Technology is revolutionising cars, vans and other commercial vehicles. But do you know your hybrids from your plug-ins, and how an autonomous vehicle differs from a connected car?
Devices that monitor a vehicle's whereabouts, speed and diagnostics. The data is typically shared with a central management system over a 3G network.
Used in Formula One for many years, telematics is now growing in popularity among organisations across the business spectrum. It enables organisations to spot inefficient or unsafe driving behaviours across entire fleets, following up with driver training.
- Reduced fuel costs through identifying inefficient driving practices
- Additional fuel and time efficiencies through assisted route planning and dynamic routing via GPS tracking
- Locate stolen vehicles and monitor out of hours usage via GPS tracking
- Proof of fault in any accidents or incidents
- Reduced insurance premiums due to evidence of safe driving
Allow vehicle manufacturers and operators to communicate directly with vehicles to monitor mileage, reliability and component wear rates.
The technology is available in many of today's vehicles already, enabling GPS navigation and music or movie streaming, for example. Connectivity is mainly provided through smartphones, but these are likely to be superseded by embedded systems. D2D technology is also an important component of self-driving cars, allowing vehicles to monitor the position of other vehicles on the road and initiate avoidance procedures.
- Vehicles can be warned of approaching traffic jams and accidents, then automatically plot routes to avoid them
- Monitoring of component wear rates by manufacturers who can proactively advise if there is a problem with the vehicle
- Access to file sharing sites and music streaming from the dashboard via embedded devices that turn cars into Wi-Fi hotspots
'Self driving' vehicles which are now slowly becoming a reality, with several organisations testing the technology and a couple of UK cities identified as trial areas. Current technologies will require additional development before they match or exceed the required safety levels.
Regulatory and legislative guidelines must be developed before fully automated vehicles are allowed onto UK roads, including for the approximate 10-15 years when manually driven and driverless vehicles will share roads.
Many vehicles utilise some automated features – from improved cruise control with lane assist features, through to fully-automated self-parking which does not require manual touching of the brake or accelerator. Even with these technologies, currently the driver must remain 'in charge' of the vehicle.
- The potential to end serious road accidents, or at least significantly lower their frequency
- More efficient fuel use through optimal drive programming
- Improved productivity of passengers, who can use the journey time to work, join interactive meetings or even sleep
- More effective use of vehicles through autonomous car sharing software, which will allow multiple drivers to use the same vehicle throughout the day
Hybrids use more than one means of propulsion; at present combining a petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor. This can result in better fuel economy, lower CO2 emissions and reduced road and company car tax liability in many cases.
Conventional hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius, can be driven by each power source separately, or they can function together. The electric motor is used when driving at low speeds, while both work together to accelerate. Regenerative braking is used to recharge the batteries during coasting or braking.
- Potential for significant reduction of fuel consumption, especially if used mainly for low-speed city driving
- More environmentally friendly than standard petrol-driven vehicles, and subject to lower taxation
With larger batteries than regular hybrids, PHEVs can drive further on electric power only; sometimes as far as an additional 30 miles. They can be recharged through an electric outlet or at public charging points, and are often considered a good midway choice between conventional hybrids and fully electric vehicles.
The number of PHEVs on UK roads has increased greatly since 2015, and many manufacturers will be releasing additional models onto the market over the coming years.
- If driven correctly, lower fuel consumption than traditional hybrid cars can be achieved
- Batteries can be charged from mains electricity rather than from the petrol engine
- Potential to drive in towns all day without using a single drop of petrol as the electric engine allows up to 30 miles travel on its own
- Greater flexibility than fully electric cars as petrol engine allows long trips when necessary
Fully electric cars help an organisation reduce its carbon emissions while lessening society's reliance on fossil fuels. The vehicles are powered solely by a battery and electric motor rather than a petrol or diesel engine, and can be charged at users' homes, their place of work or at public charging points.
Traditionally, electric cars have been limited by short driving ranges, long recharging times and a lack of charging outlets on the road. However, these are all changing as both technology and the charge-point infrastructure improves.
By 2022, electric cars are predicted to be cheaper than conventional vehicles as the cost of batteries falls and the growing number of electric models on the market help to increase uptake of the vehicles.
- Significantly reduced fuel costs and lower taxation
- Lower maintenance costs than petrol or hybrid cars as engines are relatively simple
- Possibility of long distance trips as range of some electric cars is now around 250 miles, and rapid charging points at some service stations can provide an 80% charge in half an hour
Record vital footage of car accidents or traffic incidents, helping determine who was at fault in any incident. Recent court cases have used video footage as the determining factor in the outcome, outweighing spoken testimony.
Dash cams can also capture damage caused in car parks, nearby suspicious behaviour that could be invaluable to the police, or even potential fraud scenarios where people may actively seek to be in an accident.
Rearward-facing cameras are being increasingly used to ensure and prove drivers are concentrating on their driving and not being distracted by, for example, a mobile phone.
- Can prove liability in road accidents, backing up a driver's testimony
- Rearward-facing cameras can monitor driver behaviour and prove, for instance, the driver wasn't distracted just before a crash
- Discounts on insurance premiums for cars fitted with cameras
Alert a driver via an audio and/or visual alarm if he or she appears to be falling asleep. Drowsiness can be detected by video cameras, steering-pattern monitoring, physiological measurement or vehicle-positioning monitoring.
Some systems learn the user's driving patterns and can detect when they change due to drowsiness. In future, cars may be able to take control and pull over if they sense that the driver is too tired.
- A dramatic reduction in sleep-related accidents
- Peace of mind for companies that require drivers to work long hours
Becoming commonplace in commercial and consumer vehicles, these technologies use GPS, cameras, radar and/or laser sensors to detect hazards and keep the car on the correct path.
Current uses include parking assistance, lane-departure prevention, over or understeer compensation, rollover prevention, crosswind compensation and blind-spot detection - if the car senses a vehicle in the driver's blind spot as he or she changes lanes, it will take over the steering.
These systems are expected to be used more in conventionally operated vehicles over the coming decade.
- Prevention of accidents as cameras and radar act as another pair of eyes to detect hazards the driver hasn't seen
- Reduced stress of long-distance driving with lane-departure prevention systems in combination with active cruise control
Project important information at eye level and invaluable for reducing distraction when drivers are on unfamiliar roads. By 2026, the technology could detect potential hazards on the road and highlight them on the windscreen.
Current displays project transparent navigation information on to a windscreen to provide directions, estimated arrival times, speed data and lane-departure warnings. Originally designed for military aviation use, the technology tends to be built into the vehicle. Several manufacturers offer the service in their latest models.
Can be operated through a Bluetooth connection via a smartphone, but caution is advised as they may also show non-key information which could be distracting to the driver.
- Drivers do not have to take their eyes off the road as navigation information is projected on to the windscreen
- Valuable for drivers who rely on satellite navigation and often find themselves on unfamiliar road
Machine learning algorithms allow a vehicle to recognise an object it is encountering and understand how that object acts. This mimics the learning of human drivers, such as interpreting the subtleties of other drivers' hand gestures and indicators to know their intentions.
When another car, a pedestrian, a cyclist or an animal is detected, the algorithm monitors and updates its data from previous experiences to predict that object's next movement.
- Avoidance of accidents and incidents as visual inputs are interpreted and matched with previous experiences to understand what is happening
- The more a vehicle is driven, the better it gets at recognising road features
- Ability to discern between animate and inanimate objects and to take the right course of action