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Fleets and 'Big Data' Management: Tell ACFO your views

Fleets and 'Big Data' Management: Tell ACFO your views

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 benefits include:
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 maintenance.

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 time.  

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 ACFO 
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 be undermined.”  

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’ software updates.  

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 warranty issues.  

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 fleet benefits:         
Early detection of faults and wear and tear before components ‘break’ thus reducing fleet SMR costs and aiding improved budgeting
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.  

Separately, Alphabet says that it is in discussions with other motor manufacturers to make a similar service available ultimately for all makes and models.  

Matt 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 all services 
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 their fleets.

“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 employees.”   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 external relationships.” ·        

Tell ACFO your views. Please provide feedback by emailing 
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