Why AI is the way forward when it comes to protecting people and profit
Road traffic collisions, despite being one of the most obvious threats any of us face on a daily basis, are still left to chance most of the time.
Unlike other industries where warnings are repeatedly provided, such as before operating dangerous machinery, in the majority of cases for professional drivers, support is limited to training ahead of an event taking place, or reviewed as learnings for a wash-up further down the road.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The technology to pre-emptively warn drivers about impending threats already exists. Connected cameras or video telematics with AI technology, deployed in commercial vehicle fleets as an addition to conventional fleet telematics, are playing an ever-greater role in managing risk within vehicle fleets, protecting drivers, the public and ultimately the business bottom line.
Why AI cameras?
The technology behind AI cameras is developing fast. Modern systems can already detect and provide alerts to drivers for four out of the six most common causes of road traffic collisions: using the phone, tailgating, detecting other road users and fatigue, as well as distracting behaviours like smoking at the wheel.
From a business perspective AI systems can bring significant benefits. From providing prompts to drivers whose attention may be straying, to recording footage in the run up to and during an incident, they allow a business to protect the wellbeing of its people as well as its assets. AI systems also provide helpful data over time to identify any driver behaviour issues across the fleet that may require further intervention, such as through targeted training or individual KPIs. Overall, having this accountability in place helps build a culture of legally compliant drivers, who perform more professionally and are protected in the event that something does go wrong.
Big brother isn’t watching you
It is perhaps unsurprising that these cameras, which provide access to objective and comprehensive evidence of driver behaviour for fleet managers, aren’t always readily accepted by drivers themselves. Initial reactions are likely to focus on a ‘big brother’ intrusion into the workplace and discomfort at being watched in what tends to feel like a fairly personal environment, especially when drivers can spend many hours a day in their vehicles.
As with most things in life, the key to successful acceptance of a programme is dependent on transparency, honesty and a thorough overview of the benefits for the drivers affected.
The most important reason for installing connected cameras should always be the driver getting home safely at the end of the day and businesses should not look to hide other objectives under this guise. Employers can help to address driver concerns by being completely clear on what the camera system does and doesn’t do, alongside what it will and won’t be used for. Understanding, for example, that footage will only be retained when triggered by a specific set of incidents or actions, including manual operation in an emergency, will reassure many drivers. From a driver perspective, the benefit of protection goes beyond physical safety too. With vexatious insurance claims a big challenge for professional drivers, being able to demonstrate non-fault in the event of an incident would be a significant perk.
Keep it legal
There are legal considerations to take into account when it comes to AI camera systems. Recording people falls under GDPR guidelines and employment law considerations, which vary by country. As for recording on public roads, the laws can vary significantly. In the UK, recording public roads is allowed, yet across several continental European countries, recording time must be limited. In some countries, such as Austria and Portugal, dashcams are banned entirely.
The rules on allowable recording also depend on whether or not the footage includes audio as well as video. There are more restrictions on audio recording, which is generally seen as more intrusive for the drivers. For fleets operating across markets, it’s important to ensure local regulations are considered.
Cost benefit analysis
For vehicle fleets, connected cameras provide a vital tool in business operations, allowing visibility, preventing incidents occurring, keeping drivers safe and pre-emptively managing the costs associated with road incidents.
At Masternaut, my aim is to enable customers to create the safest, most compliant fleet possible, with the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO). For customers I work with, the savings generated by Fleet Management solutions, such as connected cameras, far outweigh the cost of implementation.
As with any sustainable business operation, the best ways of working comes when companies look to operate in as responsible a manner as possible. What is good for employees tends to be good for the business, too, not to mention for its customers, shareholders and the broader public.