11 Nov 21

"New technologies will solve the current problems fleet industry is facing"

This is the message that came out of the Innovation & Technology sessions of the Fleet Europe Summit 2021, where a long afternoon of discussions and presentations provided vital information to fleet managers as to how to face current and upcoming technological challenges. The message shared by the experts is meaningful but also reminds fleet managers about the importance of making friends with technology.

To solve a problem, fleet managers need to know which technology can help them and how they can utilize it. The thing is not to worry as there are technology companies out there to help fleets adapt telematics, create an EV roadmap, put their first step into AI and get assistance for the tendering processes. With a great many opportunities offered through technology, the first step is to find the most appropriate one at each stage. At the Summit, fleet managers discovered how technology can help them and what technologies they should focus on in the future. Let's have a quick look. 

Telematics is not widely used 

Erminio Di Paola of HERE Technologies, Adam French of What3Words and Christoph Ludewig of Geotab were clear on the fact that telematics is still not widely integrated into fleets and the transition from data to knowledge is inevitable. 

While the use of telematics is not mastered enough yet, Di Paola is optimistic that in the coming 6-12 months surveys will show an increased number of adaptation among fleets. On the other hand, "Transition of data to information and knowledge is necessary. We need fleet managers to analyze the data and provide solutions," says Ludeweig. He also believes the adaptation will increase to make life easier for fleet managers. For French, problems arising during crisis times can be compensated with different technologies. Chip shortage is another example. "We can make better use of embedded telematics in vehicles, directly connecting to the OEM systems" he says. 

Fleet managers shouldn't worry about the burgeoning importance of connected data, because none of the experts believe it will make fleet managers redundant. On the contrary, fleet managers will make better decisions to reduce costs and improve efficiency. And in terms of cost, they need to take the storage and processing of data into account, which they may not be used to. 

French offers an interesting example of improved services through telematics. "Drivers arrive to the precise decision 3-by-3 meters thanks to telematics data, which not only increases efficiency but decreases a fleet's carbon footprint." 

The increasing role of AI, especially in safety, is an example of innovative solutions and it is not about controling drivers but helping them. 

"Technology is only good if it supports the processes that it's supposed to." says Ludewig.  "Technology helps you understand how your fleet is functioning and fleet managers must know their objective in using the technology. Then it is possible to integrate telematics and make progress." 

Over-the-Air Updates are not going to remain a niche 

Paul Humphreys of Cox Automotive talked about six myths in mobility and debunked these beliefs through an accurate view of the industry. 

The first myth is around the definition of ownership and assumes it is not redefined. On the contrary, the effort to keep assets moving and mobilizing the global vehicle market draws a different picture. 

Another myth appears to be the full acceptance of driverless cars. Humphreys provided results from the Cox Automotive Evolution of Mobility 2021 survey. According to the results, cost, convenience and safety are the most important criteria when choosing a transport solution. While most of the habits changed during the pandemic, traditional vehicles are still viewed as the most convenient, practical and flexible option for day-to-day travel. 

Another false belief is accepting Over-the-Air (OTA) technology as a niche. But more seamless and integrated communication systems are offering better transfer processes and increasing mobility solutions. While 5G is in rapid deployment, 6G and AI investment is also growing, meaning OTA updates will become mainstream.  

Will the vehicle ownership and usership models that are in place today be fit for purpose in decades to come? Adaption to technology and mobility is increasing and from rental companies to fleets and manufacturers, all stakeholders use powerful back office systems to manage their operations to meet demand. The dynamics of new mobility and change in contract duration and vehicle handover processes suggest otherwise.

Thinking that EV batteries can't be recharged is another false belief in automobility. While battery powered vehicles offer a path to zero emissions, the CO2 production in EV processes has to be minimized. Through technology and training, 100% recycling of batteries will be possible in the near future along with repair, remanufacturing, refurbishing and repurposing. 

Humprehys underlines that the mobility trend is here to stay, with new solutons, seamless customer experience, changes in behaviour and demand, and that companies will have opportunities to innovate new business models and experiment with different revenue sources.

Credibility comes from good reporting 

Today the environmental stance of a company is too important as a motivator for potential employees and to increase customer satisfactions. And, the best way to do it is provide accurate reports to make people believe in you. Otherwise, a commitment or false promise will damage credibility. 

OviDrive steps in to fix an EV roadmap and provide a clear view of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions of a company. Combining system, service and consulting, OviDrive gathers and processes connected and unconnected data generated by people, assests and supply chain. 

