Nick Walker's blog: 18 August - How telematics could shape the future of road investment
18 August 2015
Nick Walker is managing director of RAC Telematics
Investment in the UK road network is still firmly on the Government's agenda, as George Osborne declared in his summer budget statement on July 8.
The plan is to channel funds into those areas of the network most in need and alleviate the 'pinch points' which lead to congestion. But the question is whether decisions on investment could be made more effectively by using data gathered from our own cars, vans and trucks using the roads every day?
Telematics 'black boxes' are increasingly used by insurance providers and fleet managers and have traditionally been first and foremost a tool for tracking vehicles.
But the recent Transport Committee, Motoring of the Future report highlights a greater interest in the benefits that telematics could bring.
The committee has been tasked specifically with investigating how telematics and technology can be used more widely and the report outlines the potential impact that technology could have. By identifying road infrastructure weaknesses technology can play a role in highlighting areas those areas in need investment, as well as ultimately reducing road accidents.
This could mean new junction layouts in areas that consistently show a daily peak traffic gridlock. Or quickly highlight a surge in traffic levels when a new major employer opens up in town, for example. If insurers are prepared to hand over data, it could also be used for crash investigation and safety research purposes.
The report recommends that the Department for Transport (DfT) works with representatives from the whole of the insurance industry and others who hold data on driving - such as vehicle and sat nav manufacturers, and fleet owners and operators - to collect anonymised data from vehicles. This could be combined with existing information from the Highways Agency to inform policy.
Professor Eric Sampson states that telematics is the future of motor safety, with a prediction that by 2050, insurance companies could require all vehicles to be fitted with the software. However, questions have been raised over whether there is enough hard evidence to show telematics' direct impact on accident levels.
So if telematics is to play a bigger part in the development of transport policy and infrastructure development, accuracy must be at the forefront of all technology. This has been a big priority at RAC Business where our telematics technology has undergone rigorous testing by the Transport Research Laboratories to ensure above average accuracy levels.
In reality, GPS technology that was initially created as a tracking system for the army is now showing the potential to shape how our roads are designed and draw an accurate picture of our driving habits.
There is a real opportunity for telematics to have wider impacts on how our road network looks and operates, on top of shaping drivers habits.
With government waking up to its potential, we have possibly only scratched the surface on what it can offer.