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Are British roads capable of catering for autonomous vehicles?

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

This year, the UK became the first country to allow self-driving cars on motorways at low speed. The country is making incredible progress in the trials for autonomous vehicles and is funding innovative projects that will pave the way towards the transport revolution.

Technological advancements in terms of AVs are at the forefront of this revolution. But are British roads capable of catering to the future of mobility? What is the current state of our roads and what improvements need to be made to the infrastructure to welcome self-driving vehicles?

The latest news

Predictions that fully self-driving cars would be common in the UK by the end of 2021 raised many people’s hopes. But it seemed too good to be true. It turns out that we’re not ready yet to fully embrace what was once mere science fiction. Yes, we’re making incredible progress but our AI technology still has some way to go.

While we might not be seeing fully autonomous vehicles on the roads anytime soon, conditional driving automation cars are currently on the agenda. The Jaguar I-Pace model, for example, has been designed with an InControl system that allows for standard and optional driving assistance features. For this project, UK company Jaguar is developing this model in partnership with Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project.

This innovation in AVs goes hand in hand with the latest breaking news regarding AVs from 28th April 2021. The news is that vehicles that are fitted with Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) technology will be classed as self-driving (if they’re granted a GB type approval) and will be allowed on the roads. There is only one requirement: they can’t exceed a speed of 37mph.

The highway code is changing

But things don’t end there. To advance the commercialisation of AVs, the UK government is making amendments to the Highway Code, coinciding with the Code’s 90th anniversary. They address the safe use of automated vehicles, outlining this in a whole new section. Now that’s a celebration!

The new section states that the driver must remain aware while inside a self-driving vehicle. They are required to be ready to take control if needed in just a few moments. It also states that the driver is still “responsible for the vehicle being in a roadworthy condition, having a current MOT test certificate if applicable, and being taxed and insured”.

The current state of our roads

So, are AVs ready to take on the challenge of Britain’s roads? The short answer is no, but progress is being made.

The reality is that our road networks are too complex and, therefore, unsuitable for fully autonomous vehicles. It has been suggested that segregation between autonomous and manual vehicles on the roads is necessary. The proposed segregation would continue until connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) overtake petrol and diesel-fuelled vehicles. This proposal would call for the construction of underpasses and bridges to ensure the safety of road users. However, this would require the construction of separated infrastructure for automated vehicles. Unfortunately, there is limited availability of land to create such separated infrastructure, and this could be quite expensive to implement.

In order to achieve the level of infrastructure needed to accommodate CAVs, a 30-year planning horizon is needed. It has been suggested that the best way to go about this would be to focus on separate sections of the roadways instead of transforming them all at once.

Communication systems are also crucial to ensure the optimal performance of CAVs. They rely heavily on data transfer through the Internet, which might not be perfect in all areas at the moment.

Another obstacle that needs to be overcome is road markings and traffic signs. The visibility and clarity of these must be maintained, and it may be necessary to digitise signs and markings too. This will also help CAVs to recognise them and action them.

Roadway design advancements

On the bright side, many projects that aim to improve current road infrastructure are in the pipeline.

CAVIAR (Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Infrastructure Appraisal Readiness), for example, is a project carried out between Highways England, Loughborough University, and the construction company Galliford Try. The project won Highways England’s innovation and air quality competition in 2019 and was awarded £1m. It focuses on one of the main pain points of CAV’s innovation: the complexity of the British roadway design.

The CAVIAR platform is set out to be a simulation that examines real raw data. This will allow for an understanding of how CAVs respond to dynamic lane changes, environmental conditions, and road merging.

“This research will build on our understanding and give us further insight into how connected and autonomous vehicles would operate on England’s motorways and major A roads and what challenges they may face”, said John Mathewson, Senior ITS Advisor at Highways England.

Further initiatives to support the improvement of the roadway infrastructure are also present. A ‘smart city hub’ is being built in Ireland. It will allow for autonomous vehicle technology to be tested on 7.5 miles of complex roads. The project is being led by Jaguar Land Rover with the aim of testing its sensory data through various simulations.

Another trial route is being developed on the roads between Coventry and Birmingham. The 186-mile Midlands Future Mobility route uses existing road infrastructure for about 95% of the route. “Smart CCTV, weather stations, communications units, and highly accurate GPS” will be implemented to further support the research.

