Productivity

Fleet, telemetry and the future of cars

Anna Horan
Culture Journalist

Anna Horan is writer and editor based in Melbourne. She has written for Broadsheet, The Big Issue and Junkee Media, and is the former editor of TheVine.

Anna Horan
Culture Journalist

Anna Horan is writer and editor based in Melbourne. She has written for Broadsheet, The Big Issue and Junkee Media, and is the former editor of TheVine.

The future’s bright for businesses with company owned vehicles. The connected car’s a reality in the near future.

Connected cars are becoming more prevalent on our roads and even in these early stages, they are demonstrating their value as a savvy business investment. For those looking to upgrade their fleet, connected vehicles are proving to prevent crashes, improve efficiency, and have the potential to transform our road networks and the way we drive.

Speaking to Alex Grande, the acting general manager for Telstra's M2M and IoT in enterprise mobility, we delved into where telemetry is at now, what business owners need to be aware of when planning their fleets and the future of fleet technology. 

A small smart car drives on a clear day to the right of the photo

Communicating cars

Telemetrics and M2M technology are increasingly being integrated into cars, and these connected vehicles are helping companies do better business on and off the roads.

Telemetric technology captures data remotely and transmits it back to a collection point. In terms of its use in vehicles, the data collected sends information about a car’s use back to the business, working in tandem with machine-to-machine (M2M) technology that Grande describes as “providing a single type of communication between your fleet or your car or your truck through to headquarters’ infrastructure.”

They are one part of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the internet connectivity being applied to thousands of objects to enable new applications and connectiveness. Currently, the biggest wins for fleet management with connected cars are in safety enhancements and analysing vehicle and driver behaviour. 

Safety first

According to TAC initiative, How Safe Is Your Car, “Road crashes are one of the most common reasons behind work-related injuries, fatalities and absence in Australia.”

Company car drivers typically have a higher crash risk because they spend more time on the road, have longer distances to cover and are often under time pressures and tight schedules. Company car drivers also tend to be less concerned about car damage, wear and tear because they don’t own the cars they drive.”

However emerging technology within the car market such as Auto Emergency Breaking, which alerts the driver to imminent crashes and independently employs brakes in critical situations, and Intelligent Speed Adaptation, which detects and alerts drivers to new speed zones and speeding, are already impacting on this statistic. How Safe Is Your Car predicts that if all cars in Australia were fitted with ISA, fatal crashes would be reduced by up to 24 per cent. Individual businesses would also see a reduction in fuel consumption and gas emissions, too.

Good in an emergency

Another piece of connected car tech that is making its way into Australian cars is the ability for cars to contact and transmit the location to emergency services in instances where a crash has occurred.

In the day-to-day, being able to track where the company cars are and whether they are in motion or not will also make drivers more accountable for their use.

"You have your small fleet management organisation with four or five vehicles on the road and obviously there is a huge capital outlay having these vehicles on the road,” says Grande.

This tech will “make sure that drivers are doing the right thing when they’re inside their vehicles on the road.”

Built-in connectivity

These applications are just the tip of the innovation iceberg. Fleet technology is exponentially evolving. At the moment, Telstra is working with a number of car manufacturers to embed connectivity into cars on the production line, rather than installing devices after the fact.

"When the car gets out of production, the car already has connectivity to the Telstra network," says Grande.

Getting in at this early stage means that sophisticated tracking of what maintenance a car needs, from engines to transmission belts to tyres, will be available.

Grande says this is a great "value adding proposition". Instead of having to fork out for a new vehicle when cars become irreparable - "because they couldn't detect these things when they were actually happening" - fleet managers may be able to keep good cars on the road for longer.

It could also potentially improve costs for fleet managers when discussing insurance premiums. Grande says insurance agencies will be able to use businesses’ collected data to then tailor insurance plans, the high level of accurate reporting ensuring both sides are getting a fair deal depending on use, driver behaviour and built-in safety tech.

A brilliant connected future

IoT won’t just be changing our cars it will be changing our roads, tollways and the entire driving ecosystem, particularly with the advent of automated cars. The M2M and IoT technology will expand to not just getting cars to talk to each other, but have cars communicating the road network, creating a “smart city”.

“We’re working towards smart parking, we’re working towards smart lighting, smart highways, smart roads,” says Grande. “So in the near future Telstra will provide connectivity to roads, cities and lights that will then enable another experience of your connected car. And your connected car will connect and share information with roads, tollways and highways.”

This connectivity will then be able to respond to changing road conditions, changing weather conditions and changing traffic conditions. For example, the smart city approach will be able to help divert traffic when there is congestion during peak hour or an accident holds up traffic on the highway.

“We’re in the infancy of connected cars and smart cities, we’re in the infancy of IoT business but the possibilities are just enormous in this space,” says Grande. “This is just the start.”

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