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The management of a fleet of vehicles poses a pivotal challenge for many businesses. Second, generally, only to people costs, it is often one of the biggest operating costs for any business. That’s when things run smoothly. Add inefficiencies and lost productivity from a vehicle being stuck in traffic, or the extra expenses and possible reputational damage when one of the vehicles is involved in an accident or incident, and costs can skyrocket.

To compound these challenges, poorly maintained infrastructure, inadequately marked roads, human error and increasing levels of crime contribute toward a higher risk of road incidents compromising the safety and efficiency of vehicles and drivers. However, the latest technological advancements can help.

Video telematics represents a category of mobile-asset camera solutions designed to give fleet operators visibility into fleets and drivers, including events involving vehicles, such as near-misses and crashes, through captured video footage. Video telematics can play a crucial role in incident management and post-incident investigations.

In contrast to traditional telematics solutions, which collect and report numerical sensor data generated by a connected vehicle, such as location, heading, speed, braking, and impact, video is more holistic as it can go beyond the vehicle to gather information on the environment itself, including other vehicles and assets in the vicinity as well as road and weather conditions. This information provides fleet operators with the crucial element of context or what we deem “situational intelligence” from the recorded footage, enabling them to understand and diagnose why a driver action or vehicle event occurred, not simply that it occurred, as reported by a traditional telematics solution.

These solutions can record forward or road, and rear or driver facing activity, among many other potential camera views, either continuously upon vehicle activation or in smaller, curated segments when initiated autonomously by a triggering event. The footage, accessible through a wireless network with a smartphone, tablet, or computer-based application, has many uses, such as post-incident forensics to assign fault or exonerate a driver, safety improvement by fostering desired driver behaviours with video review and coaching, and compliance with regulations such as seat belt laws and hands-free rules. These factors, among others, contribute to the increasing adoption of video solutions in the industry.

Many of the legacy solutions are reactive and require fleet managers to sift through and analyse hours of video footage. This approach is not only inefficient but also carries the risk of missing crucial details. However, Tracker’s artificial intelligence-enabled dashcams incorporate software on the device to automatically record video footage before and after an event based on pre-configured capture triggers, and forward real-time alerts to fleet managers with these segments of footage. This is particularly important for fleet users that are constantly at risk in terms of accidents and only have statements and some telematic replays at their disposal to investigate an incident.

In the event of an accident, the context provided by the captured footage will enable fleet managers to determine the circumstances leading up to, during and after the incident. Reviewing this footage would easily identify whether a driver used all preventative measures to mitigate a risk or manage a situation. It will also enable a more factual claims process and reduce fraudulent or invalid claims, including possibly exonerating a fleet driver from blame. For example, if a truck crashes into the back of a car, liability is immediately on the truck. However, with the intelligence provided through the footage captured by the dashcam, it could be determined that the car driver may have been driving aggressively, swerved and came to an abrupt stop in front of the truck for no obvious safety reason.

Also, a major contributor to risk is drivers and their performance as well as behaviour. Driver fatigue, distraction and negligence contributes to accidents and video telematics can mitigate some of this risk.

Tracker’s artificial intelligence dashcams provide immediate improved safety for drivers through real-time alerts. They continually monitor driver attentiveness through facial recognition and alert the driver in real-time through a speaker, in response to triggers like drowsiness, distraction, speeding, safety belt usage and mobile phone usage. This helps drivers stay alert on the road and reduces accidents by avoiding an event that could lead to a potential incident.

The dashcams use sophisticated software powered by an AI engine to recognise faces to associate drivers with their vehicles and trip data. Also, their algorithms are continually updated using machine learning, ensuring the system's adaptability and effectiveness.

Furthermore, the dashcams upload the trigger event information to a secure online cloud-based portal and provide fleet managers with real-time alerts, supported by video footage. This allows for early detection of bad driving habits and associated risks, and steps can be taken to engage in proactive and targeted driver coaching. Video footage can be paired with constructive feedback to correct unwanted behaviours affecting safety. In some cases, just having the camera installed has led to less risky driving behaviour.

Since crashes are mainly caused by human error because of reckless or impaired driving, encouraging a change in driver behaviour through the use of video technology can have a significant impact in reducing road accidents and the associated costs for fleets.

Driver and fleet safety is further enhanced by the facial recognition on the edge coupled with a live look-in service. This enables fleet managers to have visual confirmation of the driver of a vehicle. In the event an unknown driver enters the vehicle, the functionality will trigger an alert to notify the control centre of the unauthorised driver. The control centre can then look in on the activity taking place in the cabin and take appropriate action, potentially preventing the loss of the vehicle and cargo.

For fleets requiring continuous high-definition recording for security purposes, such as public transport, the Tracker artificial intelligence dashcams offer an onboard digital video recorder (DVR) that can record up to 1,000 hours of fleet and passenger footage with up to eight cameras. This solution is more static and doesn’t require the same artificial intelligence software of the primary offering.

Tracker’s artificial intelligence dashcam offering also leverages edge computing, processing the captured data and video locally on the device to save time and transmission costs, which is currently uncommon in the industry. There is also the option of integrated hardware and software peripherals, such as an alcohol monitoring solution, to create additional value for customers.

The adoption of video telematics, particularly through advanced artificial intelligence-enabled dashcams, is not just a cost-effective measure but a transformative tool. It goes beyond traditional telematics, offering businesses a holistic approach to fleet management, safety enhancement, and risk mitigation.

“The dynamic landscape of transportation demands innovative solutions, and video telematics stands at the forefront, reshaping how businesses navigate the challenges associated with fleet operations. As technology continues to evolve, the potential for further advancements in video telematics promises even greater strides in ensuring the safety, efficiency, and overall success of fleet management for businesses across various industries,” says Kobus Visagie, Executive: Business Solutions at Tracker South Africa.