Yes, fully autonomous vehicles are still on the agenda, and it might take some time until we reach that stage of CAV’s development. However, the extensive research that is being performed on British roadway design in recent years sets us up for success one step at a time.

When business and pleasure don’t mix

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For fleet managers, managing parking payments is tricky. Using solutions that aren’t tailored to fleets as a workaround may seem clever at the time, but these are riddled with risk and a massive time drain.

A workaround that doesn’t work

PayByPhone, the global leader in mobile parking payments, realised that a precarious approach to fleet parking was being adopted by businesses throughout the country. Companies were signing up for accounts designed for personal use, adding their company card and providing each driver with the same username and password.

Adam Dolphin, UK Sales Director, PayByPhone, says: “Companies can be forgiven for thinking this workaround might work but personal accounts just aren’t designed for that. It actually creates more work for a busy fleet manager, not less.”

Using a PayByPhone personal account to cater for a corporate fleet facilitates anonymous parking – businesses have no way of knowing who booked what session. Anyone with access to the account can park any vehicle and if a driver leaves the business, they still have the app, so can still pay for parking with their former employer’s card. Payment details are also visible to anyone with access to the account so these details could be misused.

“Fleet managers should always opt for solutions that are bespoke to their needs, like our PayByPhone Business, which delivers security, visibility and efficiency, enabling businesses to take back control,” Dolphin adds.

PayByPhone Business’ centralised system gives fleet managers visibility over all parking activity in a simple solution. The portal enables admins to manage their fleet of both vehicles and drivers, adding and removing access as appropriate.

PayByPhone Business is scalable, so there is no limit to the numbers of vehicles a company can add, and for added convenience, they can be added in bulk. Payment can be made from one credit card for all drivers for maximum simplicity. And for added security, once a driver or vehicle is deleted, the associated business payment card will immediately be removed, safeguarding the account.

To find out more and to sign up your fleet visit https://park.paybyphone.co.uk/business.

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: Fleet management made easy with PayByPhone

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Controlling costs, avoiding information overload, satisfying compliance regulations – the to-do list for a busy fleet manager is long and complex. That’s why services that help manage large, on-the-go workforces are at the top of any business-critical needs list. But now parking payments are one less thing to worry about, thanks to a new solution from PayByPhone, the global leader in mobile parking payments.

PayByPhone Business brings a company’s parking under one easy-to-use, centralised system so fleet managers have visibility over all parking activity in a simple solution – one app and one interactive dashboard are all you need.

Simplified management

PayByPhone Business is scalable, so there is no limit to the numbers of cars a company can add to the system, and for added convenience, they can be added in bulk. Fleet managers can add, remove and authorise drivers and vehicles easily and even assign drivers to specific vehicles. Payment can be made from one credit card for all drivers for maximum simplicity. And for added security, once a driver or vehicle is deleted, the associated business payment card will immediately be removed, safeguarding the  account.

With the detailed Reporting Suite, PayByPhone Business users have real-time visibility of who is parking where and when. Multiple reports are available including historical and current reports and full VAT reports. It is also possible to have multiple admins on the account.

Driver-focused ease

There are benefits for the drivers too. Authorised drivers pay for their parking in just 15 seconds using the PayByPhone app – that’s a 75% faster transaction time than with other payment methods. Drivers no longer need to pay out of pocket and keep track of receipts. This eliminates the headache for the driver, as well as the fleet admin of time-consuming monthly expense reports. Drivers can be alerted before their parking session is due to expire, avoiding those costly parking fines.

To find out more and to sign up your fleet visit https://paybyphone.co.uk/business/paybyphone-business

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: RingGo Corporate parking app

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

RingGo is the UK’s no.1 parking app, with over 500 locations across 140 local authorities. We’re proud to offer the widest availability of TouchFree cashless parking across the whole of the UK. More than 11,000 businesses use RingGo Corporate to take the hassle out of parking for employees and manage their fleet, parking finances and admin all in one place.

Save time with intuitive tools to take the pain out of parking admin

  • Get one monthly HMRC-ready invoice to make reclaiming VAT easier.
  • No need to chase receipts. 
  • Add or remove employees and vehicles in your account in seconds.

Save money with an app that makes parking simpler for everyone

  • Reduce the risk of PCNs – handy SMS reminders alert employees when time is nearly up, so they can extend their parking session easily in the app.
  • Spot trends and opportunities to save money with our easy-to-use insight and reporting tools.

