Brett Brinton, president and CEO of fleet technology company Zonar Systems, provided an overview of emerging trends in onboard telematics that are affecting or figure to soon touch the fleet and automotive segments.
"You are about to see another big, quantum leap just like you saw with your smartphones," he said during a webinar on Nov. 29. "The information age is getting more and more complex."
For vehicle telematics, this means new applications that act as "tethered platform services," a term that refers to a physical link to a vehicle network to record, report and analyze data points. For example, Brinton said today's modern trucks have eight or more computers that are tied to the transmission, engine controller, instrument cluster and chassis. Passenger vehicles, such as the BMW 7 Series have more than 100 computers tied together through multiplexing that talk to each other, Brinton added.
Other solutions include insurance telematics that use algorithms already being used by large over-the-road trucking companies and utility companies to identify, record and track hard starts and hard braking, RPMs and the engine's " and how driver behavior affects fuel economy. This along with the resulting driver feedback that be stored in the can drive increased fuel efficiency by upwards of 20 percent and several hundreds of dollars a month per bus.
"If you think we have maximized the ability to improve mpg, we'd be not even close," Brinton added. "This is an opportunity to really make a dent in your business."
He also pointed to Detroit Diesel's Virtual Technician as one of the best examples of networked vehicles that is currently available to the fleet market. Acting similar to an airplane "black box," Virtual Technician links to the diagnostic port to record more than 60 different parameters, such as turbocharger pressure, RPMs, and coolant pressure. Software details necessary to fault codes and can contact the driver, dispatcher or fleet manager of any problem areas.
Brinton added that data indicates that vehicles employing Virtual Technician are remaining in on-the-road operation at a clip of 40 percent more than vehicles without it.
As far as emerging trends go, Brinton said a big advancement coming down the road is the ability to link fuel cards to the vehicle's ECU. This authorizes fueling per vehicle rather than per employee by tying the vehicle network to the actual pump, which can eliminate fuel theft. He added that fueling applications offer the convenience of pump and go while also reporting mileage, fuel level and fault codes.
"It's my belief that something similar will come to our passenger cars," said Brinton.
Brinton also pointed to increasing demand for what he called "Bring Your Own Device," or BYOD, that allows fleet managers and even drivers to utilize apps on smartphones or tablets to connect to vehicle data via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and send it back to a web application.
"There is big controversy about cell phones usage and driving, so that is something to consider," he suggested. "There is going to be dedicated, hardened devices. Currently Android is the one that is out there that you see attached to the vehicle, but also BYOD. There are aftermarket products that will service this use. We have something, and OEMs will soon to offer similar connectivity."
Zonar released its 2020 Tablet at the NAPT Summit in October as a next-generation, open-platform device to track and record driver hours of service, vehicle inspections utilzing the company's Electronic Vehicle Inspection Reports, or EVIR, vehicle navigation, two-way messaging, driver feedback, and, coming soon, student tracking with the company's ZPass solution. Earlier, the company released its V3 computer box that plugs directly into the vehicle diagnostics port.