Vehicle Telematics - Mobility Towards the Future

P. Ravishankar, EVP : Sales - Marketing - Aftermarket, Volvo Eicher

Telematics, a combination of Telecommunication + Informatics, is gaining attention in the Indian Automotive industry. In developed economies, vehicle telematics has already revolutionized the fleet transport scenario. In India too, it has vast potential to provide tangible benefits to CV users in operational economics. As the trends indicate, commercial vehicles are way ahead of passenger vehicle segment in adoption of telematics. It comprises of services like tracking and fleet management embedded in the vehicles to maximize fuel efficiency and productivity.

In India, vehicular tracking and fleet management applications are taking a large portion of the total telematics market share. Connected fleets is a primary trend that enables fleet operators and external stakeholders (governments, insurance companies and financial service providers). It manages vehicle operations, risks and revenues along with taxes and insurance premiums. A fleet tracking system utilizes GPS (Global Positioning System) to gather the location and fuel related information of the vehicle on a real time basis, under any weather condition and from anywhere in the world!

Demand for technology that enables safety, information, navigation and remote diagnostics is on the upswing in the commercial vehicle space. The main drivers of the commercial vehicle telematics market are increasing fuel prices and small profit margins in the transportation industry. With technologies such as vehicle tracking, route calculation, checks on fuel pilferage; the fleet operators are able to gain a competitive edge. Other supporting factors that influence the need of vehicle telematics are safety and security concerns due to increase in road accidents and vehicle thefts. (E.g. smoke/alcohol/sleep/theft detector & alarm).

Besides commercial vehicle segment, one interesting case of deploying telematics systems is Formula One Racing. The professional drivers have been utilizing telematics for years to determine the exact locations of opponents on race tracks. It is not only useful in fleet tracking and management, but proves critical during emergencies with call management. An innovative example of telematics in India is that of “She- Taxi” service launched in Kerala to ensure safety of women passengers. The technology in the car monitors and tracks the activities of the passengers and the drivers.

Safety also holds prime importance in the school bus segment. We are seeing a progressive shift towards increased use of telematics, especially in this category of transport. Features like tracking location of the bus, monitoring driving patterns (e.g. harsh braking/driving), security checks (e.g. RFID sensing for kids’ in/out of bus) help assure the parents of their children’s security by keeping a record of their location.

Over a period of time, CV manufacturing companies in India have realized that telematics is not just about monitoring, but also about achieving transparency in business processes and efficiency. Moreover, telematics transmits real time data generated by the vehicle to back end servers, which is then converted to meaningful information & data. Data can be fuel related, distance travelled, error codes, driving pattern etc. Fleet management, the preventive route to vehicle safety, is already being enhanced by companies. It allows a full diagnosis of the vehicle, data logging, real time location tracking and determines the requirement for technical and mechanical maintenance. The benefits are many as it will result in utilizing vehicle capacity more efficiently, thereby reducing idle journeys, saving fuel and avoiding traffic jams. Owners/Drivers are able to see improved uptime/turn-around time, while CV manufacturers benefit by reduced warranty costs through preventive actions and enhanced customer satisfaction.

Drivers’ community is an important and critical part of the CV industry. Telematics can help achieve greater harmony between drivers and owners by drivers’ engagement, providing reliable data for performance based incentives, addressing safety concerns & enabling infotainment features for drivers. The adoption of affordable smart mobile devices is also helping in increasing Telematics’ reach. Lot of service providers are integrating this offering on mobile platforms for providing information and data on the move.

However when it comes to adoption of vehicle telematics, there are challenges as well. The cost of adoption and installation remains one big hurdle to its growth. Another problem arises from the low range utilization and technical unawareness among consumers.

The use of telematics can convert a regular vehicle into an intelligent one! The automobile industry needs to address these challenges and stress on the importance of telematics being a critical monitor for not only performance and detecting flaws in vehicles but also to ensure driver safety. However, the scenario is transforming, even though gradually. Cutting edge features such as fuel management, GPS navigation, vehicle tracking, automatic driving assistance systems support, triggering alerts not only increase utility but up the value offered to the customer. In the long run, these connected trucks would be an integral part of the proposed smart cities of the future as well as a giant leap towards modernization of transportation in India.