I could get lost in my own neighborhood, so when I was learning to drive, I had to very carefully plan out my trips in advance. I printed out MapQuest maps or wrote down step-by-step directions to and from my destination. Any deviation (road detours, unexpected stops, missed turns) led to trouble. Then, smartphones and turn-by-turn directions came into my world and that anxiety went away — although without them, I’d probably have a better internal map.
We recently published an article about vehicle technology implementation, and one of our readers commented that we should rely on drivers rather than advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) technology. There is concern about certain vehicle technologies being too intrusive (I’ll bet fleet managers hear that alot!) and also plenty of talk about vehicle technology making us dumber drivers.
But if this technology is saving lives, isn’t that the most important thing of all?
Why We Need Technology
The tech available today to help drivers (and their supervisors and fleet management) is astounding. From something as simple as backup cameras and GPS routing, to ADAS to systems that can tell you the tread depth of your tires, technology can help improve driver safety.
For most government fleet drivers, driving is not their main job — it is to inspect and fix, meet with people, police, and collect and ticket. If we make the driving part a little easier, perhaps by making it a little more automated, they can focus on their actual jobs.
Let’s take the example of a police officer who is continually monitoring the environment or looking at her mobile data terminal. Fleet managers know law enforcement vehicles are driven hard, and motor vehicle-related accidents are the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths for officers. If the vehicle alerts an officer that she is about to rear-end another vehicle, I don’t see that as a bad thing.
You can’t control what drivers do. Just like you can’t make them fuel with E-85 when you hand them a flex-fuel car, you also can’t make them not drive while “multitasking.” While many fleet operations have distracted driving policies, they are difficult to enforce. Who hasn’t glanced down at their phone (or more than glanced) while driving? Most of us are decent drivers. Unfortunately, one terrible driver could cause lots of damage — or kill someone. Having technology that helps drivers behind the wheel while they are working gives management an extra layer of safety.
This can be as simple as adding cameras to large vehicles that have more blind spots. As part of its Visizon Zero initiative, New York City announced it is installing surround cameras on its larger vehicles. That includes a front camera, rear camera, and side cameras on 1,500 trucks. This is in addition to spec’ing high-vision trucks for all new purchases.
My reliance on Google Maps did make a me a little...less knowledgeable, perhaps. But I love it, and I love the backup camera in my car. They both make me dependent on technology, but I suppose autonomous vehicles will be driving me around in the near future, so I can live with that. Give me a book to read rather than worrying about distracted drivers, drunk drivers, lost 16-year-old drivers, aggressive drivers, drivers trying to show off, etc.
What are your thoughts on in-vehicle technologies — would you prefer more or less?