Connected telematics

From the April 2020 print edition

Advances like 5G could mean a greater demand for telematics

As in most fields, technology in the automotive world has advanced rapidly in recent years. At the same time, estimates place the global sales of electric vehicles at 30 million over the next five years. Along with that rise comes the added need for connectivity in the automotive world, with technologies such as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technologies advancing at the same time.

The rise in technology also means that the number of connected cars with embedded telematics is likely to spike from 23 million in 2018 to 65 million in 2025, according to a Frost & Sullivan report entitled Analysis of Embedded Telematics in the Automotive Industry, Forecast to 2025.

There has been more interest in telematics among customers and fleet operators, says Lou Vella, manager, client information services (CIS) telematics at ARI. Among the factors accounting for this surge in demand is the drop in the front-end investment in telematics products over the past five years, Vella notes. This has meant that the return on investment for telematics has moved within reach for a larger number of organizations and they’re able to expand the use of telematics to additional business applications.

“It’s not just about curtailing idling and a few of the operational improvements,” Vella says. “It’s also extended itself greatly on driver safety and some potentially significant operational improvements where its benefits go straight to the bottom line. It’s improving things like scheduling and route optimization, recognizing the performance of routes that drivers take and being able to improve upon them. Ultimately, that goes to improving things like delivery times, driver productivity, being able to do more effective dispatching and, in general, improvement to service levels for a business’ customers.”

The number of clients and vehicles enrolled in ARI’s telematics program has nearly tripled over the last two years, adds Don Woods, ARI’s VP of CIS. Additionally, Woods notes the number of RFPs requesting telematics has jumped from approximately 20 percent just a few years ago to more than 70 percent in recent months.

The technology surrounding telematics has not only moved within reach of more drivers but also accelerated alongside other advancements in the automotive industry. Greater vehicle autonomy and V2V connectivity is moving organizations from simply telematics service providers toward becoming technology innovation partners, says Anubhav Grover, Frost & Sullivan Mobility Research Analyst.

Looking to the future, the introduction of 5G connections in cars will usher in a new, expansive range of connected applications – drivers will enjoy more bandwidth and immersive experiences in their vehicles, while automakers will get accurate vehicle data. The data-processing capabilities of 5G technology will play a huge role in so-called vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication capabilities, Grover notes.
“Through V2V communication, vehicles could receive information on obstacles beyond line of sight,” Grover says. “Such information could be sourced and communicated from other cars, pedestrians or infrastructure, which would improve traffic or lower the chances of an accident.”

Increasing vehicle connectivity will also create opportunities for automakers and Tier 1 suppliers to access potential revenue that can be leveraged off data generated by connected services, he says.

There are several immediate advantages to applying the technology, notes ARI’s Don Woods. More safety benefits, help in complying with regulatory demands such as hours of service (HOS) rules and the wide range of operational usages are some of the main advantages available through the technology, he notes.
Telematics can also help answer questions such as whether a fleet has the right number of vehicles, if they’re being utilized enough or too much, what’s the downtime, how much time vehicles spend off road, in the shop and so on.

“With telematic devices, we can start monitoring vehicles in some cases right off the production line, all the way to the time of delivery,” Woods says. “Customers can start to see where their vehicles are in the supply chain.”

Looking to the future, one of the most impactful technological advancements emerging in the telematics world is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in conjunction with video.

AI can automatically analyse video to increase safety and recognize, for example, when drivers may be driving distracted, says ARI’s Vella. In-cab video is usually reviewed after an incident takes place, he notes. Advancements in communication and AI will make it possible for such reviews to become automatic.

“With AI and in-cab video, it allows you to proactively address driver behaviour. For example, if a driver is distracted, if they start using their phone, you’re not necessarily going to have that impactful event such as an accident to trigger a review,” Vella says. “And yet, the technology is able to alert the fleet manager that there’s a driver that perhaps needs some training.”

Short term, 5G won’t be extremely impactful as infrastructure will need to catch up in order to use 5G networking, says Vella. As well, Woods adds that while 5G currently has limited availability, the promise of the technology is what will enable both autonomous driving and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications.

“5G is what you think you need as a platform when you envision a future where vehicles are talking to each other, talking to the roads, talking to the stop lights – those things which enable more autonomous and more safety features to come out,” says Woods. “You’ll hear 5G thrown around in that conversation quite often.”

Data is king
Geotab has seen an increase in the need for quality data from organizations in order to make informed business decisions, says the company’s executive VP of sales and marketing, Colin Sutherland. Data from vehicles can help fleets to define their running costs per mile and to look at how different vehicle classes perform under various duty cycles. With fuel being the biggest cost for fleets, understanding the right vehicle class to serve a particular business need is essential in order to provide precise details of running costs for fleets to lower their overall costs.

“In the generation we’re entering for supply chain logistics, it’s not about reducing the number of vehicles a business has, but rather specifying, utilizing and outsourcing effectively based on running cost per mile for the vehicle but also building new models such as running cost per delivery of service,” Sutherland says. “The personnel and vehicle costs line up with how a business generates its profits.”

Sutherland also agrees that improved networks will be a critical factor in the effectiveness of telematics for businesses to leverage more data from the field. This includes integrating vehicle data with video, over-the-air updating of mobile software and connecting vehicles, personnel and machines.

Telematics helps fleets manage other areas, like curbing carbon emissions, says Sutherland. California, a leader in the US in vehicle electrification, mandated in 2018 an EV sales goal of five million vehicles by 2030. This means that the state must ensure that at least 50 per cent of the light-duty vehicles purchased each year are zero-emission. To manage this, California is using telematics to monitor EV adoption usage and, in turn, quantify the associated GHG emission reductions and savings from lower fuel and maintenance costs.

As technology continues to progress, so too will the benefits and ROI from the use of telematics. As this happens, fleets would do well to incorporate telematics into their operations to take advantage of these advances.