Telematics is a technology that has the potential to do a lot of things for a lot of businesses. It can help cut back on fuel costs, reduce vehicle wear, improve business efficiency and make organising large groups of vehicles much easier for the fleet manager. However there’s one aspect that trumps all of this and that’s that telematics can help improve the safety of drivers and ultimately save lives.
This is done through a variety of ways, from emergency call systems that inform the relevant services if an accident occurs, to tracking driver habits to help them cut their own chances of having a collision.
However a lot of the time these technologies and innovations come out of specific companies and while there might be a lot of them out there, there are a few that deserve notification for being the true pioneers of telematics safety. So today we’re going to look at some of the most stand out firms and give them their dues when it comes to improving the safety of our roadways.
Although telematics from most providers delivers similar tracking – speed, location, distance travelled, cornering, acceleration and braking – not every company believes raw numbers are the only way to improve driver safety, nor protect them from some of the other dangers on the road, like insurance fraud.
However, some companies are now beginning to make new telematics systems available that include a 3G equipped camera and they have one firm to thank for that: Intelligent Telematics.
For the past couple of years, Intelligent Telematics has been offering its rather unique take on telematics tracking, by recording constantly while a driver goes about their day. Not everything is saved, but if an ‘event’ happens, which could be anything from sharp braking to a full scale accident, the last minute or so and the upcoming few minutes are recorded for posterity – locally if it’s not a big ‘event,’ or sent remotely to the company’s servers if it is.
When combined with traditional telematics tracking, the 3G enabled camera feed can provide important context to certain incidents and over time can allow fleet managers to recommend certain training practices for particular drivers if they see them being unsafe on the road.
Of course all of this wouldn’t be worth doing if there wasn’t some real payoff for it. But there is. Commercial vehicle fleets that utilise these sorts of cameras can see drops in accident rates by as much as 45 per cent. That in turn improves insurance rates for those companies, which can represent a big saving in its own right.
And even when accidents do occur, fraud can be avoided and back and forth haggling by insurers reduced, since there is camera and raw speed data to let everyone know just who was in the wrong.
While not a telematics focused firm like some of the other companies on this list, Dive Alive is one of the world’s leading driver risk assessment firms and for that, it makes extensive use of telematics. However, unlike some firms which believe it’s a catchall solution, Drive Alive’s managing director Mike Rees, spoke out last year (https://www.telematics.com/telematics-blog/training-still-required-risk-management-warns-car-hire-firm/) about how he believes it works best, when combined with traditional training practices.
As great as telematics is, one of its main problems is that it gives managers too much confidence he said and they believe that simply by installing an application or telematics device, that that was the end of their job. In reality Rees said, that is just the beginning.
Although picking up a driver for speeding or heavy acceleration through a decreased driver score is quite common these days, companies like Drive Alive encourage a different approach that focuses on training. That means that drivers who are found to have problems with their driving are shown how to do it correctly, rather than just assuming that they’ll be able to improve their driving safety on their own.
Rees believes that a lot of telematics companies are keen to put across a message that their solution is able to fix everything; not so according to him. Drive Alive’s message is clear that while telematics can be part of improving driver safety, it’s the combination of the tracking and training that can make the real difference.
Reese even suggests that one novel way to utilise telematics to motivate drivers, would be to install it for a temporary period, rather than on an ongoing basis. While location tracking might be of use long term, driver behaviour monitoring might be best suited to a short sprint once a year to make sure training has continued to be effective. If it has, the morale boost and confidence instilled in a driver knowing that their employer trusts them by removing the tracker could be invaluable.
It’s this unique approach to telematics which really separates Drive Alive from the pack and puts it among some of the best telematics safety developers on our list.
Institute for Advanced Motorists
If there’s one group that understands the importance of road safety, it’s the Institute for Advanced Motorists (IAM). Founded in 1956 with the aim of reducing road casualties by improving the driving skills of those that sit behind the wheel, it’s spent decades trying to keep us safe, which isn’t something that can be said for many others.
However, while it does focus on paid-for training for drivers, IAM is also a big fan of telematics and believes that it can play a crucial role in cutting accident rates and improving overall driver safety. So much so in-fact, that earlier this year it announced the impending launch of a new behaviour-training scheme built around telematics packages provided by Lightfoot.
