A vehicle with enough sensors could tell you if it has been dinged in a car park. By enough, we mean front and rear parking sensors, such is the level of information available from connected cars. If it talks to the ECU, then information from and about that component can almost certainly be transmitted elsewhere. There is seemingly no limit to what could be examined – and to what extent. 

Novel though the prospect of unlimited scrutiny may seem, you have to ask if fleets actually want it. Cogent data analysis of extraordinary value is available, but the modern job with connected car data – at least from an economic perspective – is less what the technology can now do or show, and more how you whittle it down to something truly useful.  

“Very large fleets, leasing companies, rental companies – they would generally be interested to know about first notification of loss – if a vehicle has been involved in a small accident, or perhaps even a hit and run when it was in a parking lot,” says Niels Vos, strategic business development director for OEM at Bridgestone Mobility Solutions, “but it’s still rather challenging to actually obtain that data and translate it into relevant information. We’ve done that, but there are not so many companies who are actually interested in paying the amount that we need to offer it with a healthy business model.”

“Leasing companies are in a very competitive marketplace where they could lose a deal by £50 a month, so adding that cost for having this connected vehicle data could be prohibitive for them,” adds Epyx CCO, Tim Meadows, “there’s vast amounts of data around driver behaviour, GPS location etc, [but] most of the leasing companies don’t need or want it.”

Epyx and others have told Business Car that, after a previously conservative stance, manufacturers are now more liberal when it comes to sharing connected car data with third parties – but that is also said to vary wildly by OEM. The more enthusiastic among them have offered up immense detail which, as Meadows explains, is surplus to requirement. 

“They would offer this massive data package, which was fantastic if you wanted to know that driver A had gone from A-to-B at 76 miles an hour on average and had braked sharply. I think the OEMs have now come to realise that they need to break these data packages down into more manageable pieces.”  

Connected car data is most valuable to the fleet industry when applied to maintenance. Leasing companies, in particular, are keen to know how diligently vehicles have been serviced, because it has a direct impact on residual values. 

“They’d want to know if someone hadn’t serviced their vehicle. Even if they’ve got maintained contracts, they [drivers] don’t service it,” says Fleet Assist managing director, Vincent St Claire, who believes the addition of recall data would be especially useful, “if you could link the data to recalls, that would be great. actually find out, through the telematics feed, that you’ve got vehicles out there require a recall, and the driver hasn’t ignored it.” 

Service interval monitoring is quite possible at the current level of connected car technology (all the telematics system has to do is flag up a service light) and specialists are homing in on similar aspects of maintenance supervision, but with different parameters. Thomas Smith, UK country manager for Targa Telematics, explains that it can be applied to age or mileage in response to the increase in vehicles on extended lease contracts. 

“If [a leasing company] is going to have that vehicle away for longer, they’re going to need to be alerted when it hits these key milestones, because they might not see that vehicle for 48/60 months or whatever it is. Some of the manufacturers are effectively providing warning signals to say, ‘this is due a service,’ [but] we can collect that data based on time or on mileage. In the construction industry, it’s often based on something like engine [running] hours.” 

EV batteries are a major emerging focus for data-based reporting. Their expense and critical effect on residual values have made them talismans for data boffins, who are developing condition, state-of-health, and charging reports. 

“Is it being plugged in and charged to 100% every time?” asks Alain Castle, marketing manager at Bridgestone Mobility Solutions, “we know that’s not good for the battery. That might be a concern for a fleet customer. [and] it’s something that we are working on internally – how we deal with the optimal operation of a vehicle battery in terms of its ideal
charging cycles.”

“We can get much richer sets of data from the newer electric vehicles,” adds Smith, “you might get data about the health of the battery, potentially when it should be serviced, the temperature. That can lead you to understand how it’s being used and how it can be better maintained.

“The sweet spot of between 20% and 80% [charge] is where you want to keep it. You see batteries that barely ever dip below 80%, and you are going to see degradation of that battery over a period of time. If you are the owner of that asset, as the battery is a huge proportion of the value of that vehicle, you are going to want to make sure that it’s monitored correctly.”

“What you’d really want to know [is] how the vehicle’s been used, how many times it’s been fast-charged, has it been charged within the manufacturer guidelines?” adds St Claire, “if you could do a remote state of health [check], that would be great. because that asset’s value is going to significantly dependent on the battery health.”

Tyres are another target area for data and Bridgestone, as you might expect, is all over them. It bought telematics specialist Webfleet in 2019 (the name remains as a product) and is on the cusp of launching a service for commercial vehicle fleets that highlights data absorbed from tyre pressure monitoring systems.  

“We will be increasingly capable of providing predictive information about how the tyres are performing,” says Vos, “in professional fleets, under-inflation or over-inflation of the tyres is very important, not only from a total cost of ownership perspective, but also for the tyres themselves, and for fuel consumption, etc. In many cases, it can also be the main cause of breakdowns. so the future condition of the tyre because of a lack of maintenance is very important for professional fleets. We’re increasingly working on that, and it’s not a product that’s already live, but it’s definitely something that will come shortly.”

We have run many a story on the possibilities of predictive telematics and it remains something that seems to be just around the corner. RAC Telematics was gearing up for it in the late 2010s by overlaying connected car data with known faults identified by the organisation’s roadside repair service, but a market-ready version never came to fruition. As its former boss Nick Walker told us in 2021, “we got really good at predicting things that didn’t matter. the first list of things that we identified that were going to happen turned out to be insignificant in their percentage of reasons of why vehicles fail.”

St Claire thinks predictive telematics could be successful, but only if with very common faults: “It’s probably doable if you’ve got a repeat issue happening with a particular vehicle. you could bolt that together and you could be quite laser-focused. [But] unless you’ve got a common enough fault, you can’t do that.” 

You cannot have a tech story without AI these days, and Epyx is using it to progress things with predictive data. As Meadows explains, it can allegedly move the game along from identifying and instructing operators based on the ping and glow of a warning light, to knowing what a warning on a certain vehicle, at a certain mileage is likely to lead to. 

“It might not even be a warning light, but there’ll be a message in the system that will say something is going to happen. The AI can then say, ‘if that light comes on, then 90% of the time, in less than 4,000 miles, the vehicle is going to break down. therefore you need to do this’. The AI is actually getting there before any of that happens based on triggers within the engine management system.”

The firm has also run a series of pilots to track mileage based on connected vehicle data, to provide leasing companies with a better picture of something Meadows says has been historically murky. 

“What it’s showing up is vehicles that are well over the mileage from a service perspective. Leasing companies have very little visibility of mileage. [and] it showed up a number of vehicles that had had service lights on for a period of time, but they’d had the [repair] work done. There were even some where service lights had come on, then gone off again. so who’s paid for it is the question there. It should be the leasing company, but has the driver paid for it themselves unwittingly, or is there anything there that makes you wonder ‘how come the light’s just gone off?'”