Boost productivity and free up employees to do more of what they do best

  • Help employees to park smart. With the app, they can find a space or charging point, get directions to it, pay for and extend their parking in just a few taps.
  • Increase efficiency, with less resource required to chase receipts, manage expenses or take care of parking fine admin.
  • Get a complete view of the parking activity for your whole business in your personalised company dashboard.


We’re more than just parking. We’re parking that works for your business.

https://corporate.myringgo.co.uk/ 

Yodel enhances fleet safety with SmartDrive

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Yodel, the UK independent parcel carrier, has enhanced its fleet safety programme and reduced collision rates over its HGV fleet, using SmartDrive Systems’ managed service video-based safety programme.

The company operates a proactive, ongoing safety improvement programme – implementing the latest technology across all aspects of its fleet to ensure continuous improvement.

The investment in SmartDrive’s video-safety programme has seen Yodel exceed its annual fleet safety target regarding collision reduction, in just six months, as well as exonerating its drivers when not-at-fault and providing protection from fraudulent claims.

Yodel Head of Fleet and Transport, Andy Yemm says: “With SmartDrive we benefit from objective risk scoring of on-road instances and follow up with driver coaching. It was great news to hear that, on the strength of data from the SmartDrive programme, our insurer accepted that our new proactive approach to road safety was capable of significantly reducing our collision risk.”

Yodel decided to adopt a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to on-road fleet risk in 2019 and spent considerable time examining offerings from various camera suppliers. After an intensive head-to-head trial period, it chose SmartDrive.

While other systems would have required the Yodel driver-trainer team to assess thousands of pieces of footage, SmartDrive’s managed service approach means that all footage is reviewed and risk scored in a consistent and objective manner by SmartDrive’s trained safety professionals. It is then made available to Yodel with coaching insights, via an easy-to-use online portal, which was a key benefit for the company.

Yemm says without SmartDrive it would have taken huge internal resources to manage this amount of data effectively and, in practical terms, would have been impossible to implement and objectively use as part of a proactive driver safety improvement programme.

He says his team now has clear guidance as to which incidents to follow up with specified levels of intervention, from debriefing to coaching.

Yemm says the risk scored camera footage is more effective than a driver-trainer assessing from the cab because it generates more reliable real-world observations. The footage is risk scored against a comprehensive list of observations by SmartDrive’s risk analysts.

He says having cameras on the vehicles had an immediate effect on driver behaviour, but the value of the system is the guided coaching.

To find out more email info@smartdrive.net, visit our website, or give us a call on 01442 345180.

Lucion rolls out innovative Lightfoot technology

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Gateshead-headquartered Lucion Services, an international leader in environmental risk management services, has announced the roll-out of Lightfoot’s in-vehicle driver efficiency technology and rewards platform to its fleet of 197 vans.

The decision follows successful trials which led to uplifts in mpg by more than 10%, reductions in CO2 emissions by 5.6%, falls in idling time by 29% and the eradication of instances of dangerous driving.

Nearly a thousand tonnes of CO2 will be stopped from entering the earth’s atmosphere over a five-year period, this is equivalent to the carbon captured by over a thousand acres of forest a year.

To read the full story, click here.

Lightfoot announces a series of new rewards

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Lightfoot, the industry-leading fleet driver rewards platform and in-cab driver guidance technology, has announced a series of new rewards for users in the run up to Christmas.

In addition to giving 15% off all Virgin experience days – a perfect present for partners, friends and family – the team at Lightfoot are giving users 10% off Warranty Wise. Now, Lightfoot drivers can extend the warranty on their private vehicles for less, covering expensive, unexpected or premature failure of parts as well as the cost of car hire and onward travel.

Part of the Lightfoot promise to reward drivers for being better, the discount feature comes on top of the weekly cash-prize Drivers’ Lottery and competitions where Elite Drivers can unlock access to great prizes ranging from cinema tickets to consumer tech. 

Believing in reward over reproach, Lightfoot’s driver guidance dashboard device, paired with the Lightfoot app and rewards pack, continues to collectively save fleet millions of pounds each year.  Cutting fuel bills and CO2 by up to 15%, reducing at-fault accidents by as much as 40% and wear and tear by up to 45%, Lightfoot’s driver-focused approach is driving change where it matters most – at the wheel.

