Wired up

From the August 2022 print edition

We live in a world where people are constantly ‘plugged in’ or connected to a variety of sources and to each other.

Our cell phones provide that connection for the most part, but when we step into our vehicles, its embedded technology takes over. Modern vehicles are sensor-laden, mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) devices with systems devoted to three areas:

  1. Telematics – vehicle location and activity, driver behaviour and engine diagnostics.
  2. Surrounding environment – vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication.
  3. Infotainment – providing information and entertainment to the driver and passengers.

Over 90 per cent of new cars are considered connected vehicles, with advanced capabilities and technology on board. Common fleet vehicles fall into this group, from practically every OEM.

Connected vehicles may use different types of technologies such as:

  • Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I): Communication with the road infrastructure on traffic, road, weather conditions, speed limits and collisions.
  • Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V): Allows the real-time exchange of information between vehicles.
  • Vehicle to Cloud (V2C): Mainly used for downloading vehicle updates, remote vehicle diagnostics or to connect with any IoT devices.
  • Vehicle to Pedestrian (V2P): Vehicles use sensors to detect pedestrians.
  • Vehicle to Everything (V2X): The combination of all types of connectivity is known as V2X.

With the future of connected vehicles quite clear, fleet professionals must consider the implications for their organizations and be proactive in putting policies in place to govern their use. The following four areas should be addressed – privacy, allowable features, driver distraction and reporting.

Privacy: Connected vehicles can share the internet with devices inside and outside the car, and at the same time share data with external devices. V2X is becoming standard and comes with privacy risks. Automated and connected vehicles generate an enormous amount of data, some of which is sensitive or personal. Employees may not want to share precise geolocation data or the contents of private conversations on a mobile phone that is connected to a vehicle’s computer system.

Another privacy consideration involves vehicle resale. Fleets need to disable remote start or unlocking applications from the driver’s mobile phone prior to re-marketing the vehicle.
Although privacy is a serious issue, it’s nothing new. Even outside a vehicle, everything we do in public can be seen and tracked by cameras or our mobile phones. Policies should acknowledge this and ensure drivers are aware of what information is tracked, what is retained and how it is used.

Allowable Features: Connected vehicles can be equipped with a range of smart and convenient features. These features may improve the overall driving experience and enhance safety. They can also, however, create distractions or threaten privacy. Fleet professionals must consider these pros and cons when purchasing vehicles. Even after purchase, they should consider which options or features bring benefits without compromising safety or privacy. Some examples of desirable features are:

V2V connectivity can notify drivers of road conditions or events like collisions in advance. This allows drivers to slow down and prepare for the circumstances in advance, or to reroute.

Connected vehicles may allow connection to pre-loaded entertainment services. This can make it easy for drivers to listen to music without the distraction of trying to find a radio station.

Security features such as real-time location sharing, emergency calls in case of a collision and roadside assistance are invaluable.

Organizational policies should describe the beneficial features of the vehicle, and stress safety and privacy. They should also cover features that should not be used.

Driver Distractions: Even before the rise of connected vehicles, distraction was a factor in 80 per cent of collisions. Adding additional potential distractions could be disastrous. This is where a strong safety policy can help. Policies should define distracted driving and state which behaviours are not allowed. They should give examples of actions that a driver may not engage in while driving. This includes use of mobile devices (hands free or handheld), adjusting controls or planning routes. Drivers should adjust controls before a trip

Reporting Matrix: Information generated by connected vehicles is valuable and should be used to ensure efficient fleet management. A reporting matrix is an excellent tool to demonstrate what information should be collected and reported to what level of management and at what frequency.

To create a reporting policy, first establish what information must be gathered. After that, you can design and establish indicators and determine how often data will be gathered and analyzed.

Connected vehicles are here and fleet policies must catch up. These vehicles bring benefits to fleets with access to a range of infotainment, advanced navigation systems, safety features and enhanced security features. They also bring risks associated with distracted driving and privacy. A robust connected vehicle policy benefits every organizations dealing with connected vehicles.

Kate Vigneau, CAFM, is director of fleet MCG Consulting Solutions