data is available in real time on miles driven, speeds, locations and accident detection, that insurers can gain a detailed view of the risk profile of each driver and gain much better insight into how that vehicle is being treated.

In 2015 telematics was also used by businesses to help disprove liability for driving offences, potentially saving thousands of pounds in fines. Research by RAC Business found that more than a third of businesses in the UK have used telematics data to contest a speeding fine or a false insurance claim. If the data is being relied on in court, then it needs to be reliable and the best systems on the market are those that can provide an accurate report, even at low speeds where incidents are often disputed. It’s something that we’ve made a real focus on this year, with our technology achieving an industry-leading 92% accuracy rating according to the Transport Research Laboratory.

More widely, 2015 was also the year that telematics was recognised for its potential to shape the future of road investment in the UK. The Government Transport Committee’s Future of Motoring Report suggested that analysing large volumes of driver data could identify accident hot spots and weak areas of the road network.

So as we look forward to 2016, we can expect telematics to continue to evolve and introduce further benefits such as data showing vehicle diagnostics and vehicle health. We see the technology underpinning fleet managers’ and company car drivers’ entire motoring world by connecting up all services.

With this as a focus we’re in the process of developing an app to support telematics software by managing all driver and fleet manager information and needs, whilst also providing alerts to ensure fleet managers and business car drivers stay on top of vehicle management.

The pace of innovation in the world of the connected car is ramping up, especially amongst business fleets. It’s an exciting time for the industry and the possibilities that this technology will bring in the new year.

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