Going further, Lightfoot’s all new Nelly’s Heroes Driver Community launched in November bringing top tips, competitions, and extra discounts to users via email. Lightfoot drivers now have more reason than ever to be the best that they can be.

To find out more about how Lightfoot can engage with your drivers to drive fleet performance improvements, visit https://www.lightfoot.co.uk.

The benefits of maximising uptime through a technology driven approach to rental

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By David Brennan (pictured), CEO of Nexus Vehicle Rental

Nexus has cemented itself at the forefront of innovation for 20 years and has successfully carved its market niche by applying technology to meet evolving industry trends and the ever-changing demands of its customers.

Nexus is transforming the vehicle rental industry in much the same way Uber disrupted taxi services – by providing on-demand access to the UK’s largest supply chain of 550,000 vehicles across 2,000 locations, including EVs, specialist and commercial vehicles, HGVs and one day, autonomous vehicles. Nexus keeps costs lean for businesses and provides an alternative to purchasing assets. 

Technology remains at the heart of Nexus, and its innovative bookings and management platform, IRIS, works to minimise errors and enable customers to self-serve, putting them in control of the entire rental process. Automation means that 90% of bookings involve no human interaction, which helps to streamline rental management and allows new bookings to be made in just 30 seconds. 

IRIS’ intuitive Management Information (MI) suite also spots trends in vehicle usage to identify efficiencies in the rental process. This provides complete transparency on all rental vehicle requirements and enables users to make informed decisions on how to reduce business costs. Earlier this year, Nexus launched IRIS V5 with a new dedicated electric vehicle (EV) rental portal for businesses. This enables customers to meet the rising demand for alternative, cleaner mobility solutions while avoiding large upfront expenditure – a first for the corporate rental market. 

By seeking a flexible rental solution, through a third party such as Nexus, businesses are always equipped to meet their changing mobility needs. Nexus is best placed to keep businesses moving with its all-encompassing technology-led mobility solution.

For more information, visit www.nexusrental.co.uk  

Here are the top driving apps for 2020

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The UK was home to 38.9 million vehicles by the end of September 2019, with 32 million being cars. The number is rising 1.3 per cent year on year too, so it’s safe to say that we in the UK love a good road trip. But with the nation on lockdown, many of us are yearning for the open road. Get yourself prepared for that post-lockdown road trip by downloading the best driving apps of 2020, as picked by SEAT dealer Vindis…

Find the car again with Car Locator

When the lockdown eases, you know the roads are going to be packed. So much so, you can go to the shops, the seaside, or local attractions and struggle to find a parking space. After driving around aimlessly, you finally find one! Success — or so you think. Once you’ve left your vehicle and gone about your business, there’s a great chance you’ll have forgotten where you parked. It has happened to the best of us.

In fact, a study by Nissan found that two thirds of the British public have forgotten where they parked their vehicle. On average, this search for your missing vehicle takes 10 minutes before you spot it. However, for five per cent of people this can take over half an hour!

Enter Car Locator. This app can be your saviour. With Car Locator you can either manually enter your location or set your phone up so that it automatically marks it using the car’s Bluetooth. Therefore, simply activate your GPS as you return to your vehicle and eradicate your search time. This app is best used for those who are sprawling outdoor car parks or are in an unfamiliar location. Because of its use of GPS, it’s not effective in underground or multi-storey car parks.  

PlugShare is amazing for electric car owners  

Have you opted to go electric yet? While only 4,054 out of 149,279 cars purchased in the UK in January 2020 were battery electric vehicles, this figure is more than double the amount purchased in January 2019. While the UK continues to work on cutting its emissions and ceasing production of petrol and diesel vehicles in the not-so-distant future, the sales of electric vehicles will continue to rise.

It can be hard to find charging points though. While the amount of charging points is constantly increasing, it’s always important to know where you can ‘refuel’. PlugShare is a free app which can pinpoint charging points near you to ensure that you’re never caught short. 

