Ford is expanding its investment in telematics solutions with new connected vehicle products for the fleet market. In June, the Ford Commercial Solutions announced new Data Services that would give fleet managers and telematics companies direct access to “OEM-grade” vehicle data, along with a second data product specifically for police fleets that can be used to improve efficiency and driver behavior.
“Business owners and operators want to serve their customers, not spend excessive time managing their fleets,” said Lee Jelenic, CEO, Ford Commercial Solutions. “Our goal is to unlock the data from their vehicles to provide them with more effective ways to manage their fleets and improve operations.
“Our new products are tailored to serve fleets of all types, whether they’re run by law enforcement, composed predominantly of Ford vehicles, or are large multi-make fleets that want more insight from their Ford vehicles.”
In addition, Ford Commercial Solutions signed new partnerships with telematics providers Geotab and Spireon. The company previously formed a partnership with Verizon Connect on fleet telematics.
This is part of Ford’s plans to provide connectivity across its entire passenger and commercial vehicle line.
“Our vehicles will connect to smart cities and to the Web,” said Piero Aversa, chief engineer for Ford’s global powertrain NVH and CAE unit, speaking at the recent Conference on Advancing Analysis & Simulation in Engineering conference in Cleveland. “By 2019, 100 percent of new Ford vehicles in the U.S. will come with built-in connectivity, allowing vehicles and North American customers to interface while driving, and to take advantage of new data services.”
Aversa added that connectivity plays into the company’s larger strategies related to autonomous vehicles and ride sharing services.
The Commercial Solutions division is part of the Ford Smart Mobility unit.
The new Data Services product focuses on serving large company fleets, telematics service providers and fleet management companies, according to Ford. The service will use Ford vehicles’ built-in modem to transfer vehicle data directly to the cloud, without additional third-party hardware, management or installation downtime, as is required for a third-party plug-in device. The vehicle data can be sent to a fleet’s internal IT system or telematics service provider through an application program interface.
Using the solution, fleets can access GPS location, mileage, fuel usage, vehicle health information, driver behavior data, and other information. Ford claims that because it designed the vehicle systems, it can provider better and faster data to fleets.
The new partnerships with Geotab and Spireon are meant to give telematics customers more choices when it comes to service providers. Ford emphasized that it was still committed to its existing partnership with Verizon Connect.
“Fleets told us they want to be able to choose how to best manage their fleets,” said Jelenic. “Our agreements with different service providers, coupled with the new products we are introducing, allow us to offer this.”
The law enforcement solution will use data from the telematics system so that police departments can improve efficiency and driver safety. Data includes fuel usage, emissions, vehicle health, and seatbelt usage, and can be shared using a web-based dashboard.
Ford also plans to release a plug-in telematics device so that fleet operators can connect older Ford vehicles to the network.
The Ford announcements come as investment in telematics technology increase across different markets.
According to the new J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Auto Insurance Study, insurance company usage-based insurance programs (which use telematics technology to provide driver data that can be used to discount premiums based on safe driving) have grown from 8 percent of customers to 10 percent of customers over the past year.
Commercial use of telematics stands at roughly 40 to 60 percent penetration, according to estimates from Verisk Analytics. Other vehicle OEMs are also beginning to offer direct telematics solutions for commercial customers.
General Motors has partnered with Fleet Complete to offer its telematics and connected vehicle solutions to commercial fleets for OnStar-equipped vehicles. The Fleet Complete CONNVEX platform will be combined with OnStar data with no long-term contract requirement.
"Connectivity is the future, and fleets of all sizes are rapidly embracing innovative, data-driven business solutions that can help them improve safety and reduce operating costs," said Ed Peper, U.S. vice president of General Motors Fleet.
Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz Vans unit has also added new telematics packages for its Sprinter large van line under the PRO brand.