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18 Feb 21

5 ways connected vehicles boost fleet safety

Information delivered from connected vehicles is giving fleet managers detailed insight into the behaviour of their drivers and the mechanical condition of their vehicles. Aftermarket telematics systems, and increasingly factory-fit connectivity technology, are tracking the speed of vehicles, their routes and locations, as well as the condition of components. Allied to smart reporting software, this information can trigger alerts to dangerous driving practices and to parts at risk of failure, both of which can lead to crashes. For safety-conscious fleet operators, here are five ways that data from connected vehicles holds the key to improving fleet safety.

1. Combat speeding

Numerous studies have shown the strong correlation between speed and accident risk. The European Commission cites figures that show a rise in average speed of 1 km/h will result in a change in accident numbers ranging between 2% for a 120 km/h road, and by 4% for a 50 km/h road. Put bluntly, higher speeds not only reduce the time that drivers have to react but also extend the distance they cover before reacting. Moreover, physics shows that braking distance is proportional to the square of speed (v2), so the opportunity to avoid a crash diminishes as speed increases.

Figures from safety organisation Rospa reveal how this relates to the real world: inappropriate speed contributes to around 11% of all collisions that cause injury (and are reported to the police), 13% of crashes that lead to a serious injury, and 21% of accidents that result in a death.

One experienced fleet manager urged fleets not to panic when their first sets of telematics data show that just about every driver has broken the speed limit. Unfortunately, this is simply an accurate reflection of every day life. The key factor, he said, is to identify regular cases where drivers break speed limits in higher risk areas, such as town centres and residential streets.

“Issuing a blanket statement to slow down won’t work,” he said. “But explaining to a driver that doing 60kph in a 50kph zone could make the difference between a pedestrian surviving or dying in an accident can change behaviours.”

2. Tackle aggressive driving styles

Accelerometers within telematics systems can record incidents of harsh braking, an indicator of drivers with higher risk behaviours. According to the US’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end collisions where a driver crashes into the car in front are the most frequent accident and are responsible for about 29 percent of all car collisions.

“While hard braking may occasionally be required if a vehicle ahead stops suddenly, in general drivers who constantly hard brake may be following traffic at too-close a distance and increasing the risk of rear-end collisions,” said Kevin Aries, leader, product management, product successfor Verizon Connect.

Identifying drivers with higher incidents of harsh braking and acting to change their behaviour via dashboard alerts, classroom coaching and in-vehicle training can significantly reduce fleet road risk.

3. Give drivers an early warning of hazards

One of the biggest advantages of connected vehicles is their ability to communicate with each other. For example, sensors that detect the activation of traction control or ABS, combined with an external temperature gauge, provide a reliable source of information about the presence of ice on a road.

This information can be automatically delivered to other drivers following along the same road, giving them an early warning of the hazards ahead.

Volvo’s Connected Safety function, for instance, informs a driver if another vehicle on the same road has activated its hazard warning indicators or detected slippery driving conditions. 

4. Monitor components to avoid failure

On-board sensors are increasingly sophisticated in their ability to monitor and predict component failure. Pirelli’s brand new Cyber Tyre system constantly monitors both the temperature and pressure in a tyre, delivering far more accurate information than traditional valve sensors. This data not only informs drivers when they need to check tyre pressures, a major factor in grip and safety, but also holds the key to additional connected benefits, such as identifying when a tyre loses grip or a car aquaplanes and transmitting this information to other vehicles heading along the same road.

Similar sensors are also tracking the health of mechanical components throughout vehicles, measuring noise, heat and vibration and analysing the data via machine learning to spot parts at risk of failure. This allows fleet managers to schedule pre-emptive maintenance, rather than wait for a breakdown that could leave a driver and vehicle in a vulnerable situation.

5. Summon assistance

Even when connectivity has failed to prevent a collision it still has an important role to play in safety, automatically calling for assistance in the event of a crash. The eCall system is now mandatory for new cars sold across the European Union, automatically making a free 112 emergency call if a vehicle is involved in a serious road accident. 

The system connects the vehicle both to the nearest emergency response centre, for a human response, and to a data centre where it transmits the location, time of accident, vehicle identification number and direction of travel. This allows emergency services to assess the situation and deliver the appropriate response, which could be key for vehicles stranded on a busy road.

Images: Shutterstock, Volvo, Pirelli

Authored by: Jonathan Manning