Connected Car Technology and Fleet Management

5 Ways Connected Car Technology is Impacting Fleet Management

by Dmytro Ternovyi
Here’s a riddle: What vehicle technology can result a 97% reduction in speeding, a 7% improvement in fuel economy, and a 47% reduction in accidents? If you guessed connected car, congratulations — you understand the huge impact that Internet of Things (IoT) technology is having on fleet management. Industry forecasts predict the number of fleet vehicles employing connected car technology in the U.S. will reach 12.7 million units by 2020. And it is easy to see why. Connected car technology allows fleet managers to remotely monitor nearly every aspect of their vehicles’ operation in real time. Vehicle speed, acceleration and deceleration, location and route traveled, fuel usage, engine performance, load weight, and driver distractions are but a few of the factors that IoT permits to be measured and their data transmitted. By combining IoT with artificial intelligence, big data, and predictive analytics, connected car technology has the power to revolutionize the fleet management industry. In this article, we will examine just a few of the ways the ways fleet management is being impacted.

Improved Fleet Efficiency

Connected cars (and trucks) feed data to the Internet from a host of embedded sensors. The information provided allows fleet managers to identify opportunities where vehicle efficiency can be monitored and improved. Most drivers are aware that engine performance and tire pressure can affect the fuel efficiency of their vehicle. While connected car technology allows fleet managers to monitor these parameters for each vehicle in their fleet, it also provides them with data on more-dynamic aspects of vehicle operation, namely those affected by driver behavior. The connected car can report to fleet managers details about acceleration and deceleration, engine idle time, and speed. All of these factors can adversely affect the fuel economy of even the newest vehicle, with efficiency varying by several percentage points from one driver to another. By identifying peaks and dips in the fuel efficiency of each fleet vehicle, managers can address and correct wasteful issues, be they mechanical or human in nature.

Autonomous Fleets

If it were not for Tesla and their autonomous-capable AutoPilot technology, it might be premature assume that autonomous vehicles will affect the fleet industry any time soon. And while Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced Tesla’s plans for an autonomous fleet by 2018-2019, Uber is already there. Since September 2016, Uber has been operating a fully autonomous taxi in the city of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, with plans to launch a fleet of twelve vehicles by year’s end. Although each vehicle will have have a human driver behind the wheel, their role is purely precautionary. It is only a matter of time — and government regulations — before technology and industry confidence make the drivers obsolete. Uber acquired Otto, a developer of self-driving trucks, and has partnered with Volvo to develop self-driving car technology. If anyone wants an example of a startup tapping the autonomous car market, this is it. While not exactly a fleet of 18 wheelers, the Uber project does constitute an autonomous fleet in the making. No doubt, their progress will be watched closely by fleet companies around the world. Along with the prospect of eliminating the fleet drivers comes the elimination of driver-related accidents, salary, and benefits — a very appealing prospect for fleet management companies large and small. Despite the market being immature, the technology that will drive autonomous fleets — literally — is being developed now.

Improved Safety

As fleet managers adopt connected car technology, they will see a direct and proportional improvement in vehicle safety. Many of the same factors that affect fuel economy can also affect vehicle safety. Sudden stops and abrupt starts, speeding, and even vehicle maintenance issues can all impact vehicle safety. Consequently, fleet managers will increasingly monitor these operational parameters seeking opportunities for improvement, and instances where immediate corrective action is required. Not only does connected car technology provide remote monitoring of vehicle operation, but IoT components can provide monitoring of drivers’ physical conditions, as well. Driver distraction, sleepiness, heart rate, even blood sugar could potentially be monitored. The ability to identify that a driver’s blood sugar is dropping, or that the driver is nodding off, could significantly reduce driver-related accidents and related insurance premiums.

Reduced Downtime

We have mentioned that connected car technology allows engine performance and tire pressure to be monitored by fleet managers for the purpose of controlling fleet fuel economy. The same measurements, combined with those from hydraulics and data from other sensors, can also help identify maintenance issues before they shut the vehicle down. Rather than waiting for an engine defect or other issue to fully materialize, IoT technology can spot problems and automatically schedule repairs before they become costly malfunctions. By incorporating predictive analysis into the vehicle monitoring ecosystem, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies can be tapped to help predict mechanical problems before they even occur.

Smartphone-Based Platforms

Since 1996, most vehicles allowed on the road in the U.S. include a standardized On-Board Diagnostic system (OBD-II) port through which vehicle diagnostic information can be read. Although many companies have marketed innovative products that make use of OBD-II and GPS data, such products have been limited in processing power. Because of the limitations in what can be done with after-market hardware OBD-II solutions, the trend in monitoring vehicle operation has shifted toward smartphone-based telematics. By interfacing the driver’s smartphone with the vehicle’s OBD-II system via Bluetooth or wifi, the tremendous processing power of the smartphone becomes available for telematics applications. Since smartphones are replaced every year or so, such mobile platforms can be easily updated with the latest processing power. And since they play well with IoT technology, smartphones can easily perform portal functions that allow fleet managers to access vehicle data in real time. The growing popularity of mobile telematics platforms is creating vast opportunities for app developers to innovate in this market. Further, the power, easy upgrade capability, and low cost of mobile platforms will surely fuel this trend for years to come.

How Ignite Can Help?

The marriage of connected car technology and fleet management systems was inevitable. Early adoption of IoT technology by fleet managers will no doubt continue. But penetrating this competitive new market requires a unique skill set that not every software development firm possesses. Ignite is uniquely qualified to be your development partner in this rapidly expanding market. With six R&D labs across Europe, and dozens of IoT and automotive technology experts in-house, we are well positioned to take on your next project. Whether you have a single app for connected car fleet management, or an idea for a complete platform, we’re ready see your project through, from concept to market and beyond. If you are looking for a world-class technology partner who offers outsource pricing, why not contact us today?