What is Car Telematics? Benefits, Features and Use Cases

April 27, 2022
The basis of a modern-day telematics system mixes telecommunications, informatics, electrical engineering, computer science and vehicle technology. Collecting and transmitting vehicle data to improve and enhance fleet management and driver understanding.

History of Car Telematics

As the internet was conceived, telematics was developed as a way to communicate data. The link between computers, amongst other devices, meant the new concept of telematics was referenced as early as 1978. Simon Nora and Alain Minc reported the new technological advancement in computing to the French Prime Minister in a document titled L'Informatisation de la société.

Advancements in computing technology have allowed silicon chips to shrink in size and become more common in devices. In contrast, telecommunication has grown on a global scale, with high bandwidths, transferring large amounts of data - no matter the location. Fleet management companies can receive live data to their central hub, allowing easy traceability of the entire vehicle group.

GPS (or Global Positioning Systems) were developed in the 1960s by the US Defense Department. They were not incorporated into vehicle trackers until the mid-1990s. The research concluded that it improved road safety and helped reduce environmental impact as cars were easily traceable. Early 2000s systems enabled fleet management companies to keep track of their vehicles via the web. This was developed further in the 2010s to incorporate telematics into smartphone apps, with instant location data sent through mobile data networks.

What a Vehicle Telematics System is

Tracking devices are either installed or are built into a vehicle. They communicate with the vehicle Onboard Diagnostic System (OBDII), sending measurement data which is transferred over the air.

Telecommunication organisations take this data from the vehicle telematics systems and deliver it to fleet operators or vehicle owners to provide real-time information. Telematics suppliers offer this data in cloud and software-based solutions, using GPS tracking within the hardware of their vehicle devices. This data can be used to develop enhanced applications for bespoke fleet management companies. With apps that allow reporting, visual indicators and notifications that can be triggered based on a host of vehicle data.

How Telematics Systems Work

You may commonly have heard of black-box systems in an aircraft? They transmit live data to air traffic control. This technology is incorporated into vehicles, and has been for some time. A module gathers live vehicle data using the OBDII network and combines the GPS coordinates in a package that is transmitted to a core server via Satellite Communication, GPRS or 4G/5G mobile data networks. Users access this data using their device that deciphers the vehicle data which was sent over the air, and displays it in a way that is easy to understand.

A wide range of data is collected using telematics devices. It can be as simple as vehicle location, speed and fuel consumption and go into depth as much as acceleration figures, vehicle faults and oil and coolant temperatures to really understand the way the vehicle is responding to its drivers.

Vehicle Telematics system

Car Telematics - Benefits and Features

From finding lost and stolen vehicles, to pinpointing broken down cars for roadside assistance companies, there are a range of benefits and use-cases for vehicle telematics systems.

As a blend of navigation, safety, communication and security for owners and fleet management companies, this information can all be provided in one small device hidden in the depths of a vehicle interior. The extensive list of features includes:

Instant Notification of a Crash

Once a vehicle is in trouble, via a crash or collision, telematics modules are built to respond and request services instantly. Being able to communicate with call centres, the crash-proof telematics module sends out location data using a car's built-in antenna.

SOS Button in Emergencies

Most modern vehicles have an SOS button built into the overhead console to contact emergency services. This could be for non-crash scenarios such as seeing a crime or heath issues whilst operating a vehicle. 

In less severe situations, the SOS button can contact roadside assistance if a vehicle breaks down or has a puncture, using GPS these companies can instantly track you down.

Diagnostics Reporting

Using the OBDII system, for example, a vehicle health update can be sent across to fleet managers and owners to monitor the status of their vehicle. It is possible to send this straight to a car dealer too, saving money in the form of preventative maintenance and reducing the possibility of breaking down.

Fuel Station Finder

Your nearest fuel stations can be located on built-in software in the vehicle. Using telematics systems, live pricing data can be provided too, saving users money if they find a cheaper alternative nearby. Especially useful for EV owners too, finding the nearest available charge station would otherwise be a frustrating task.

Live Alerts

Finding nearby restaurants and attractions, receiving news or weather alerts in your area can all be programmed by the vehicle telematics system. Text messages and emails are something that can be pushed to vehicles, removing the need for drivers to take their eyes off the road and leaving a safer driving experience and fewer accidents.

Set Rules and Geofencing

Geofencing is a term when vehicle location data can be sent to fleet managers, indicating if a driver goes outside their permitted location boundary. Ideal for situations when vehicles are stolen, or to analyse their drivers work schedule to see if improvements in efficiency can be made.

Use Cases

Fleet management companies use telematics data to track their whole fleet remotely. Either using a bespoke mobile app, or using a web browser tailored to their needs. These systems help with:

Improving Fuel Efficiency

If an engine is left running for a long period whilst the car is stationary, driving habits that are poor for fuel economy and longer routes can all be looked at and eliminated by analysing the fleet telematics data using graphs and tables. Resulting in saving fuel costs, ideal as petrol and diesel prices are on the rise in recent times.

Driving Safely

Drivers can be taught how to drive in a safer manner. With their health on the line it is in the best interest of both the management company and their employees to not speed, not brake heavily or late and not put anyone else in danger when on the road. 

It can offer an incentive to those who drive well, businesses can reward good driving behaviour and safety scores can be created using a mass of telematics data fed right into the fleet management software. This is currently being used in Tesla vehicles, for determining full self driving eligibility for its drivers.

Reduce Journey Time

Combining live traffic data with vehicle location data, fleet drivers can be remotely managed and offer suggestions for different routes. Eliminating time sat in traffic, the workforce can be more efficient and complete more tasks during the day. This not only saves business costs, it makes satisfied customers if more work can be achieved in the same day.

Tracking Working Hours

For calculating pay, data can be analysed to determine when the vehicle was switched on in the morning and off at night, with exact timeframes that can give accurate hourly pay to its employees. This can all be automated, without the need for an additional payroll employee and results in less disputes between employees because accurate data is used.

Preventative Maintenance Measures

Understanding journey time, temperatures, tyre pressures and conditions the vehicle is in provides a useful insight into component degredation. This means maintenance can be booked in advance, allowing fleet management to take the vehicle off the road for the shortest amount of time possible. Even trouble codes using the OBDII system can be sent as notifications to see what system or part is faulty within the car - all whilst being out in the field.

Car Telematics, A Future Outlook

With the focus on environmenal impact, health and safety of employees and cost saving initiatives, there are a lot of avenues that car telematics can branch into. With a higher amount of companies harnessing vehicle data, it is a huge importance that software is developed in a way that users can understand, taking hold of vehicle data for business improvements.

5G technology is becoming mainstream and being installed across the globe. Allowing higher data transfer rates for vehicle telematics data and even more accurate data capturing. More frequent information such as live fuel consumption and camera technology that enhances the possibility of autonomous vehicles.

A lot more combination of data can occur, with businesses offering personalised products, routes and entertainment using vehicle telematics data is another possibility. Giving drivers unique experiences and a more rewarding drive when they operate a fleet vehicle, incorporating AI.

High Moblity is the official telematics partner to car manufacturers. Explore the supported brands by our platform here.

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