Industry Focus: Connected Cars and Fleet Management
As the Internet of Things slowly assimilates into all facets of our lives, we are noticing incremental changes in how people and businesses operate. Connected cars are an excellent example of how this new technology is revolutionizing a highly established market. However, a particular segment of the auto industry is taking this technology to the next level and truly transforming their businesses for the better: fleet management.
Managing a large fleet of vehicles has traditionally been a job fraught with challenges, and the Internet of Things is making great headway in alleviating them. And while it may herald a loss of jobs for some professions, there is huge potential for individuals to hone the right skills and create a successful career is this fast-paced field.
Fleet management and its challenges
Transporting products and people is a huge business, globally valued at 12.08 billion in 2016 and expected to grow to 28.66 billion by 2022. In Europe alone, the number of active commercial vehicles is also expected to reach 14.1 million in 2021. With ever higher consumer expectations, getting products to the right place at the right time can be a vital advantage for businesses.
However, ensuring the smooth operation of a massive fleet offers a variety of challenges.
Driver safety productivity
Driver error is the leading cause of vehicle accidents so ensuring drivers operate vehicles safely is a primary part of fleet management. This means ensuring that drivers are well trained, well rested and responsible, while also operating at peak productivity.
Fuel costs and carbon emissions
The high variation in fuel costs directly correlates to operational profitability, making vehicle mileage a vital performance indicator of vehicles and drivers. Moreover, with most governments across Europe trying to cut down on carbon emissions, operating vehicles efficiently is more important than ever.
Maintaining massive fleets is an expensive business and a strict check has to be kept on preventive vehicular maintenance to avoid excessive depreciation, high insurance costs and accidental damage. Even the loss of a single vehicle can throw an entire system into disarray.
IOT based solutions to fleet management problems
So, how exactly are connected vehicles helping to mitigate these concerns? A good way to look at this is the variety of innovative products that companies and start-ups are offering.
Driver assistance and safety
IOT based assistance systems are making connected vehicles safer than ever, making them a godsend for fleet managers. Zendrive is a simple but innovative approach to helping improve driver behaviour using driving data accumulated using smartphones. The data is then analysed to create custom solutions for each driver to improve their efficiency and driving habits. Lytx takes this approach to the next step, using dedicated cameras and GPS to capture driver behaviour. The data is then analysed and used to help fleet managers create training programs tailored to improve each driver’s particular weaknesses.
Fleet telematics refers to accumulating and transmitting all manner of vehicle and driver data to help manage fleet operations. W-locate is one company providing end-to-end job tracking to give managers an in-depth look into their operations. Zonar provides a wider range of services, using sensors to track vehicles, their fuel efficiency and even defects. This allows fleet managers to plan ahead and automate a lot of processes ensuring minimal downtime for drivers and vehicles. Telogis couples these services with route optimization and integration of services with HR, payroll and maintenance departments for more streamlined operations.
Vehicle to vehicle, and vehicle to infrastructure communication
An important aspect of connected vehicles is V2V and V2I communication. These systems use dedicated networks and hardware that allow vehicles to communicate with their surrounding vehicles and roadside infrastructure. Peloton is an important innovator in this segment, creating hardware solutions for vehicular communication. This has a variety of applications including safer lane changes, traffic alerts and avoidance and accident prevention. Peloton’s system also allows platooning, creating convoys of automated vehicles that operate far more efficiently. With such systems a pre-requisite for autonomous cars, they will soon be becoming an integral part of our roads.
Vehicle maintenance and efficiency
Ensuring timely vehicle maintenance is an important part of fleet management as it helps curbs accidents and vehicle depreciation. Zubie provides essential services for businesses, coupling their hardware with the car’s on-board systems to warn against potential problems. Pinnacle Engines takes this to the next level with dedicated hardware for better engine management that helps to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency. Greenroad couples these methods while also bringing the driver’s behaviour into the equation, providing essential data that will help improve vehicle efficiency through improved driving habits.
Skillsets, qualifications and study programs
All in all, the fleet industry is ripe for improvement through smarter and more connected vehicles. With so many companies entering the fray to capitalize on this multi-billion-dollar industry and governments mandating the use of electronic logging, there is high demand for professionals to help design and maintain such systems:
Designing innovative software solutions is an integral part of fleet management. From mobile front-ends to robust back-end systems, software engineers will be in high demand.
- RWTH Aachen University, Germany, Masters in Electrical Engineering, Information Technology, and Computer Engineering
- University of Oxford, Masters in Software and Systems Security
- Technical University of Munich, Masters in Automotive Software Engineering
With an increasing amount of on-board electronics, sensors and interfacing with vehicular systems, electronic engineers are playing a pivotal role in ensuring fleet management systems in vehicles work reliably.
- Technische Universität Dresden, Masters in Mechatronics
- Politecnico di Milano, Masters in Automation and Control Engineering
- Uppsala University, Sweden, Masters in Embedded Systems
Perhaps the most important part of connected vehicles for fleet management is going through the masses of data produced by sensors. Analysing this data is important in coming up with training programs and policy changes that improve the efficiency of fleets and the productivity of drivers. Data scientists will be an integral part of such systems.
- University of Bristol, Masters in Advanced Computing – Machine Learning, Data Mining and High-Performance Computing
- University of Surrey, Masters in Computer Vision, Robotics and Machine Learning
Smarter electronics require smart algorithms to work, making computer scientists essential to connected fleets. Through artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision techniques, the efficacy and return on investment of such systems can be drastically improved.
- Sapienza University of Rome, Masters in Engineering in AI and Robotics
- University of Amsterdam, Masters in Artificial Intelligence
- Warsaw University of Technology, Master in Engineering and Hybrid Electric Vehicle
Maintaining and installing networks to enable vehicular communication is a pre-requisite, bringing communication engineers into the limelight.
- The University of Sheffield, Masters in Data Communication
- Cardiff University, Masters in Wireless and Microwave Communication Engineering
- TU Dortmund University, Masters in Information and Communication Engineering
To conclude, fleet management offers a unique set of challenges that have been hard to resolve with traditional approaches. With connected vehicles, orchestrating such massive operations while ensuring safety and operational efficiency is becoming a reality. Moreover, there is a dearth of individuals capable of creating and maintaining such systems making the skills mentioned above highly sought after. For those with the right skills, becoming a part of the connected car revolution can spell a successful career for years to come.
If you liked this article, you might also be interested in our feature on Connectivity in general. If you want to be notified of all our new postings make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.