Increased connectivity through in-car apps promises to make life a lot easier for the company car driver.
They should also help deal with some of the daily administrative headaches facing fleet managers, according to David Holecek, connectivity brand manager at Volvo Car Corporation.
The Swedish manufacturer’s new Glympse app uses a location sharing function to flag up arrival times and gives business clients the option of tracking the progress of people travelling to appointments.
Another app development from the company – a world-first – allows drivers to pay for parking before reaching their destinations.
“Because people no longer need to call or text drivers en route, we believe Glympse adds to business motoring efficiency without any of the distractions that could involve safety issues,” Holecek told Fleet News.
“In addition, the park and pay app also saves drivers the bother of searching for machines or meters.”
Other new apps in the pipeline at Volvo are also aimed at easing the burden on business drivers and fleet operators.
“One key area of investigation is to make apps more personalised,” said Holecek. “We want to make it easy to identify a person and carry over settings from one car to any other.
“In this way, we can personalise a pool car, which will be an absolute benefit in itself as far as companies are concerned.”
Despite being relatively new to motoring, apps are enjoying explosive growth and forecasters predict that in just six years’ time, integration software from Apple and Google will feature on the dashboards of 191 million vehicles worldwide.
A study by US business analysts IHS suggests this will have a profound impact on auto infotainment and connectivity in the next decade.
“Auto apps will influence the competitive landscape among car brands and will even change their market shares,” said IHS.
“The in-car app market is a new frontier for Apple and Google’s mobile competition and each is using their expertise to develop apps and content into the new realm of automotive entertainment and services.”
At Vauxhall, fleet marketing and Motability manager Paul Adler said a wealth of new technology is imminent.
“It’s already possible to download apps directly into some of our cars and General Motors is working to make solutions available as more apps become available,” he said.
“It’s entirely feasible that traffic information and navigation will be done through apps in future instead of via the encoded systems we have at present.
“Early experience of app-based navigation has been reasonably successful, but fleet decision-makers are cautious and the industry still prefers factory-fit systems.
“However, things are set to change and I think the latest technology will be widely adopted in time.”
In Sweden, Holecek cited the relatively long time needed to create new cars as a major issue with the fast-moving connectivity world.
He explained: “On the one hand, in-house development of apps is extremely costly and the alternative by some mass market brands is to allow anyone to develop them on their behalf.
“But that’s dangerous because who is going to make sure the app is developed with the driver fully in mind? Who takes responsibility for driver distraction-related issues – and who is going to be sued if something goes wrong?
“Our solution is to find the best provider in each category and work with them to provide our own user interface – which means the driver operates all our apps in the same way.
“Safety is at the centre of everything we do, so the avoidance of driver distraction gets top priority.”
Drivers who use apps on the move pose a threat to accident-free travel, believes road safety charity Brake.
Laura Woods, research and information officer at Brake, said: “We call on all drivers to focus on the road and ensure the only thing they are doing behind the wheel is driving.
“We also urge manufacturers to fully investigate the safety implications of any in-car apps they plan to introduce.”
Read the next edition of Fleet News to see what apps are already available and how they can help fleets.