Telematics: 10 must-have features in 2021

Vehicle-tracking software has been evolving to a point where real-time data is not only available centrally but easily accessible to a mobile team of drivers and fleet professionals. On-board tracking, video, and sensors are now being combined with AI processors that interpret as well as record the road ahead. Simply put, our vehicles are now smarter than us -- in a good way.

By using data, connectivity, and AI-powered analysis, companies can have a huge competitive advantage if they can act on the issues at hand. Drivers have access to predictive technology that identifies road signage, driver behavior, weather conditions, and road condition to help guide them to the safest path through traffic, as well as the most efficient overall route.

Here are 10 must-have telematics features for 2021:

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1. Real-Time Vehicle Tracking

Instead of dots on a map, vehicles are watched as part of a "virtual drone view" that shows a map of the highways and neighborhoods being driven through. Drone view provides real-time positional information so you can see the vehicle moving along the road with trip and vehicle health details on the screen without lag. The transmitted data also includes additional information on vehicle parameters such as speed, driver fatigue, and fuel use.

2. Integrated Dashboard Camera

Constant recording of the road ahead provides a wealth of information about the trip and an important record if there is an accident. Time-stamped with precision, it can help resolve many potentially expensive legal issues should they arise. Integrated with a fleet management system’s modern analytics, high-definition video recordings can be excellent training aids for:

  • Tailgating
  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Stop-sign violations
  • Accident reconstruction and legal protection
  • Harsh acceleration and harsh braking
  • and even positive driving events to award and retain your best drivers

3. AI Cameras

Thanks to computer vision, dashboard cameras -- powered by artificial intelligence -- can now read and understand the road and the driver, providing valuable insights into driver behavior, such as distracted driving and driver fatigue. Turn your video into actionable business intelligence that supports driver training and coaching, rewards positive driving behaviors, and creates driver safety scores, which is a great way to build a culture of safety within your organization. Experience real-time camera footage and alerts alongside machine learning for optimal driver safety and keep the roads safer than ever.

4. Simplified Analytics

Analytics engines should do more than provide canned reports on vehicle and fleet performance. They should provide insights and instantly answer the biggest questions that you have. It is these real-time analytics that enable businesses to empower their teams and to act fast when issues arise. This move from reactive "canned" reports to proactive real-time analytics will build a competitive advantage for early adopters.

5. AI Insights

Another way AI is changing the fleet management industry is through reporting and insights. AI analytics helps fleet managers understand the biggest influencing factors on outcomes and identify critical points of impact. Three ways that AI is transforming analytics are:

  • Learning the business: Using machine learning, AI monitors every aspect of your fleet operation and learns how your business runs so it can identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Spotting patterns and anomalies: The AI engine takes fleet data and develops patterns, which helps it immediately spot anomalies and highlight possible issues.
  • Automatically alerting management: Management is alerted in real-time so important business decisions can be made before minor issues become major problems.

6. Connect to Everything

The integration of different computer programs is producing new efficiencies for businesses every day. For example, a complex AI program that connects with the popular accounting program, QuickBooks, can instantly create invoices when goods or services are provided or create automated text messages for customers based on your vehicle’s location and estimated time of arrival -- all without custom development or programming. The result is better communication, improved projections, and enhanced operational decisions with management support.

7. Digital Checklists

Using digital checklists for pre- and post-trip, site entry, and vehicle cleaning and maintenance, can be invaluable for fleets as they help drivers take care of their vehicles for each particular task. Data is logged, ensuring compliance, and then provided to maintenance personnel who can plan repairs, preventive maintenance, and other tasks.

8. Fully Featured Mobile App

Fleet managers can now easily access the same information on their mobile device that they are accustomed to only seeing in the office. Separate app features for drivers and fleet management keep routines simple and quick, and team members can use their devices to remain in compliance with driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIR), hours-of-service (HOS), and vehicle preventative maintenance. Managers of large fleets can be ready to handle anything from the office or in the field with their mobile device, and smaller operators can keep track of their fleet while they are busy running the rest of their business.

9. A Wide Range of Connected Apps

Mobile apps that connect drivers with the back office are now a critical part of vehicle tracking software platforms. In particular, software apps that digitize processes are becoming increasingly important. Job dispatch and management, document sharing and checklist builders are all now available helping to eliminate paperwork and streamline processes for mobile workers. Not only do these apps help mobile workers but they also eliminate delays in information sharing that are inherent with paper-based processes. The goal in 2021 should be zero paperwork in the cab and everything digital.

10. Track Much More Than Vehicles

It's a simple step to extend your vehicle tracking software to manage other assets, such as construction equipment, trailers, and non-powered assets in a single application. New battery-powered sensors and QR code scanning tools enable you to manage your entire asset inventory from your vehicle tracking software platform. In addition, mobile apps can be used to keep track of personnel as they move from vehicles and across job sites.

Photo credit: grapestock / Shutterstock

Oswaldo "Ozzie" Flores is safety and compliance product manager for Teletrac Navman. As a former fleet supervisor, Oswaldo (Ozzie) Floris has first-hand experience managing drivers and vehicles, ensuring his fleet maintains adherence to all internal and external regulations, policies, and guidelines, including DOT compliance, ANSI/OSHA certifications, and CHP Biennial Inspection of Terminals.

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