What fleet managers want
Telematics systems that will quickly show where all vehicles are. Vehicle condition data delivered in an easy to consume manner. Data delivered in a timely and accurate way. Use/frequency information across all vehicles. Live information on vehicle condition. Multiple platform capability. In 2017, Toyota New Zealand CE Alister Davis was talking about the next step in vehicle technologies. Even as the company was deep in planning its ‘Drive Happy’ vision for dealerships of the future, he also saw an imminent step-change in battery technology as endowing hybrid and EV vehicles with even greater capabilities that verge on true AI. Right now, cars from a number of manufacturers are using in-cabin cameras to monitor the alertness of driver and passengers and give a warning if it decides the driver is nodding off. The system sits alongside lane departure warning technology and in some cases uses a tiny camera to observe the driver and measure the number of blinks per minute, or the pattern of eye movement. Is Big Brother watching? At the moment, this kind of technology is mainly aimed at communication between driver and vehicle, but could easily be on-sent to traffic enforcement authorities. The obstacle in the way of making information available to a third party is more a matter of ethics and privacy than of technology.
The Internet of Things
Causing more excitement among the boffins is how a concept called the Internet of Things might work with telematics to help make motoring safer. Bridges, buildings, roads can all have their own identities online, meaning congestion, traffic accidents or weather can all be reported to a vehicle using a particular road. It’s an extension of the much simpler level of traffic information available in many countries right now. In the USA, work is under way to use telematics for interactivity among vehicles and infrastructure. This could allow warning systems to alert drivers of dangerous situations, help them avoid congested roads or traffic issues and facilitate more economical use of existing roadways – or just open gates on parking levels as the motorist arrives at work. Adding two-way communication is a simple further step enabling the vehicle and the environment it travels through to engage in conversations without the driver’s involvement. Four-wheel drive makers including Toyota have been creating vehicles with 360-degree ‘vision’ thanks to cameras mounted discreetly on the body that have overlapping areas of vision. The technology made its debut on the Land Cruiser. It creates a blended image of the whole of the vehicle’s surroundings – handy when cresting that blind brow at Karioitahi and just as handy when peeking out of a laneway in downtown Auckland or Wellington. Once more, AI looks set to make a huge impact on our roads as autonomous (driverless) cars move closer to everyday reality. Google has grabbed headlines creating driverless cars for the mass market. Uber was keen for a while, though teething problems including some unfortunate collisions with pedestrians have cooled the ardour of mass-market innovators for the moment. It’s a different story in the premier sector. Jaguar-land Rover has implemented an international project called Autoplex , a $NZ10M project to develop self-driving cars that can ‘see’ at blind junctions and through obstacles. The company aims to combine mapping technologies so an autonomous vehicle receives more information earlier in its decision-making processes. Connected, automated and live information converge, with connected mapping enabling cars to communicate with each other in real time. This is seen as key to autonomous cars smoothly negotiating merge lanes and motorway onramps.