If 2015 was the year of telematics, 2016 looks set to be the year in which technology makes the performance of a vehicle itself safer and more efficient. Many of the improvements in vehicle performance created by these technologies are familiar to us already.
They’re extensions of driver assists that have been making our vehicles safer for some time: cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, and onboard cameras. But what were once luxury add-ons and technical gimmicks are now core propositions for the transport of the future.
Hydrogen fuel cells
Hydrogen fuel cells have been a rumour in the automotive ether for some time: but now Toyota is actively developing them, it looks as though the future could hold a viable alternative to petrol and diesel power. With increased financial penalties for diesel emissions now in effect, the possibility of running a fleet on alternative fuel sources is more attractive than ever.
2016 might not be the year in which we see fleet vehicles driving themselves around the country: but the probability is that autonomous vehicle tech will raise the bar for fleet safety and efficiency.
When Audi sent an A7 on a 550-mile freeway journey from Silicon Valley to Vegas, piloted by an onboard computer, science fiction became reality. The car’s autonomous function was able to safely drive its guest, a tech journalist, on interstate roads at speeds of 70mph. In the future, similar technology may be able to shoulder some of the burden on long-haul routes.
Fleet drivers take note, though: the technology is unable to make decisions fast enough to drive in urban environments, so control is handed back to a human when a town or city is detected.
The connected vehicle
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016 is tipped to be this year’s proving ground for ‘connected vehicles’ - cars and vans capable of seamlessly integrating with a driver’s smart device.
The use of telematics and driver safety applications in 2015 has already changed the way in which fleet managers think about mobile technology, but this kind of integration is on another level. Ford’s ‘Sync 3’, for example, is able to keep tabs on whether a driver has remembered to bring important items with her. Anything can be tagged–whether it’s a phone, a laptop, car keys, or even non-electronic items such as a suitcase or package.
For small-consignment deliveries, this could add an extra level of efficiency when leaving the depot. For long-distance hauliers, keeping tabs on personal items after a night in a motel means no having to turn back halfway through the second day of a delivery run.
We’re not talking about emissions reduction here, but the awareness your fleet vehicles have of their own surroundings. Developments at Jaguar Land Rover now include a suspension system that can adjust to road level and quality, effectively protecting the vehicle from costly pothole damage.
We may also see Jags and Land Rovers equipped with cameras capable of imaging the road ahead, which will feed data into the system to prepare suspension for potholes before the vehicle even gets to them. In the long run, pothole alert systems could prevent your fleet vehicles from hitting them at all, and the tech may even be capable of sharing its data with local councils to aid swift pothole reporting.
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