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The IoT and the auto industry

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Pierre Bruwer, Managing Director of Ctrack SA, looks into the future of mobility

How will the Internet of Things (IoT) impact the development of motor vehicles over the next five to 10 years? What innovations will be forthcoming? What implementations? How will the changes potentially influence the industry and vehicle drivers?

Cars will be a major element of the expanding IoT. American analyst firm Gartner predicts that there will be a quarter billion connected vehicles on the road by 2020, enabling new in-vehicle services and automated driving capabilities. Drivers of the next generation want their cars to act as smartphones on wheels and would like to remain connected and productive while on the go.

Perhaps the biggest innovation will be the autonomous vehicle, or self-driving car. There is much speculation concerning the impact this will have on the industry and driver. Advocates predict that consumers will soon be able to purchase affordable self-driving vehicles that can greatly reduce traffic and parking costs, accidents and pollution emissions.

It is also expected that cars will be able to chauffeur non-drivers around their communities, reducing roadway costs and potentially eliminating the need for conventional public transit services.

Currently, cars can perform function-specific tasks without the driver’s input, such as cruise control, lane guidance and automated parallel parking. Here, drivers are still fully engaged and responsible for overall vehicle control. The next stage could see drivers disengage from vehicle operations under certain conditions –  for example, taking their hands off the steering wheel and foot off the accelerator pedal simultaneously.

However, full self-driving automation, where vehicles can perform all driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip, may still be a long way off.

What of the driverless car? How likely is this to become a South African reality? What still needs to happen before it will happen? What are the challenges to uptake?

The industry is abuzz about Big Data and everything being interconnected. The tendency of OEM installed tracking systems is accelerating. The business growth in this area is huge; however, the market still needs to address the real needs of consumers, truck owners and operators alike.

Take, as an example, a recent truck platooning exercise in Europe, which was all over the Internet. This shows the technical capabilities of systems, but there is still a long road ahead before we see platoons of trucks on South African roads as a standard feature.

Any business still requires crew members to interact with clients. Also legislation needs to be adapted. This will include legislation regarding speaking on a cell phone whilst driving, licensing of vehicles and drivers, as well as the possible impact on claims submitted against the Road Accident Fund.

This IOT concept is upon us, and it is going to be the whizz kids of this world who disrupt the markets with newly built integrated technology. Behind the scenes, Ctrack is doing research with universities, and on our own, to advance and to lead some of these these integrations. However, our view is to remain practical for the consumer and transport operator.

What are the leading trends and innovations with regards to technology and cars? Technology-driven trends are revolutionising the transport industry, among them comprehensive vehicle tracking and remote vehicle shutdown.

Comprehensive vehicle tracking

Insurance telematics is fast becoming the norm in the South African insurance industry. Ctrack is at the forefront of developments in this area, where insurance premiums are calculated based on a person’s driving style and risk profile.

Called Usage-Based Insurance (UBI), this type of vehicle insurance allows for auto insurers to track mileage and driving behaviour using telematics. These services measure a number of elements of interest to underwriters, including manoeuvring, speeds and distances travelled.

Policyholders who practice good driving habits, such as sticking to speed limits, can be rewarded with discounts on their premiums. Ctrack has already partnered with a number of companies which have experienced improvements in their clients’ driver behaviour and a reduction in claims, showing a positive result in loss ratios.

Remote vehicle shutdown

This technology already exists, with Ctrack leveraging it regularly. In recent years, we have shut down hundreds of stolen cars with our remote immobiliser function. We have, however, seen that most drivers still don’t know it can be done.

We believe that, in the next few years, remote vehicle shutdown will enter the social consciousness, negatively impacting nightly news ratings everywhere.

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