Providing fleet managers the ability to communicate more effectively to drivers, as well as monitor, their behaviour, was one of the benefits considered by the growth in in-car technology.
Driver and fleet benefits, from entertainment to preventative maintenance, and congestion reduction to autonomous vehicles were covered in the roundtable discussion at the March 2017 Fleet200 breakfast.
Summary of discussion points
- Connected vehicles have been perceived as ever-present present within fleets in the form of Telematics, which stands out as the most useful form of car connectivity at the moment.
- There is confusion on what you would class as ‘connected vehicles’.
- Multimedia functions in cars are low priorities to fleet operators.
- Telematics is helping fleet managers better communicate with their drivers, improve their performances and monitor their behaviours. Drivers expect their vehicles to be connected with multimedia functions to better improve their ‘mobile office’.
- There is a mix of ‘black boxes’ and company installed trackers being utilised with the industry.
- The data collected from these journeys are then incorporated into various risk management systems to improve business operations.
- Fleet managers are aware of benefits which include automatic booking of SMR (although renewal messages are usually initiated by leasing companies) alongside early warnings of mechanical issues.
- There is a fear that increased technology in the vehicle will cause drivers to be distracted. This has led to some choosing to limit the amount of ‘warning notifications’ (e.g. turning of speed alerts) the drivers receive.
- There are still only minor concerns shown by fleet managers in regards to the ownership of the data. Currently some fleets have complete ownership of the data collated through their leasing agencies or fleet management services.
- Some vehicles have had their connectivity boosted to enable that single vehicle to act as an information hub for other company cars within the vicinity where GPS signal is low.
- On-board cameras are also in effect in few distributions/delivery services to support driver claims, accident management and traffic incidents. Especially those that carry high value goods. This system has been very useful in resolving insurance claims in the fairest manner.
- Problems are occurring with how to store and utilise the ‘Big Data’ that is being gathered by company vehicles. This is usually outsourced to a data/fleet management services. Those that offer a dashboard-type system are particularly helpful to these fleet operators.
- Fleet operators have been discouraged from autonomous vehicles due to case examples like the ‘Tesla incident’. They feel the technology has not been reviewed properly and until there is consistency in performance, will avoid stocking these types of vehicles on their fleet.
- There is a healthy appetite for alternative fuels within the industry. However, lack of necessary infrastructure is the barrier for growth in this area. Hydrogen cell fuel is being explored more by larger fleets and there are discussions with water suppliers to use ‘sludge’, naturally produced, to start running vehicles. However, this concept is in its preliminary stages.
- There is also an issue with remuneration for those drivers who are charging their vehicles at home. Lack of government guidelines around reimbursing the cost of electricity is leaving companies exposed. Payload is also a concern, with heavy payloads reducing engine performance by up to 60%.
- Some organisations are pushing an environmentally friendly agenda, so have been forced to incorporate alternative fuel vehicles on their fleet. However, they have been hindered by lack of buy-in and cost of initiating this move. Especially amongst those with long standing replacement cycles.
- Concerns were raised that company car drivers are signing up to systems like Apple CarPlay without fully appreciating what data is being shared because they are failing to read the terms and conditions properly.
- Fleet operators suggested that connected services should be covered during an employee's induction or during the vehicle handover to make sure that drivers understand what they are signing up to.
- Connected vehicles bring safety benefits but also raise safety concerns. Fleets appreciate potential benefits such as getting an alert when an airbag has gone off in the car or the emergency services being contacted in the event of a serious accident. However, they are concerned about the safety implications of smartphone use in cars and the police's stance on this.
- Fleets are also interested in the potential service maintenance and repair (SMR) benefits of connected cars such as proactive service bookings and the possibility of giving an SMR provider a one-time code to access the car and take it to be serviced without involving the employee and potentially reducing downtime. However, fleet operators acknowledged that at present there are still concerns from leasing companies that manufacturers' apps may prompt drivers to book vehicles in at their local dealer rather than the leasing company's preferred network.
- Fleets also acknowledged that currently connected vehicles and their associated apps are aimed at retail customers. Fleets would like a more tailored approach and to be able to pick and choose which functions they would like.