Vehicle connectivity: The driver's perspective


Vehicle connectivity is at the forefront of all motor vehicle manufacturers' future development plans.

In the fifth article from Bob Beech, truck driver and transport journalist, Bob discusses vehicle connectivity from the driver’s perspective.

Vehicle connectivity is at the forefront of all motor vehicle manufacturers’ future development plans. The ability to monitor vehicle and driver performance in real time from almost any location on the planet would have been unheard of little more than a decade ago as far as most truck operators and drivers are concerned.

Today, truck operators use real-time tracking systems to monitor vehicle location and performance, with many of these systems linking to on-board cameras.

Manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz Trucks are fully committed to developing this technology because of the benefits that it brings to drivers, vehicle operators, the environment and society in general.  Eventually, it is hoped that vehicles will be able to communicate with each other, enabling a more effective use of road space in heavily congested areas. This technology will also, it is thought, lead to the introduction of autonomous (self-driving) vehicles on the road. 

Most drivers’ experiences of vehicle connectivity will be via the built-in dash, or a separate display screen mounted somewhere on the dash panel. There is also a third option where the driver has no in-cab display, and the tracking unit is mounted elsewhere on the vehicle, taking information from the vehicle electronics.

All of these systems record and transmit information, sending it back to base either in real-time or when it is requested. Most manufacturers’ systems record driving style via four or five distinct areas such as harsh braking and acceleration, use of cruise control and other systems, highlighting excessive idling and engine revs, etc. These systems then provide a score for each field and encourage the driver to try and improve their performance.

These are useful aids for monitoring operating costs and can show where further driver training could help to improve performance, but care has to be taken to balance out the variables between different drivers, vehicles, loads, routes travelled, traffic congestion and the weather conditions. Just evaluating the returns at face value can often give a false picture, so operators need to take these variables into account before drawing any conclusions about performance.

Other factors have to be taken into account. Productivity is an equally important measure, especially for hire and reward operators, the more work achieved generally translates into higher earnings for the truck. Driving steadily might improve the scores, but at a high cost if the planned work is never completed on time. Also, we have yet to see a computer program that measures a driver’s ability to manoeuvre and reverse without hitting the truck and trailer training for which would soon pay dividends!

Let us know how you feel about vehicle connectivity. Is your truck fitted with it? Post your comments below.

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