Ford Seeks Vehicle-Use Insights Through Fleet Study

The Fleet Insight study has been under way for the past 10 weeks incorporating 72 Hewlett-Packard corporate vehicles.

Byron Pope, Associate Editor

March 2, 2015

3 Min Read
Ford gathering data through parameterID devices
Ford gathering data through parameter-ID devices.

Ford and tech giant Hewlett-Packard are in the midst of a data-gathering project that could alter how businesses operate their fleets.

The Fleet Insight study, part of the automaker’s ongoing global Smart Mobility experiments, has been under way for the past 10 weeks incorporating 72 HP-owned Ford vehicles, mostly Escape CUVs and Fusion midsize sedans used by support and sales personnel.

Utilizing parameter-ID devices, or PIDs, Ford is tracking 100 vehicles as they are driven nationwide by HP employees for work and personal commuting. Ford says collecting data about how drivers use their vehicles could lead to better products and services.

Data being collected includes GPS coordinates, vehicle speed, engine speed, coolant temperature, gas level, air flow, battery voltage, acceleration, idling time and trip distance, says Shounak Athvale, the Ford IT manager heading up the mobility experiment.

“The project will shed light on the purpose behind the (HP staff) trips, how drivers interact with external factors such as weather and traffic, and how to further personalize time behind the wheel,” Athvale tells WardsAuto.

When the program wraps in another 10-12 weeks, Athvale says data will be analyzed and used to develop a number of different technologies or programs.

For example, HP could use the data to streamline the way its corporate vehicle fleet is utilized.

“A lot of HP folks are flying in and out of (airport) hubs,” Athvale says. “They park their car and somebody else from HP may fly in and rent a car.

“So they’re paying for parking and paying for a (rental) while a resource is sitting idle,” he says. “The hypothesis is if you can manage this, the person flying in could pick (the car) up from the parking lot and use it for so many days and turn it in.”

HP also might better select the correct vehicle model mix for its fleet. Typically, HP staff members are given a limited selection of models to choose from, but the cars offered don’t always best fit their work needs.

Technologies that could be developed based on data collected from the study include a mobile-office setup, where HP personnel could prepare in their vehicle for a meeting with clients.

“Maybe a printer port where you could hook up a printer and print on the way,” Athvale says. “Or (the ability) to downloaded notes to your computer as you’re navigating and parking.”

Athvale says monitors also could be installed in the vehicle to check vital signs such as blood pressure and temperature, which could save time when going to a doctor’s appointment.

HP also is hoping the project can determine how much time employees are using company vehicles for personal use, which would help the workers when filing their taxes.

In addition to determining uses for fleet operators, Athvale says data gleaned from the study could be used to develop technologies and systems for traditional buyers, including an ownership model that allows a group of people to share their vehicle with others depending on certain occasional needs.

“One of the promises of big data is to give you insight into things you can’t imagine,” he says. “What we can do with this data is mash it up with other data and try and get insights.”

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About the Author(s)

Byron Pope

Associate Editor, WardsAuto

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