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Increasing use of AI predicted to help fleet managers, not replace them

Date: 26 February 2019   |   Author: Sean Keywood

Artificial intelligence is set to assist rather than replace fleet managers for the foreseeable future, according to software company Fleetcheck.

The firm's IT director Neil Avent has said that while the technology has the potential to simplify and accelerate a wide range of tasks, an automated fleet manager still remains science fiction.

He said that while AI available today is a useful tool, it has clear limits.

He explained: "For example, one of the things we are looking at now is using AI to identify different sorts of document that arrive into a fleet department. Is it an invoice? A driver's licence? A speeding fine notification? 

"AI is good at a singular type of task such as this. It can be taught to identify some of the key features of each kind of document and then place them in the appropriate queue for action with a high degree of accuracy. This saves a lot of administrative time and effort. 

"However, a separate process is needed to know what to do with those documents in terms of the next action. That is because a more general type of general AI. is a long way away." 

Avent said the key thing to remember about current AI technology is its innate lack of contextual knowledge.

He said: "AI is good at looking for patterns within clearly defined boundaries. For example, if you give it a thousand pictures and ask it to find all the ones that include kittens, you could teach it to do this by providing enough examples of pictures containing a kitten.

"But that is where it's intelligence about kittens ends. It knows nothing more about kittens than the visual characteristics of the example images containing kittens. It does not know what a kitten is."

Avent added that several paradigm shifts would be needed before AI could take over even some quite basic fleet management processes. 

"In a sense, it is a shame that AI includes the word 'intelligence' because it provides a very misleading picture of its capability," he said. 

"It has no intelligence of its own and is, in many ways, just a further development and refinement of existing IT processes that gives the illusion of intelligence to users not aware of its constraints. 

"However, it does have potential for some pretty significant gains and one of the things we'll be looking at within Fleetcheck during 2019 is how some of those can be incorporated into our fleet management software."