Matthijs Honing of OviDrive says: "The value of the company may increase up to 80% if you take the right sustainability actions." 

"Vendors are making an impact on your company, and you are making an impact on your customers. It is important to go in the right way of GHG emissions." says Honing. But how? 

Companies will not just use the figures they gather from manufacturers to prepare their reports. Credibility relies on the right figures you provide to build trust with consumers. At this step, OviDrive uses the "Greenhouse Gas Accounting Methodology" to accurately create the GHG emission map of a company. 

"We could've not tested something like this in a lab"  

 Fleet Europe Summit 2021 ended with an executive leasing panel, including: Marco Lessacher, CEO of Alphabet; Tim Albertsen, CEO of ALD; and Alain Van Groenendahl, CEO of Arval. Three top executives shared their views on building the fleet of the future and mobility. 

Fleet Europe's Editor-in-Chief Steven Schoefs first asked the guests of the panel their thoughts on the chip shortage. 

"This is something we couldn't have tested in the lab" said Mr Lessacher. "Delivery times increased to 7-8 months. And in some countries, you can’t even order any vehicles at all at the moment. Our advice to our customers: order early, accept that you perhaps can’t get all the options you want, look for flexible solutions via rental, and extend your lease contracts.”

"It's a pity" said Mr Van Groenendael, “Because our orders have grown strongly compared to 2019. Our advice is similar: anticipate orders a long time ahead, extend your contracts, which is not that much of a problem, since mileage is generally lower than normal, and be flexible.”

Post-covid fleet era is also not going to take the fleet sizes down, according to Arval. The annul survey including 5,000 customers revealed that 45% of the companies are aiming for bigger fleets. Only 8% are planning to shrink their fleets. Most importantly, "We see that the standard model of the company car is evolving" said Mr Van Groenendael and also, companies are asking for more mobility solutions for all their employees. "I’m optimistic that the growth of the latter phenomenon will more than compensate any losses in the former one." 

2021 has also witnessed the sharp increase in EVs. "26% of our total orders were BEVs and PHEVs. That's double the European average" said  Mr Albertsen. Looking at the figures, ALD is aiming to reach its Move2025 call for 30% sooner. 

The sooner than expected picture is also valid for ALD, as Mr Van Groenendael said, "We’re at 30%, of which 10% BEVs and 20% PHEVs. Six months ago, we made a commitment to our clients that we would plant a tree for every EV that they ordered. We’ve planted 70,000 so far.”

For Alphabet, "The intake for 2021 is so far at 25% and about one third is BEVs" said Mr Lessacher. 

Autonomous cars will take time to emerge

Telematics and digitisation is always on the agenda for the top executives, while autonomy has still some time to evolve. For Mr Albertsen, digitalisation is a win-win strategy. We generate better customer journeys, and we get much more data, which helps us gain more efficiency. But we also see that we’re not digital natives. Running an e-business is a very different thing. So we’re upscaling our staff and attracting new talent.”

Mr Van Groenendael also took note of the result in their survey, emphasizing that 81% of the companies are using telematics or will do so in the next two years. Telematics will provide clear benefits, Mr Van Groenendael says. "Better driver safety, lower fuel cost, lower CO2, improved CSR.”

When it comes to autonomy, Mr Albertsen thinks it is not likely to happen in the coming 5-10 years. Flying cars or drones might arrive earlier, and if customers are interested, their policy will apply: "If it can move, we can lease it." 

For Mr Lessacher, autonomy is not on their agenda currently as he can't see the added value. ALD is a little further in adapting autonomy as the company is undetaking a pilot project to take their employees from the train station to the HQ. "It's a very interesting pilot" says Mr Van Groenendael. 

The main photo includes Alain Van Groenendael, CEO of Arval; Tim Albertsen, CEO of ALD; Marco Lessacher, CEO of Alphabet. Courtesy of Fleet Europe. 
The second photo includes Erminio Di Paola, Vice President Product Management and Head of Fleet & Supply Chain Solutions, HERE Technologies; Adam French, Head of Enterprise Partnerships, What3Words; Cristoph Ludewwig, Vice President OEM Europe, Geotab. Courtesy of Fleet Europe
The third photo shows Paul Humphreys, Managing Director, Cox Automotive Mobility, International. Courtesy of Fleet Europe. 
The fourth photo shows Matthijs Honing, Director Consultancy and Strategic Partnership Executive, OviDrive. Courtesy of Fleet Europe.

Authored by: Mufit Yilmaz Gokmen