Android Auto or Apple CarPlay to stay connected 

These two app do similar jobs. Choosing the right one will depend on which phone you have. Android Auto is for those with an Android operating system on their phone. Essentially, this app means that while you’re behind the wheel, you can say ‘OK Google’ and be able to undergo the following tasks: 

  • Set up real-time GPS navigation and be informed about traffic alerts.
  • Check your calendar for any occasions that you have scheduled.
  • Set reminders.
  • Get up-to-date news.
  • Set a do not disturb message on your phone.
  • Make or answer phone calls handsfree.
  • Access so many of your media apps, such as those containing your favourite music playlists, audiobooks and podcasts.

Apple CarPlay is the choice of iOS smartphone users. Featuring Siri voice control, you are able to: 

  • Search for attractions while driving by simply asking for directions through the following means: “Siri, where’s the closest petrol station?”.
  • Have the app predict where you need to be by analysing addresses on your recent emails, text messages, contacts, and calendars.
  • Make calls and listen to voicemail handsfree.
  • Have Siri read and reply to text messages, as well as send messages in new conversations too.
  • Gain access to content via your iTunes, Apple Music or other audio apps accounts, as well as even requesting for Siri to become your personal DJ for the duration of a road trip.

Let these apps keep you connected while your stay focussed on the roads 

Lockdown-safe digital driving thanks to Asphalt 9: Legends

Yearning for the road? Stay safe during this troublesome period and get your automotive fix by downloading this app. For your driving experience during lockdown, this game will allow you to immerse yourself in racing action thanks to developers, Gameloft. Take advantage of your time at home and dive into this arcade-style racing action from your phone. You can compete in a 60-season career mode with over 800 separate races, while also taking part in an online multiplayer competition which pits you against up to seven other active app users.

We’ll be back on the roads soon, but until then, we need to stay safe and stay indoors. Of course, these are just four apps to choose from, and with 20 billion apps in general anticipated to be downloaded this year, there are many more for you to choose from if you wish!

Additional sources

https://www.motoringresearch.com/car-news/best-mobile-racing-games-ios-android/

https://kit.honestjohn.co.uk/top-tens/top-ten-smartphone-apps-for-drivers/

Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay 

Free route optimisation tool from Trakm8 during crisis

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Trakm8, the UK’s recognised leader in the field of telematics, is making its Insight Optimisation platform free for as long as the Government lockdown persists, to support fleets of all sizes during the COVID-19 crisis. Trakm8’s solution is a British designed and built SaaS product, developed to support British business and is aimed at small and medium sized enterprises (SME).

The global pandemic has resulted in demand spikes throughout a number of supply chains, from personal protective equipment to grocery items; once commonplace but now scarce. 

In such an environment and with demand at record levels, maintaining and improving the efficiency of operations through AI based route planning becomes paramount.  The task is increasingly complex as deliveries have to respond to obscure and localised spikes in demand that are hard to predict. Furthermore, as economies across the globe artificially slow down to halt the spread of COVID-19, Trakm8 wants to support transport providers through this challenging period by providing free access to its latest optimisation tool.  This will ensure that business are best placed to bounce back when the market restrictions are lifted. 

Insight Optimisation is Trakm8’s intuitive route planning solution which uses big data to handle even the most complex fleet requirements. It’s proven to cut fuel expenditure by up to 20% and increase productivity by up to 33%. Maximising the concept of useable data, rather than planning a simple A to B route, Insight Optimisation takes into account the size and capabilities of your fleet and applies them efficiently to the task at hand, whether that’s five or five thousand deliveries a day. 

The free period of Trakm8’s incredibly simple to use tool can be redeemed at any point during the government lockdown, with no contractual obligations thereafter. Insight Optimisation works with almost every available computer system – all you need to get started with its web-based portal is an up-to-date internet browser. The only file a fleet manager will need to upload is a csv, which you’re able to open in any text editor or spreadsheet tool. 

Commenting on the offer, Peter Mansfield, Group Sales and Marketing Director at Trakm8, said: “At critical moments like these, it’s paramount that supply chains keep moving and goods get where they need to be. Supply chains and the logistics professionals are just as integral as our treasured NHS staff in keeping our country moving, and they need extra support. 

“By making our market-leading route planning product free to anyone who needs it, we hope to provide some extra support to those on the front line.  We are proud to be a British business supporting our country in these difficult times” 

To learn more about Insight Optimisation, please visit https://buy.trakm8.com/insight/optimisation/. For the full terms and conditions, please visit:  https://buy.trakm8.com/insight/optimisation/free-trial-terms-and-conditions/ 

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