A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the use of cameras in commercial fleets can be worth thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in fleet protection. That’s why video telematics is rapidly becoming a must-have telematics add-on for commercial fleets. The newest industry report forecasts a CAGR of nearly 23% through 2028, marking a surge of seven points over last year’s growth predictions.
The reason is simple: the camera does not lie. While telematics provides critical data on variables such as vehicle location, speed and fuel consumption, video telematics provides the bigger picture both literally and figuratively.
With the ability to serve as an eyewitness as well as apply technologies like artificial intelligence and machine vision to video footage, today’s advanced video telematics solutions can both substantially increase fleet safety and absolve operators of liability and litigation when a driver is not at fault in an accident. The results, according to Frost & Sullivan, include reductions of 80% in driver distraction, 65% in speeding, 60% in collisions, and 25% in insurance claims.
Yet choosing the right system for your needs can be a challenge. Different solutions offer different features, capabilities, physical sizes, price points and even upgrade paths. The platform you select will impact everything from accurate driver behavior analysis, fleet manager productivity and the degree of visibility for accident reconstruction to your initial investment and how frequently you need to replace your cameras.
Here are some factors to weigh when selecting a video telematics solution for your fleet.
1 – Road-facing or road- and driver-facing? Most fleets prefer to implement video telematics in stages, beginning with forward-facing dashcams to document what happens on the road and waiting to decide whether to add driver-facing units for extra protection.If you adopt that wait-and-see strategy, you can add in-cab video by purchasing separate driver-facing cameras; replacing your road-facing dashcams with new dual-facing devices; or – if you’ve chosen a newer modular solution like the Sensata INSIGHTS KP2 – upgrading your base road-facing units with snap-on driver-facing modules requiring no professional installation or rewiring.
2 – One camera or multi-camera? Road-facing cameras record what happens in front of a vehicle when an event occurs, but that’s not always enough. If someone sideswipes a van, for example, a road-facing camera won’t “see” the incident, but side cameras will capture the culprit on video. If a vehicle is rear-ended, only a rear-facing camera can show whether the driver in back was tailgating, driving erratically or otherwise at fault. Multiple cameras can therefore increase the ability to assess liability, dispute false claims, and keep your company out of court.
3 – True 360-degree visibility? If you decide on a multi-camera option, be sure the system you choose can provide an unobstructed 360-degree view outside the vehicle. Some platforms try to provide multiple views of the exterior using a single interior unit with multiple cameras facing in different directions, but blind spots will still exist and certain angles will be blocked by a-pillars, seat backs and other interior features. This is especially true for commercial vehicles without a clear line of sight from front to back, such as typical box trucks and certain vans.
4 – Intelligent event analysis to reduce unnecessary event notifications? Conventional video telematics solutions flood fleet managers’ inboxes with false reports of dangerous driving behavior. That’s because the G-sensor and GPS data that triggers those alerts lacks context about factors such as road type, weather conditions and traffic patterns. Some drivers flagged for harsh acceleration may actually be merging into traffic from an expressway on-ramp, for example, while others dinged for repetitive harsh braking may be driving downhill through steep mountain roads. Systems that can provide these insights through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning reduce false positives by filtering out events with no safety or liability implications. That saves hours of review time every week, enables more accurate driver scoring, and avoids unnecessary driver coaching and conflicts.
5 – Camera size and cost? If the cameras you’re considering are the size by of a paperback book and cost upwards of $1800 apiece, it’s likely because the manufacturer has elected to place all or most of their artificial intelligence and machine vision functions on the edge (that is, on the camera itself). The extra processors, graphics processing units (GPUs) and heat sinks required to support these functions not only increase the footprint on the windshield, but also double, triple or even quadruple device costs. Solutions that move non-critical functions to the cloud are smaller and less costly. (See #6.)
6 – Cost-effective ADAS and DSM functions? Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and driver state monitoring (DSM) are cornerstones of today’s video telematics platforms because of their ability to help avert accidents. As just mentioned, however, processing all ADAS and DSM functions on the camera increases the device size and price tag without necessarily increasing safety. For that reason, some vendors limit camera-based AI analysis to identifying possible catastrophic issues such as speeding, tailgating, imminent forward collisions, solid lane departures, fatigue and distraction requiring driver alerts and real-time intervention, performing non-urgent AI processing in the cloud.
7– Easy repair, replacement and upgradeability? Many fleet dashcams need to be removed and rewired when repair or replacement is needed, taking vehicles out of service. Some newer cameras virtually eliminate that downtime by attaching to a windshield-mounted bracket instead of directly to the windshield. The entire device can then be detached from the bracket for repair with no need to disturb wiring from the initial installation or rewire the new or repaired unit. On the upgradeability issue, cameras that do most AI processing on-board require hardware replacement to take full advantage of new features added after installation, while those that can deploy most upgrades from the cloud have a longer life span.
8 - Ability to optimize the SD card for image quality or storage? Some systems allow users to adjust video settings in order to optimize for image quality or the amount of video that gets stored on the SD card before new video begins to overwrite the old. Despite beliefs to the contrary, the video quality of 780p with a frame rate of 15 FPS is nearly indistinguishable from 1080p and 30 FPS for most purposes, enabling many hours of additional video to be retained before being overwritten. This calculator tool shows the impact of changing the video resolution and FPS variables on video quality and storage capacity.
9 – Key fobs, ID codes or automatic driver recognition? If you’ve been using traditional telematics, you’re accustomed to having drivers log in with a key fob, numerical code or other hardware solution. The problem is that drivers sometimes forget. Some video telematics systems solve the problem with facial recognition that automatically identifies the person behind the wheel, ensuring that every trip (and every incident) is attributed to the correct driver while also eliminating the cost of separate trip log-in hardware.
10 – Telematics and video telematics available from the same provider? One advantage of working with a telematics service provider for both your telematics and video telematics needs is the ability to source all products and services from a single supplier. That notably includes consolidated reporting that saves time, eliminates the need to piece together information from multiple interfaces, and facilitates comparison of multiple data points that can help fleets drive operational improvements and associated spending controls. Keeping it simple is good for business and good for fleet managers, too.
Michael Bloom is Head of Marketing for Sensata INSIGHTS, a global business unit of Sensata Technologies that provides end-to-end IoT solutions spanning the entire supply chain including logistics, telematics, and worksite monitoring and management.