With American analyst firm Gartner predicting that there will be a quarter of a billion connected vehicles on the road globally by 2020, equipped with new in-vehicle services and automated driving capabilities, asset and vehicle tracking solutions company Ctrack, part of Inseego Corp, says cars will form a major element of the expanding Internet of Things (IoT).
Ctrack adds that it is ideally primed to help South African automotive users usher in the next technological revolution with its range of IoT-enabling technology.
“Drivers of the next generation want their cars to act as smartphones on wheels that will enable them to remain connected and productive on the go,” says Ctrack MD Pierre Bruwer. He points out that perhaps the biggest innovation in this regard will be the autonomous vehicle, or self-driving car.
Currently, cars can perform function-specific tasks without a driver’s input, such as cruise control, lane guidance and automated parallel parking; however, these functions still require drivers to be fully engaged and responsible for overall vehicle control. Bruwer notes that the next stage could see drivers disengage from vehicle operations under certain conditions.
Advocates of the autonomous vehicle predict that consumers can soon buy affordable self- driving vehicles that can greatly reduce traffic, accidents, parking costs, roadway costs and harmful emissions, as well as reliance on public transport.
However, he adds that full self-driving automation – where vehicles can perform all driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip – might still be a long way off.
“The industry is buzzing with the idea of everything being automated and connected, and business growth in this area is huge. However, the market still needs to address the real needs of individual consumers, fleet owners and operators.”
Bruwer adds that any business still requires crew members to interact with clients, and legislation on issues such as speaking on cellphones while driving, the licensing of vehicles and drivers, and submitting claims against the Road Accident Fund needs to be adapted to allow for these systems.
Rapid Automotive Advancement
While it may be some time before entirely autonomous automotive systems become a reality, Bruwer notes, the South African transport industry is showing clear signs of advancement in technology-driven trends such as comprehensive vehicle tracking and remote vehicle shutdown.
Ctrack is already supplying on-board devices that can report on vehicle diagnostic information and assist fleet owners in improving productivity and operational efficiency. The on-board diagnostics fuel reader, for example, provides fleet operators with real-time visibility on fuel consumption, enabling them to manage their fuel use and related costs.
With live and visible software on mobile devices and information technology platforms, fleet and risk managers can also proactively prevent accidents rather than simply reporting what happened to the vehicle. By viewing driver profiles – compiled by a tracking unit – data can reveal high risks in a short time. Such software can also be used to incentivise drivers for good behaviour.
“The biggest and most important goal is to make the car of tomorrow cleaner, safer and lighter, while remaining user-friendly. While speculation is rife that the petrol- guzzling internal combustion engine is on its way out, its demise might not be so quick, with some experts suggesting instead that an electric vehicle could be used for daily commutes, but that a combustible engine will still be needed for longer trips.”
Bruwer says institutions worldwide are conducting research to further improve automotive efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Moreover, a variety of exponential technologies have been used in Africa as a way of overcoming infrastructure deficiencies and economic disadvantages and accelerating the continent’s success for some time, with the transportation industry thus well positioned to take full advantage of IoT, he highlights.
For example, Ugandan sensor technology, called Matibabu, can diagnose malaria without a blood sample using a smartphone, three-dimensional printing technology has empowered South African surgeons to create a low-cost jaw implant and UjuziKilimo, developed in Kenya, provides farmers with customised planting recommendations using sensors that measure and analyse soil qualities, Bruwer elaborates.
He further points out that a key topic at the latest World Economic Forum on Africa, held in Rwanda in May last year, was the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as well as suggestions on how IoT might become Africa’s next great “leapfrogging” success story.
“Sub-Saharan Africa’s unique challenges can be turned into opportunities with the advantages that come with IoT. Ctrack’s tools, technology and skills enable us to develop and deliver leading end-to-end solutions in the transport industry.”
Road accidents are costing South Africa’s economy R142.95-billion yearly, according to a 2016 study conducted by the Road Traffic Management Corporation and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; investing in a full-stack solution like Ctrack is, therefore, a step in the right direction for the industry, he adds.
Bruwer states that Ctrack can offer clients a true end-to-end solution comprising a comprehensive hardware portfolio, a platform and cloud services, as well as integration and support.
“None of our competitors can match the combination of hardware expertise and the platform depth and analytics capabilities of our offerings. We are excited to be a part of Africa’s growing potential to lead such a significant historical transformation and enable our clients to be a part of it.”