Vehicle Telematics: New age automation to deliver complete road & vehicle safety

– By Mr.Sonu Agrawal, MD, Weather Risk Management Services Pvt. Ltd

Though road accident incidences are quite prevalent in India, its alarming statistics clearly show that lessons have not yet been learnt and there is hardly any awareness of what exactly is at stake. 2015 witnessed over five lakh road accidents in India: one death every four minutes and sacrifice of 16 children daily. About 1,374 accidents and 400 deaths take place every day on Indian roads which further translates into 57 accidents and loss of 17 lives on an average every hour. Around 1,46,133 people lost their lives to road accidents in 2015, exceeding the number of deaths caused by all the wars India had fought till date. The economic loss to the nation due to road crashes have gone up to 3.8 lakh crore, estimated by the Planning Commission in its 2014 Report to be around 3% of India’s GDP.

In 77.1% of the 2015 cases, the fault lay with the drivers, be it exceeding lawful speed (which accounts for a share as high as 47.9%) or be it drunk driving (which accounts for a share as low as 3.3%). The other reasons are: distracted driving (using mobiles, eating, having arguments and loud chats while driving), not using the essential safety gears (helmets and seat belts) as well as external factors such as weather conditions affecting the visibility (rain / mist / dust storm), overloaded and defective vehicles, deplorable road conditions and position of the speed breakers. Hit and run, over-speeding and head-on collision cases constitute the majority of the road accidents.

But now Vehicle Telematics with its effective integration of telecommunications and informatics for numerous automobile applications has brought the thought of intelligent and better control over vehicles on the move into a reality. Concerted efforts in this field and measures developed over the decades have paved ways to new standards for safe user interfaces, introduced radars in automobiles for avoiding collisions and included high-tech communication systems to ensure enhanced driver and vehicle safety as well as improved traffic management. It uses a robust framework of vehicle systems including GPS navigation, emergency warning, driving assistance, wireless safety communication, fault detection and fleet tracking.

Telematics improves driving performance by tracking and reporting vehicle location and status, speed, direction and distance travelled; harsh brakes and improper acceleration; car vibration; idle time; weather conditions, etc. The driver can receive all this information through a basic pre-registered SIM card. It provides wide-angle cameras and emergency call services as well as helps in parking management, automatic toll transactions to facilitate driving to the greatest possible extent. A number of useful applications are available to detect vehicle fatigue and ensure their timely maintenance; these apps will send warning signals to driver’s smartphone when a vehicle’s tyre pressure or fuel level needs checking. In a more streamlined vehicle maintenance strategy, Telematics offers targeted repair and replacement schedules based on individual vehicle data, enabling prior notification every time a vehicle part is in need of replacement, thus eliminating vehicle downtime to the maximum.

With Vehicle Telematics, a single highway/ expressway management system may not be a distant future. There are applications to send a driver’s trip plans to the vehicle’s Global Positioning Navigation system and offer solutions to traffic congestion. Telematics does not only prevent vehicle accidents, it aids in accident and theft investigation as well. It analyzes driving behaviors and helps you maintain user-specific driving reports over a period, helping you recognize rash driving incidences (for instance, sharp acceleration or braking, speeding and sharp cornering) far more easily. In turn, it simplifies the seemingly complex process of identifying the training needs of each driving professional and addressing their pain points individually. After all, what gets measured gets managed.  The scorecards, rankings, benchmarks and specific guidelines together establish drivers’ accountability and commitment towards safe and cost-effective driving and make them more competitive with regards to driving performance, leading to fewer accident claims. At the same time, the review system can evaluate their progress over a longer period of time and thus provides key insights about designing an effective training curriculum based on the most frequent and commonest driving problems they face. Such a system can also extend parental monitoring to ensure road safety for their teenage children.

The success of the pilot project by LeasePlan, Italy, is just a case in point. The study revealed, compared to 2013, the accident claim frequency of a fleet of 16,000 vehicles (12,800 LCV 3,200 cars) equipped with telematics devices decreased by almost one third in 2015. The recovery rate of stolen vehicles also increased substantially, from 14% to 86%.

Second-by-second driver analysis information has helped the insurance firms set premiums based on the accurate level of risk presented by individual drivers. Telematics coupled with an insurance policy that rewards drivers for safe driving is a powerful incentive for people to improve their driving behaviors. The new age technology can track seat belt usage and even drivers’ alertness by constantly monitoring their eye movements and notifying has there been an instance of drowsiness. Telematics eliminated unsafe and unnecessary distractions of technology and put in place an on – board entertainment system that is easy to use and requires less attention from drivers. It also regulates emission, reduces carbon footprints and contributes to the cause of a greener environment.

Nimbu Mirchee, the fleet management vertical of Weather Risk Management Services Private Limited (WRMS) is one of the Indian pacesetters to leverage Vehicle Telematics. Their tagline ‘Aap ki gaadi ko nazar na lage’ rightly addresses the vehicle safety concerns of the car owners. Sonu Agrawal, the MD, WRMS, shares his vision: ‘I am a proud Indian; our nation is moving really fast and driving growth in several industries. As we are increasingly demanding speed and accuracy, WRMS will stay committed to the idea of ensuring every Indian greater safety on road as well as better protection and improved cost management for their vehicles. It’s time to get our act together and wage a war against road accidents.’

The benefits of Vehicle Telematics solutions are so immense that some automobile companies have even started using this technology for passenger cars. With new developments happening every day and every hour, VTS promises to understand and recognize risk on road as never before, taking into account each of the interacting influencing factors related to driving behavior, vehicle status and environmental conditions it operates in. It has also improved the understanding of the role played by the other factors in guaranteeing road safety such as locations (some of them are more accident prone compared to the rest), traffic and signal / junction interactions, speed controls and road designs. By 2025, it is being expected that telematics integration in new cars sold globally would reach 88%.

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