BVRLA technology report: in detail
06 August 2014
Author: Jack Carfrae
The BVRLA has produced a report on the new technology and developments surrounding the fleet industry.
Known as the 'Fleet Technology White Paper', the publication charts the direction in which technology is headed for the industry and how fleets, leasing companies and rental firms can best make use of it. Here, BusinessCar examines the report in detail.
The BVRLA claims that autonomous emergency braking systems (AEBs) will soon be as commonplace as the likes of ABS and electronic stability control (ESC). The report states: "Once [ESC] became either standard or available on most Focus-sized cars, major fleets tended to make it mandatory - generally around five years before the EU does the same. No fleet is going to want to be the one that does not insist on AEB in five years' time and risk being pilloried in court when one of its cars hits a child at 15mph."
It adds that communication between cars will need to improve to achieve "complete road safety". "[This] will require both a full set of driver assistance on each car, plus the ability for cars to talk to each other - so-called machine-to-machine communication. Cars will tell each other both about their location and of hidden hazards - e.g. a broken down car around a blind bend, or a patch of ice deduced from the behaviour of the car's electronic stability control."
The major issue facing the use of big data is privacy according to the report. It reads: "Fleets report that privacy is probably the biggest single hurdle facing the connected car, at least in terms of telematics. One large fleet told us that it took seven years to get the drivers of service vehicles to accept telematics, and it expected a five- to 10-year period before managers accept it in their cars. That is not to say that telematics will not become standard, but it will be a long, slow process before it becomes the norm in fleet cars."
It continues: "The other major issue is data security. Car companies could end up holding a great deal of personal data on their customers via connected cars. This brings with it the possibility of the data being hacked. Car manufacturers are scared by the prospect of a Sony-style data scandal, which involved the personal accounts of over 100 million gamers being hacked in 2011."
The BVRLA also addressed the need for dedicated resources to dredge through all the data: "Fleet managers we spoke to were divided about the need for another member of staff to handle the data. Some thought that by strategically choosing what, and how, to measure, they could escape having to employ more staff, but others were not so sure."
The BVRLA praises and warns about apps in equal measure, claiming they will be a much larger feature of cars in future and a dangerous distraction at the same time.
According to the report: "The app will be able to memorise settings for all drivers of that car, and users will be able to call them up as easily as they currently call up a stored phone number. The same will apply to audio, radio and phone settings, and drivers will be able to continue sending emails and texts using voice commands. Whatever features the car does have will be controllable via the app, rather than by having to press buttons inside the car.
"[But] apps are one of the biggest potential distractions in a modern car. It would be a horrible irony if the convergence of apps and cars, with so many potential safety benefits, led to distracted drivers worsening road safety. Car companies are very aware of this, and are working hard to simplify the user interfaces, with voice control being seen as the way forward."
Telematics systems are independently shaping the insurance industry, according to the report: "Motor insurance premiums have traditionally been calculated through risk algorithms for certain driver criteria. The availability of more cost-effective and user-friendly telematics has created a huge demand for usage-based insurance, where data on specific drivers and vehicles is used to price individual premiums. Insurers are also excited by this technology because it makes it easier for them to detect fraudulent claims and get early knowledge of any accidents. As more and more vehicles come pre-fitted with embedded connectivity, this insurance model will become more prevalent."
Telematics systems used in conjunction with mobile phone apps are also said to have a serious benefit to the rental industry: "Finally, in-car apps and connectivity are set to give a major boost to the car rental and car-sharing industry. The ability to track vehicles and provide online connectivity and support is essential for car clubs and car-sharing providers, who have previously had to rely on retrofitting the required technology. At least one major manufacturer is already installing car-sharing functionality in nearly every new car it launches.
"As rapid urbanisation leads to greater numbers of people renting vehicles for short periods rather than owning them, and fleet managers come under more pressure to optimise the use of pool cars and reduce their reliance on the grey fleet, this technology is set for widespread adoption."
The report speculates about a rise in pay-as-you go transport, incentivised by the Government, to make more efficient use of the road network: "The Government is well aware of the benefits that closer integration of transport payment and information systems can bring. Thanks to the introduction of the Congestion Zone, the Oyster card and apps that give real-time arrival information, the use of buses in the capital has increased by 65% since 2001 - including by people that would never have considered using one 15 years ago. Surely it is only a matter of time before car sharing, car club and other forms of pay-as-you-go road transport services are similarly integrated with the wider public transport network."