The scheme offers a unique blend of technology and traditional teaching to provide more comprehensive training to drivers. The system begins with a one on one IAM Drive and Survive coaching session which is designed to spot any key weaknesses in a driver’s perception of the road, or in their handling of the vehicle. The course instructor will also look at the attitude of the person behind the wheel, and teach them to take into consideration their mood and other factors which might change how safe they are when driving.
After this section of the course is completed, a Lightfoot telematics device is added to the vehicle and the training continues using the technology. Unlike traditional telematics systems which provide visual feedback after a journey is completed, or every few weeks when a report comes through from an insurer, Lightfoot’s system gives audio and visual cues while a person is driving, giving them immediate feedback on their habits and choices.
The idea behind that part of the IAM system is to make drivers more mindful of their driving style, which might slip when they aren’t being analysed by the instructor any more. That sort of consistent monitoring is the key to success, according to the institute.
To make sure that any drivers that require training continue long term and that they are always reminded of their behaviour when behind the wheel, Lightfoot also maintains an ongoing relationship with their company as part of the scheme. Every few weeks Lightfoot emails results and reports of different drivers to their fleet managers, which allows them in turn to recommend additional training if needed.
IAM believes that this third party support is important long term, not just because it keeps drivers on their toes, but because it doesn’t make them feel like their employer or manager is leering over them. By Lightfoot monitoring them rather than their own firm, it creates more trust between employers, which is something that can be difficult to cultivate with traditional telematics devices.
Even though a lot of companies would argue that short periods of telematics monitoring are better, IAM thinks differently and through its new training and telematics bespoke system, it’s pioneering a new way to improve driver habits and operating standards.
Bosch Communication Centre
One of the most interesting additions to the telematics fleet of safety technology is, the EU mandated Ecall system. What Ecall does, is allow a tracked vehicle to get in touch with the emergency services as soon as an accident occurs. That can then expedite the sending of police and/or ambulance workers in order to help anyone that may require assistance. On top of that, it can send data from the vehicle itself, such as whether airbags deployed and how fast it was travelling prior to the crash.
Once a connection has been established between the driver and Bosch’s Ecall , in most instances, the system will allow the driver or a passenger to speak with the emergency responder, but if for some reason that isn’t possible, location and other data will be sent automatically, allowing for a faster response.
When brought into effect, mandated Ecall inclusion in vehicles will also see a manual button added, which will allow those witnessing accidents or other disasters to quickly contact their local emergency services in order to again, help them respond that bit faster.
While the European Union has mandated that all new cars will need to come equipped with this system by 2017, it has been in place in some vehicles as a premium feature for some time now. In both instances however, the company behind its management is Bosch Service Solutions, which developed the back-end system for it along with other remote services like breakdown assistance and vehicle tracking.
Bosch’s contribution to telematics safety advancements isn’t linked to just one development however. While it may have founded the idea of the Ecall system and developed its infrastructure, Bosch Service Solution (BSS) maintains the network that sustains it and makes sure that coverage throughout the EU is near absolute. With service centres in 15 countries worldwide, BSS utilises state of the art workforce management and smart routing systems to guarantee that its services are fast and reliable – while not costing the Earth.
Part of the big advancement of the Ecall system that it developed too, is that it crosses borders. While there may be localised services in place at the moment, it’s rare for an Ecall-like service that can work in 20 different European countries, catering to numerous different languages and dialects that might make communicating with an emergency responder difficult.
This is achieved by linking the caller with a representative that can speak their native language – chosen when setting up the Ecall system – who in turn can then make sure that the emergency responder that they are put in touch with can also communicate in that language. That way, there should be no barriers between the person in trouble and those who can help.
All in all, the Ecall system is said to cut emergency response times by up to 50 per cent in urban areas and by more than 40 per cent in rural regions. That sort of time saving will save innumerable lives and allow those that would have survived anyway, to recover faster, heal more completely and suffer less lasting damage because of the accident.
Ecall has the potential to revolutionise emergency responses to vehicle related dangers, easily earning Bosch Service Solutions a place on this list.
Thanks to the benefits of telematics technology becoming more widely known, we’re starting to see a lot more companies and organisations extolling its safety benefits. However, there are a select few which are really helping us pioneer new ways to make it even better and to use it in new and exciting ways.
While these are our favourites, what are some of the companies you think are making telematics better than ever before?