Fleet owners have the day-to-day task of managing an enormous amount of inventory in multiple locations throughout the world within an industry that is dynamic and features constantly changing demand. It’s only going to get more dynamic when the transition to autonomous vehicles begins.
The transition will not be just about removing the person who controls the steering wheel, the gas pedal and the brake pedal from the fleet-management equation. It also is about removing the person who fuels/charges the car, cleans the car, takes cars in for maintenance, etc. How will all this be done in the era of driverless cars?
Idle time management is another interesting example of the change that will occur when AVs come to market. Think of a taxi driver who drops off a passenger and doesn’t immediately have another call. Experience and discretion (or a good dispatcher) generally inform where to drive for the next likely pickup. How will that work with autonomous fleets which will become part of a massive operation of automated, centrally controlled vehicles?
How will charging management work, assuming most AVs will run on electricity? Will autonomous/electric vehicles know when to charge themselves? Will it be at 10% battery or 50% to 60%? How do you keep all the cars from going to the charging locations at the same time? How do we make sure there are enough plugs, in the right locations?
Figuring all of this out will be challenging. However, the good news is that the transition to fleet management of AVs also represents a great opportunity for fleet operators. Eventually, it will allow the industry to shift its focus from cost-savings to revenue generation.
These opportunities will crystallize simply by leveraging the capabilities of artificial intelligence in conjunction with the huge amount of data produced when AVs hit the road. Fleet operators will have the opportunity to provide services such as delivery, ride-sharing, subscription, car sharing and more. These services will become even more personalized as well.
An operating system, so to speak, for autonomous fleets will be critical to handling the transition.
It will need to build upon the multiple layers from current automated fleet management and allow for the operation of multiple services on top of each other using the same fleet, thus becoming an end-to-end, on-demand platform for robo-taxis, dynamic shuttles and many more smart services yet to come.
Another major factor for these fleets and services will be the flood of data related to the addition of more and more sensors in AVs. Estimations of the amount of data coming back from one driverless vehicle are enormous – about 4 terabytes per day. But within that data are insights that are crucial not only for running an efficient and safe operation but also to better understand the needs of the customers who are using the fleet.
It should be remembered, however, that to have a full understanding of your fleet, the vehicle is only one part of the puzzle. There are external data sources such as weather, traffic, city events – all of which will add up to a much larger amount of data that needs to be analyzed and turned into real-time actions.
The ability to do this, mostly within split-seconds or quicker, is a huge challenge requiring a big change in the tools that anyone operating a fleet has today. But it will result in a huge advantage in the marketplace.
It is a market that is changing fast. The pressure to optimize fleet inventory will require faster and even more productive real-time insights of demand, location and analytics so business decisions can be made efficiently and quickly to maximize company assets.
Anyone wanting to be a major player while the transition to autonomy takes place needs to acknowledge the sea change as soon as possible and recognize it will have a huge effect on any fleet-based service.
Competitors, and even new players in the market will establish new levels of fleet efficiency while serving a much larger customer base that is optimistically looking forward to advanced mobility services. The transition already is under way, and companies that fail to adjust their technology today will be left on the side of the road in the AV era.
Israel Duanis (above, left) is CEO of Fleetonomy (https://www.fleetonomy.io/), an artificial-intelligence-based provider of vehicle fleet management services based in Tel Aviv, Israel.