The development of driverless vehicle technologies is moving at pace. We’ve seen images of autonomous cars on Google Campus, witnessed the trial of a driverless shuttle bus in Greenwich in London, heard about the Teslas navigating our roads and read that driverless tech is at the core of Uber’s future business model.
While the removal of a human driving is the headline grabber, for businesses managing a fleet, the idea that vehicles can analyze and action operational data independently and in real-time, is compelling.
But rather than waiting decades for the data benefits of autonomous vehicles, businesses can already harness the power of telematics to gain access to new data points and empower the driver to be more informed, efficient and safer.
Every five-mph driven over 65 mph represents a 7% decrease in fuel efficiency. Multiplied across the fleet, a few extra miles per hour can quickly escalate into significant outlays on fuel. Readily available telematics solutions and GPS tracking technologies already help businesses increase fuel efficiency. These solutions enable businesses to track vehicle use - to ensure drivers remain within speed limits - and improve route efficiency, both of which can make a huge difference to fuel budgets.
As well as speed, a big fuel issue for fleets is engine idling. A driver stuck for an hour in traffic or waiting for a delivery with the engine still running wastes up to 3.7 litres of fuel with the average price of fuel at £1.16 per litre in the UK, this means a company running a fleet of 10 vehicles could easily add an extra £900 per month purely by standing still. By opting for telematics solutions which offer integrated GPS tracking and log idle start and stop times, locations of idling, and monitor driver behavior patterns, fleets can gain valuable insights into fuel management and clear evidence to support new behavior patterns.
Any business owner knows it’s not easy to keep employees safe when they’re all out on the road. Various telematics platforms include vehicle tracking systems which offer real-time insight into driver location and driving behavior, providing notifications when a vehicle exceeds a set speed threshold. This not only ensures driver compliance, but also lowers the risk of accidents, reduces liability and over the longer term, depending on your carrier, can cut insurance costs, and improve company perception.
The reality is, most accidents are the result of human error. While driverless vehicles offer a potential solution they’re still relatively unproven, especially in a professional capacity. So, until they become the norm, telematics provide the best solution for safer, more responsible driving.
As well as keeping your drivers safe, keeping your vehicles secure can also prove a challenge - particularly without increasing insurance premiums. We don’t yet know if driverless vehicles will be any more secure than human-operated vehicles, so until the option becomes available, GPS tracking offers a viable alternative to help facilitate the quick recovery of stolen vehicles by providing officials with the last known location of the vehicle.
Improving productivity and profit margins is always something to strive for, whether you are a big or small business. Driverless vehicles may certainly improve productivity among fleets when they become a mainstream technology. They have the potential to disrupt the traditional fleet model of assigning one vehicle to one driver, as in the future they will be able to support the workload of multiple field service agents at the same time. This is valuable time that fleet managers gain back considering a company vehicle spends 50% of the working day sitting idle.
An autonomous vehicle could do this by providing viable suggestions for the fleet manager on routes, fuel-efficiency, and usage based on analysis of the vast reams of data it could collect each day. But this technology is already ready to be implemented through telematics. Various platforms contain tools to help fleet managers make informed decisions on increasing productivity today. By using a platform that allows you to view data in a meaningful way - modified according to your fleet structure - you’re able to make accurate business decisions and respond to customer needs quickly. This, in turn, improves efficiency, customer experience, and lowers costs.
We are still some time away from driverless vehicles becoming commonplace in field service delivery. The good news for fleet managers, however, is that their benefits are already available. As with any technology purchase, the key is to stay focused on the business problems you want to solve. Efficiency, safety, and productivity are recurring challenges for many fleets and telematics are already helping with all three. There’s no need to wait for robots to catch up.