The future of telematics and autonomous vehicles

The logistics industry has been leading the way for at least a decade with the implementation of telematics; using it to help plan faster delivery routes, save money on fuel and cut travel time. But the notion of autonomous vehicles and the likelihood of them being part of our fleets in the near future is extending our vision of what’s possible beyond simple data analytics. I’m often asked by customers what my view is on the future of our fleets – what’s realistic and what’s a pipedream. I think it’s all possible, but we do have to work together…

Telematics today

In France for example, we already have very detailed telematics solutions provided by pure players such as Verizon Connect Reveal (formerly Fleetmatics REVEAL) and Trimble that have developed very intelligent and business-driven solutions. They enable fleet management to deal with daily operations whilst simplified interfaces enable drivers to easily organise orders on an embedded screen. Importantly, this includes proof of delivery and can accelerate invoicing the customer. Such solutions have also been integrated in a way that matches the internal compliance of a company.

Pure players are also now increasingly getting competition from manufacturers of commercial trucks and vans who are developing their own telematics solutions. Volkswagen has developed a totally agnostic cloud-based platform that can be used in any model of their commercial vehicles.

Going beyond telematics

The future that we are opening up to is one where we will avoid having a driver constantly driving, where the autonomous vehicle will act like a chauffeur whilst the driver concentrates on the value-driven elements of their role – customer relationships, invoicing, preparing parcels in advance of delivery etc.  The vehicle will stay totally connected to the environment with its sensors and the fleet management system through the cloud.

Beyond this, we can easily imagine vehicles being connected to the Smart City environment, communicating with traffic management systems like those being developed in France and Germany. These systems see data and analytics sent directly to the truck without human interaction; guiding it to be at the right place at a particular time to make the overall delivery process quicker and more efficient.

A green and analytic-driven future

The future will be green when autonomous vehicles will be fully petroleum free. This next generation of engines will not only cut pollution but will also see fleet maintenance be undertaken at speed as managers will be able to go deeper into the engine than ever before. Operators will be able to plan the full logistics process and maintenance of fleets at the touch of a button; reducing risk, pollution, delays and cost.

But the opportunities go beyond the vehicle itself. We envisage them communicating directly with the warehouse management system – telling the warehouse that they’re a certain distance away and asking it to prepare the next load for pick-up, organised of course by the warehouse’s autonomous ground vehicles. But that’s a story for another day.


Smart cities of today

The Panasonic Corporation of North America has been working with the City of Denver in Colorado as part of its CityNow smart city project to help it meet one of the city’s main objectives: zero pedestrian traffic injuries. Panasonic’s Vision Zero technology includes an IoT-connected Smart Parking Meter, and Smart Street Solution that combines security camera and image analysis of pedestrian traffic with artificial intelligence.  The technology is here today, but how can we move it forward?

The kink in the chain

But this vision is not something that will happen with ease. To fully achieve a streamlined supply chain from warehouse to vehicle to smart city and back, the full sharing of data across the chain is required. Technology for once won’t be the factor holding us back. The main obstacle will be the need to work together. But who will share their data and what will the price of it be? It will be exciting to watch the industry to see where these communication barriers will be broken first, leading to some major advances in seamless automation and ultimately, improved service delivery for customers.