Although it isn’t possible yet to control a vehicle without a driver, the technology isn’t far off.
The future has caught up with us. Although there are still no flying cars in cities, there are already fleets of vehicles being managed from a distance without the driver having to do anything, thanks to the application of telematics.
This tool, also known as fleet management, monitors cars, trucks, equipment, and other assets by using GPS technology and on-board diagnostics (OBD) on a computerized map.
Telematics goes beyond vehicle location monitoring by retrieving the data generated and providing users with increased productivity, safety, and fuel optimization.
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Eduardo Canicoba, Associate Vice President of Business Development for Latin America at Geotab, a company that specializes in telematics, says in an interview with Tec Review that this technology is also ideal for helping to reduce pollution in cities, as happened in Madrid.
His company was chosen to provide telematics data for the CIVITAS ECCENTRIC project, which has equipped Madrid City Council’s 19 Renault ZOEs with Geotab devices.
“As a result of the adoption of the telematics platform, the City Council was able to detect underused and overused vehicles, and could thus properly balance their use,” explains Canicoba.
In addition, the data provided by Geotab offered a better understanding of how to effectively charge these vehicles, improve driver safety, and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas produced by the combustion of gasoline.
It’s important to highlight that all these services are done without the need for driver intervention since the data is collected and transmitted automatically to a computer in the command center.
As well as providing solutions in cities, those applied in the agricultural industry are also of note. Grupo Crío is one example of this.
It’s a poultry production company that supplies chickens and eggs to the southeastern states of Mexico, such as Yucatán and Campeche, which required a telematics solution to reach safety objectives for its fleet.
“As a result of the integration of Geotab’s telematics platform into more than 130 vehicles, Grupo Crío was able to significantly improve driver safety and fuel economy,” says Canicoba.
With access to this software, reports can be viewed and exported for critical business intelligence, such as which vehicles are behind in their scheduled maintenance.
“What’s more, we can identify drivers at risk of accidents due to risky behaviors such as hard braking and speeding,” he adds.
In this way, telematics becomes a central brain capable of remotely managing fleets of automobiles, which brings those futuristic visions of machines controlling everything closer to reality.
Francisco Bautista, Advanced Manufacturing and Mobility Leader at Ernst & Young (EY), a business consulting company, grew up in the decade of Back to the Future, the film saga showing how flying cars were going to fill the skies of our cities.
In an interview, this expert says that the technology hasn’t ended up going that way but rather towards a vehicle ecosystem at ground level.
“What we can expect in the next 10 years in terms of car connectivity for safety is going to be spectacular. The next 10 years are going to be equivalent to the development that took place over the previous 50, although I still see flying cars as being a long way off. I don’t see them in the near future,” he says.
The main obstacle to cities having large fleets of interconnected cars with little or no direct driver intervention is that this technology hasn’t been 100% adopted yet.
According to Bautista, the fact that there isn’t yet a general strategy to include all cars in a single fleet system means that many aren’t aware of the full potential of telematics.
“The big dream is to be able to identify traffic patterns, interact within an entire ecosystem, and make decisions based on knowing cars’ points of departure and destination.”
Tec Review asks Bautista if he envisions a big brain controlling all the cars in a city at some point in the future, like something out of a sci-fi movie. This was his answer:
“I rather think that technology will continue to advance in terms of the ecosystem, i.e. a cluster of brains communicating with each other. However, people have always had this idea of one machine that controls everything.”
Although the implementation of this technology seems totally innovative, it’s actually the result of a development that began in the 70s when two branches of engineering began to merge. Josefina Bárcenas López, an academic at the Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology (ICAT) at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), explains this for Tec Review.
“Telematics is a concept that arose when communications and computer technologies came into being. But it became more popular in 2000 when the Internet began to be widely used.”
This expert points out that telematics hasn’t become a well-known term because it belongs more to academic environments than to the jargon of technology enthusiasts. However, she’s very much in favor of its dissemination.
“This century, the term “telematics” will become part of people’s everyday vocabulary,” she concludes.