Growth in the ‘connected car’ market will deliver a stream of reliable and robust data to enable fleet decision-makers to draw better conclusions.
That’s the view of Alexander Nicholson, co-founder and managing director of AutoTrip, one of six businesses being backed by Sustainable Venture Development Partners which works with investors, entrepreneurial managers and corporate partners to originate, build and grow sustainable companies.
AutoTrip, which has more than 50 organisations using its technology to manage employee mileage claims, aims to become the UK leader in smart vehicle solutions.
The self-install AutoTrip device connects to a vehicle’s on-board diagnostic port and using GPS technology records and transits data to a driver’s cloud-based account automatically recognising business journeys.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) compliant mileage reports can then be submitted for payment. AutoTrip claims its technology can deliver cost savings of 35% due to mileage inflation and cut administration time.
Nicholson said: “We were aware of the problems that small organisations were having in collecting reliable mileage data particularly in respect of grey fleet because manual recording was being used in many cases which is prone to human error. We wanted to understand those problems before we start to roll the solution out to larger organisations.”
While Nicholson, who was lead venture manager of Sustainable Venture Development Partners when it was set-up in 2011, acknowledges that there are a number of other business mileage reporting systems on the market, he says the AutoTrip platform enables the “layering in of other software solutions to support fleet decarbonisation”.
The Government’s introduction of the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) mandates the collection by larger organisations of the energy used by company cars and commercial vehicles and privately-owned vehicles driven on business trips and recommends the implementation of new initiatives to cut usage.
“Government measures are focused on decarbonising transport so fleets need to establish a data baseline and reduce the carbon emission levels that they are currently operating at,” said Nicholson. “The stream of data collected can then be used to implement alternative solutions and provide a return on investment.”
Alexander Nicholson, managing director of AutoTrip
AutoTrip is currently in a second phase of crowdfunding and on track to raise £400,000-£500,000 - an initial round in 2015 raised £146,000 - to underpin further product development before the company potentially seeks venture capital or private equity funding.
While the initial focus is on digitizing the mileage expensing process - the company calculates that two-thirds of mileage reports are manually driven but over the coming years at least 80% will be automated - there are plans to add a range of additional productivity tools to the connected system.
Nicholson said: “Fleets will undergo huge changes in the next five-10 years. We already have the technology at low cost to automate fleet data saving cost for companies. Over the next five years we will provide fleets with a range of different software-based services to further enhance management of the fleet vehicles and grey fleet with a focus on reduced carbonisation and greater efficiency.”
Moving forward AutoTrip is also looking to develop partnerships with organisations such as fleet management providers and to start linking directly with manufacturers’ in-built telematics systems.
New connected car tools that could be delivered through AutoTrip technology might include: real-time vehicle tracking and performance monitoring; maintenance monitoring; scheduling and fuel usage data; remote software upgrades; recall notification; and optimal speed based on traffic and roadway conditions.
“We are at the tip of an iceberg,” said Nicholson. “AutoTrip was developed because of a need for reliable data to record business mileage that was not currently available. The arrival of connected cars gives fleet managers robust data on every aspect of their fleet and grey fleet. That data can then be used to allocate finance to support mobility needs in the knowledge that there will be a return on investment.”
He continued: “Fleet managers will spend less time collating information and more time designing their fleet mission.”
Meanwhile, Sustainable Venture Development Partners is seeking to support the development of other companies in the automotive sector and is currently looking at how a community electric bicycle initiative could work with the involvement of local authorities and housing associations.
Sustainable Venture Development Partners’ first business launch was E-Car Club in 2011, the UK’s first entirely electric pay-per-use car club. Last July rental giant Europcar bought a majority stake in the business.