Telematics for Low- to Mid-range Vehicles and Small Fleets

Telematics for Low- to Mid-range Vehicles and Small Fleets

The drive for economy due to the financial crisis and for low emissions due to the climate crisis can move telematics in low- to mid-range vehicles and small fleets from a luxury to a necessity. Telecom analysts Berg Insight estimate that in Europe alone 3.5 million passenger cars will have an on-board telematics device by the end of this year. The most popular application, according to Berg, is stolen vehicle tracking, followed by motor insurance, connected navigation, automatic emergency calls, and driver assistance. But fuel economy and low emissions are likely to be important considerations, too.

With many countries either still in recession or in locked into low growth, businesses and car owners are looking to reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, the focus is on vehicle efficiency. Less efficient vehicles are more expensive to run and have a lower resale value.

There are two forces driving change. The first is high fuel prices, forcing many companies to turn to four-cylinder vehicles for their fleets. The second is the credit crunch. With banks not lending, companies will have to hold on to existing vehicle stock longer and invest in systems that make vehicles run more efficiently. Vehicle idling and excessive speed are the major sources of fuel waste; telematics systems can monitor and reduce these.

Telematics can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the provision of real-time route planning and more accurate estimated arrival times. This not only saves fuel but reduces traffic congestion, too. For electric vehicles, customers can text or call support centers when the batteries are low. Staff can then remotely assess the car’s batteries and, if necessary, activate reserve amounts of energy.

For example, the OnStar system General Motors is now building into the electric Chevrolet Volt runs a remote communication link to the car telling the driver when to recharge. It can also advise the driver of off-peak energy times, so he or she can recharge when electricity rates are lower. The OnStar system has been ranked at the top of the latest vendor matrix from industry research firm ABI Research. The second and third spots went to BMW and Ford.

When it comes to resale value, higher fuel prices and continued concern about climate change will likely prompt consumers to prefer more efficient vehicles that will save them money—and help save the planet in the process. This, in turn, will increasingly make telematics services a smart investment.

Leon Gettler is a writer for Telematics Update.

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