It’s been another busy month for commercial fleet management developments. Antony Savvas looks at some of the niche areas being created in various markets.

There are no bigger fleet units than ships, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to improve their operation in a big way thanks to a deal between Roll-Royce and Intel, who intend putting full-scale data centres on them.

The two famous high-end technology brands are collaborating on designs for intelligent shipping systems, that will include the on-board data centres to make commercial shipping safer and more efficient.

The partners said the drive will advance smart, connected and data-centric systems for ship owners, operators, cargo owners and ports. “With a focus on safety, new ships will have systems with the same technology found in smart cities, autonomous cars and drones,” they said.

Working to the edge

The new shipping systems will have Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities, as well as “sophisticated edge computing throughout”, that independently manages navigation, obstacle detection and communications.

“The components embedded in these systems will be dedicated to work load consolidation, edge computing, communications and storage,” the companies said.

Kevin Daffey, Rolls-Royce’s director of engineering & technology and ship intelligence, said: “This collaboration can help us to support ship owners in the automation of their navigation and operations, reducing the opportunity for human error and allowing crews to focus on more valuable tasks.”

Something more modest

Going back to more modest scales in fleet management, Co-wheels, a social enterprise, has just been awarded a three-year contract by Birmingham City Council to deliver car-sharing in Britain’s second biggest city, starting this month.

Britain’s only independent national car club, Co-wheels already delivers a network of almost 600 cars in more than 50 towns and cities across the UK, from Aberdeen in Scotland to Bristol in south-west England. The cars are managed by on-board computers and sensors and drivers access them with smartcards.

It will start by taking 10 fixed bays in Birmingham with the option of at least doubling the size of the fleet in the future, using both fixed and floating bays in zoned streets.

Councillor Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for transport and environment at Birmingham City Council, said: “The introduction of this car club offering will support the important work we are doing to tackle air pollution in Birmingham, providing people with access to clean, low-emission vehicles when they need one.”

Confirming an established trend, Zaffar said: “An increasing number of Birmingham’s younger population are moving away from traditional car ownership, so car clubs provide them with the flexibility they need when it comes to travel options. And, with national figures showing that each car club vehicle defers the purchase of 11 private cars, it will also help reduce congestion on our city’s road network.”


Antony Savvas

And on the more traditional side of the private hire car business, the global Addison Lee Group is collaborating with self-driving vehicle software firm Oxbotica on the development and operation of autonomous vehicles. They aim to provide customers with self-driving cars in London by 2021.

As well as providing standard self-driving cars for hire, they also aim to provide corporate shuttles, airport and campus-based services.

To realise their aims the partners are about to create detailed, digital maps of more than 250,000 miles of public roads in and around the capital. These maps will record the position of every kerb, road sign, landmark and traffic light in preparation for the deployment of autonomous cars.

The advent of digital fleet management is truly scalable as these different examples show, and this scalability will be essential going forward as the industry builds an ecosystem that fills every different requirement for both citizens and businesses.

The author is freelance technology writer, Antony Savvas.

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