Microlise studies big data in urban delivery environment

(Photo: Shutterstock)

(Photo: Shutterstock)

UK-based fleet management solutions company Microlise told attendees at the recently concluded Freight in the City 2017 conference how big data can boost productivity for truck drivers and operators alike with an emphasis on safety. This was a conclusion that the company shared after a trial project that accumulated seven billion miles of information with fellow British tech company Innovate UK.

Vehicle-centric technology has been developed in the past with an eye on managing - if not avoiding altogether - risk. This was a point emphasized by Microlise’s executive director for product strategy, Matt Hague. “There is a lot of technology on the vehicle now that can help you manage risk. That’s everything from tracking, to cameras, and increasingly artificial intelligence. There is a lot of information out there to help you manage risk and manage your fleet more safely.”

The data from the seven billion truck miles gathered was being merged with other factors such as weather and mapping. The data pool is constantly being updated, with the information gathered helping policymakers and decisionmakers.

The joint venture is hoping to identify risky routes, for instance. Hague noted that “using all of that data [drivers] are generating, you can automatically understand how risky that route is. Then you make the decision on who is driving that route, a subbie or a member of staff, or do you de-route?”

The amount of data gathered ran the risk of analysis paralysis, but Hague sees the information as critical, giving the “driver a warning that they are about to hit a bridge - or warn them of impending risk.”

The driver is informed in real time of any risk that might delay shipment or cause damage to the rig. “It’s also about giving the driver real-time feedback when you approach those hazards - low bridges, areas where there have been cycle accidents,” Hague said, and other factors that result in shipment stopping mid-transit if not averted in time. Even “harsh braking zones” are covered in the data unearthed.

These studies were conducted not for the purpose of autonomous driving but due to the inevitability of autonomous driving. While the technology has yet to be perfected, Hague saw it fit to prepare the market once it happens by setting new route plans and alternative routes with hopes of getting freight and logistics run smoothly with actual human beings still driving these trucks.

In other words, technology is supposed to support the jobs still existing in the trucking industry, not to steal jobs from them as often feared. Then again, Hague had to address the elephant in the room. “Can our infrastructure support it? Is it safe? When the vehicle supports more and more what the driver is doing, the amount of data can only grow and grow.”

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