The connected car and the generation of so-called ‘big data’
is set to change the long-established fleet management model, particularly in
respect of vehicle service, maintenance and repair (SMR) and driver behaviour.
Indeed, developments are already taking place with the
launch by BMW Group of Teleservices, which sees sensors on board BMW and some
Mini models deliver SMR-related data direct to the vehicle manufacturer.
Furthermore, that information is accessible by BMW-owned
vehicle leasing and fleet management company Alphabet, which claims the
Reduced fleet downtime
Safety and duty of care improvements
Reduced end-of-contract charges
Convenience improvements and reduced
hassle for company car drivers in terms of organising vehicle servicing and
Such developments, on the surface, would appear to be good
news. However, as cars become ever-more intelligent and the ‘computers on
wheels’ have the capability to deliver vast amounts of data there are huge
concerns that impact dramatically on fleet managers and company car drivers.
Behind the scenes vehicle manufacturers and their trade
associations internationally are engaged in discussions with numerous
regulatory authorities, including governments, with the key question being who
owns the data and how is it managed.
Similarly, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing
Association (BVRLA) is in dialogue with a range of organisations, including policymakers
and vehicle manufacturers, to establish some standardised, industry-wide
contractual terms and operational procedures surrounding the area of connected
car services and vehicle data.
As a result, ACFO is urging fleet operators to ensure that
when they are in discussions with their vehicle leasing suppliers that the
issue of ‘big data’ and everything that it entails is on the agenda at review
With data security at the heart of the new world of vehicle
connectivity, ACFO is now considering holding a 2017 conference and is asking
for feedback from members on the fleet management issues that concern them as
‘big data’ arrives.
Julie Summerell, chairman of ACFO Midland Region and a
National Council member, said: “I am concerned that decisions are being made
that have a major impact on fleet operations and company car drivers, but fleet
managers are not currently engaged in the discussions.
“It is vital that motor manufacturers and the contract hire
and leasing sector engages with ACFO as ultimately our members are their
customers. As a result, we want members to tell us their views and concerns as
the era of ‘big data’ moves ever-closer.
“We are currently at
the tip of an iceberg, but BMW is already showing what is possible and other
vehicle manufacturers will undoubtedly follow suit. It is therefore vital that
engages with vehicle manufacturers and the vehicle leasing
providers, but we first want to hear from members so we can raise the key
issues on their behalf.”
Today’s connectivity is the start of the journey towards the
autonomous car and while the secure exchange of data builds the foundations for
new business activities and applications, motor manufacturers acknowledge there
are significant risks and challenges regarding safety, security and privacy,
notably from cyber-attacks.
The German equivalent of the Society of Motor Manufacturers
and Traders has already declared: “The integrity and security of the vehicle is
paramount and must be protected at all times to guarantee predictable vehicle
behaviour and ensure the safety of its occupants.”
Underling the importance of obtaining international
agreements, the organisation warns: “In the absence of a broadly accepted
approach that ensures these requirements are fulfilled, the benefits of
connectivity and automation will not be realised and customer confidence will
As a result, motor manufacturers see themselves as becoming
in-life managers of vehicles. Effectively, performing the role of system
administrator and taking responsibility for the safe and secure transfer of
vehicle generated data but allowing third party access to the information.
Furthermore, some motor manufacturers are also delivering ‘over the air’
Motor manufacturers want to
reduce costs by sending out remote software updates for their vehicles,
managing vehicle recalls online and developing an early warning system for
What’s more, such technology is
enabling vehicle manufacturers to engage directly with company car drivers and potentially
win back the delivery of SMR by franchise dealers thus recovering work lost in
recent years to the independent sector.
The BVRLA in its 2016 ‘Fleet
Technology White Paper’ says: “Connectivity and data are disrupting the
traditional economies and research and development focus of the automotive
industry, as well as many of the legal frameworks and business models that have
served the fleet industry for so many years.
“Vehicle manufacturers and their fleet customers will need
to collaborate and develop new ways of working together to realise the full
potential of connected vehicles and data.
“Fleets will want to identify a number of rich seams of
insight and information instead of sheltering under an avalanche of meaningless
or unactionable information.”
Connectivity and remote fault diagnosis undeniably delivers
Early detection of faults and wear and
tear before components ‘break’ thus reducing fleet SMR costs and aiding
Vehicle usage advice notably enabling
managers to monitor MPG, speed, journey patterns and other information.
Such data feeds also negates the requirement for aftermarket
telematics devices, but as the white paper highlights: “Data harvesting is not
for the fainthearted.”
Indeed, there is already concerns that access to data is
causing established business models “to collide”. For example, services now
being provided by some motor manufacturers - breakdown assistance, vehicle
service reminders and bookings, diagnostic alerts and vehicle tracking -
competing directly with those provided by vehicle leasing and fleet management
providers as well as third party telematics providers.
As a result, says the white
paper: “In many cases, drivers are being contacted directly and asked to sign terms
and conditions involving these services, which conflict with another contract
already signed between that driver’s fleet manager and their leasing company.
“In the short term, this has led
to some fleet operators ‘opting-out’ of any connected technology that conflicts
with the services they offer, and in some cases this can mean all connected
services in a vehicle are switched off.”
Consequently, the white paper
concludes: “The sheer buying power of the fleet and leasing sector means that
vehicle manufacturers and their biggest customers will have to come to some
sort of agreement.”
That’s what BMW has done in
terms of enabling its vehicle leasing and fleet management subsidiary Alphabet
to access data.
Alphabet says that it is in discussions with other motor manufacturers to make
a similar service available ultimately for all makes and models.
Sutherland, chief operating officer at Alphabet, said: “Moving forward, the
goal is to work collaboratively with all vehicle manufacturers in the UK to
deliver the benefits of the Teleservice programme to all our customers and
drivers, regardless of the brand of vehicle they’re driving."
But, as discussions continue
behind the scenes to deliver an ultimate solution, the BVRLA says five key principles
have been agreed at a European level between vehicle manufacturers and third
party service providers:
Data subject or owner must decide if
data can be provided and to whom, and must be given the option to opt-out
Free and undistorted competition for
Data subjects need data protection for
privacy, companies need it for security and competition reasons
Services using the data should not
endanger the safe and secure function of the vehicle or impact the liability of
the vehicle manufacturer
Standardised, common access to vehicle
data and resources.
Meanwhile, at an operational level, Marc Dautlich, head
of information law and partner in the technology, media and telecoms team at
international law firm Pinsent Masons told industry publication Fleet News: “Employers must find a
lawful basis to use information and data generated from “connected” vehicles on
“That is either with the consent of individual employees
or they must establish a legitimate reason to use the data without it intruding
so far into employees’ privacy as to be unacceptable.
“Where employers consider that they have a legitimate
reason for use they must establish data rule sets and explain them to
The relationship between motor
manufacturers, the vehicle leasing and fleet management industry, fleet
decision-makers and company car drivers is changing. As a result, the white
paper concludes: “This will require fleets to develop a whole new mindset and
core of expertise. These attributes will be essential as the industry spends
the next few years re-engineering its internal processes and reviewing its
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