4 minute read
Telematics have surged in popularity over the past few decades and many fleet companies have adopted the technology to improve both driver safety and efficiency. But what exactly is telematics and how would the average driver use it?
A combination of the words ‘telecommunications’ and ‘informatics’, telematics refers to a system that measures and records data about vehicle usage in real-time. Using GPS (Global Positioning System) technology, sensors and engine diagnostics, a physical device inside the vehicle collects and sends data to a cloud server where it is then processed and analysed. The data is decoded and reported to users, usually through an app where users get a report with details of their trip and driving behaviours¹.
Telematics devices and other connected hardware or sensors in a vehicle can detect²:
- Vehicle speed
- Seatbelt use
- Trip distance/time
- Harsh braking and driving
- Fuel consumption
- Vehicle faults
- Battery voltage and other engine data
With many fleet and insurance companies using telematics to monitor and analyse driver behaviour, it is worth considering whether this technology can help make driving safer for the average motorist. It’s been suggested that this could be particularly useful for young adults, who make up 15% of vehicle registrations but account for nearly 25% of road deaths in Australia.
In 2018-2019, 700 drivers in New South Wales under 25 years old participated in the Young Drivers Telematics Trial which lasted for six months³. This trial studied young drivers and the effects of telematics on their driving behaviours, giving some perspective into whether telematics can help our most vulnerable group of road users.
Around half of the participants, the treatment group, were instructed to install a small telematics device into their car that would trigger responses to a LED light ray that was also installed in the car. This LED light ray would change colours based on the severity of harsh braking, rapid acceleration, harsh cornering and speeding. Participants in this group also used an app that gave them summarised information about their trips and driver behaviour such as when/where they were speeding, as well as driving scores for driver acceleration and braking performance.
Drivers install a small device into their car which collects and sends data to a cloud-based system, the data is sent back to drivers through their Bluetooth-enabled phone which triggers a light monitor giving immediate feedback.
On the other hand, the control group was also instructed to install the telematics device in their vehicle but they did not receive any feedback on their driving behaviour. Instead, this group was provided non-safety information such as driving distance, fuel economy and CO2 emissions through an app.
Overall, the trial suggests that the use of a telematics device-based feedback is associated with reductions in risky driving behaviours and does have an overall positive impact on young driver behaviour.
Certain risky driving behaviours were not impacted as much by the interventions though. The study showed that while there were sustained positive changes for harsh breaking and cornering behaviours, changes for speeding varied and were not as significant, suggesting that telematics may not be a one-size-fits-all solution.
Based on these results, researchers estimated that the use of telematics could potentially prevent 159 casualty crashes involving young drivers each year if all young drivers in NSW were to use telematics devices.
Key results from the participants who received driving feedback include:
- 74% believed that they had reduced the risks they took as a driver
- 67% said that the feedback helped them drive in a safer way
- 75% found that the telematics device had affected their driving in a positive manner
This is not to say that there were no concerns using telematics devices. A minority of participants noted that there were issues relating to the usage and the overall system including device design and the accuracy and validity of recorded data. 17% of drivers also said that they found the real-time feedback to be distracting.
Most participants though, believed that telematics helped them drive safer with three in four participants believing that telematics should be mandatory for all drivers.
Interestingly, the most considerable difference between the treatment and control group was observed in P1 (provisional licence) male drivers, suggesting that telematics feedback had more impact on young male drivers. This is significant as both young drivers and males make up the majority of road deaths across Australia.
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