The impact of AI-powered fleet management on driver safety

by Helen Yu - Founder & CEO, Tigon Advisory Corp. and AT&T Business Influencer

This post was sponsored by AT&T Business, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent positions or strategies of AT&T Business.

I was driving recently, getting ready to hang a left, when my car refused to turn. A surge of panic ran through me. Then, the ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assist System) built into my SUV reminded me that I’d neglected to put my turn signal on. I flipped the lever. The familiar click-click-click sound came on. I made my turn—safely and confidently.

Admittedly, I never read my car’s user manual. Then again, I didn’t really have to. The car’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) taught me a lesson and, possibly, saved me from getting into an accident. AI fleet management is exponentially transforming the industry for these very same reasons.

Fleet managers confront driver safety every day. Estimates from the National Highway Traffic Administration for the first six months of 2023 reveal an “estimated 19,515 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, representing a decrease of about 3.3% as compared to 20,190 fatalities in the first half of 2022. Fatalities declined in both the first and second quarters of 2023.”1 After hitting a 16-year high in 2021, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, “We face a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together.”2

AI’s impact on the transportation industry

How will AI improve driver safety in the transportation industry? A look back tells a story. Originally called “supervisory systems,” telemetry originated in 1912 in Chicago to transmit operational data from power plants to a main office. Then, in the 1960s, during the Cold War, the U.S. government built global positioning system (GPS) technology for intelligence gathering. Of course, we all know the ever-present role GPS tracking systems have in our lives today. By the early 2000s, fleet management systems included telematics as a way to improve driver safety and vehicle optimization. 

Sensor technology remotely measured driver behavior, vehicle performance, maintenance needs, and compliance. Logistics leader UPS is a great example. According to an article published by Verisk, “IoT sensors installed in UPS vehicles produce 1.25 billion telematics records per week and include a combination of customer delivery information, driver behavioral data, and other GPS-based fleet management information.”3

AI reframes telemetry from providing insight to interpreting insight for improved driver safety. This is the next transformation in automotive technology—and it’s unfolding right now.

AI telematics is the backbone for transportation

To understand the profound impact of AI on driver safety in the transportation industry, we need to delve deeper into the technological backbone of this transformation: AI telematics. Telematics, at its core, involves the use of technology to monitor and manage information about a wide range of assets. In the context of fleet management, telematics plays a pivotal role in improving driver safety and overall operational efficiency.

Telematics systems leverage sensor technology, data connectivity, and AI algorithms to gather and analyze data related to driver behavior, vehicle performance, and maintenance needs. This real-time data stream offers a wealth of insights, enabling fleet managers to make informed decisions that enhance safety and streamline operations.

Real-world use case: the road to safer transportation

One of the most compelling aspects of AI-powered fleet management is its real-world impact on driver safety. Let's explore some concrete use cases that highlight the transformative power of this technology.

Case Study: Real-time Driver Behavior Monitoring

In the realm of AI fleet management, one of the pivotal shifts from the "old story" to the "new story" is the transition from manual analysis of driver behavior to real-time, AI-driven monitoring. The traditional approach involved drivers submitting reports on speed, distance, and other metrics. However, this manual process had its limitations, often providing only a partial view of driver behavior.

AI, on the other hand, continuously monitors speed, full stops, and various other aspects of driver behavior. It synthesizes this data and communicates it to the fleet management team in real time. AI goes a step further by identifying driver patterns, trends, and overall vehicle safety. From recognizing the need for drivers to take a break to detecting potential brake problems, real-time AI telematics fosters proactive and preventative management of the entire fleet.

This shift from manual reporting to AI-driven real-time monitoring signifies a critical enhancement in driver safety and operational efficiency.

AI fleet management changes the story for driver safety

In life and work, there are the way things were and the way things are. For example: malls are the old story. Ecommerce is the new story. Going to the office is the old story. Hybrid work, with Fido on your lap, and virtual meetings via your laptop is the new story. 

Fleet management is at a crossroads too—an area within transportation that’s on the threshold of an old story evolving into a new story. AI is the reason as it analyzes telematics data to monitor and optimize driver behavior in real-time in much more robust and vibrant ways. Using this old story/new story perspective, here’s how I see it.

Old story: Sensor technology streams data. If using outdated connectivity solutions, there may be significant delays before someone receives the information.
New story: AI telematics leverages 5G connectivity to predict road conditions, driver fatigue, and unexpected vehicle problems in real-time with AI interpreting and responding to specific situations. Like in my case, the AI-powered safety features in my dash camera alerted me that my turn signal had to be on for me to turn.

Old story: No option for a dash camera or the driver has to press a button to record an event.
New story: An AI-based dash camera automatically records events and intelligently determines what to upload to the cloud.

Old story: Drivers report speed and distance by submitting a form. Manual analysis is limited.
New story: AI monitors speed, full-stops, and other driver behavior while synthesizing data communicated to the fleet management team. AI identifies driver patterns, trends, and overall vehicle safety. Real-time AI telematics inspires preventative and proactive management of the entire fleet.

Old story: If a vehicle breaks down or is in an accident, the driver calls a tow truck.
New story: Some of the most dangerous driving situations occur on the side of the road, especially after dark. AI automatically alerts a fleet manager when a driver needs emergency support.

Old story: Telematics tracks driver and vehicle performance—to a point.
New story: A vision dashboard provides visibility into fleet performance all in one place. Visibility leads to less litigation and fewer insurance claims as reporting becomes significantly easier. Vehicle maintenance can be automated. The entire trip management process is simplified for drivers.

Roads, safety, and IoT devices in a connected world

With IoT devices predicted to reach 29 billion by 2030, wireless 5G is an enabling technology that empowers a fast-growing, connected world.4 With faster speeds and low latency (less than one millisecond), 5G is a worthy companion to highly-automated fleet vehicles. This is a key point that goes far beyond convenience. AI telematics replicates human decision-making. AT&T Business, the largest wireless carrier in the United States, has long been leading the charge in private 5G edge

Relative to the logistics and transportation space, AT&T Business teamed up with Fleet Complete, maker of a telematics platform, in 2018 “as a charter business member of the Vision Zero Network that helps communities eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries through connected vehicle solutions,” according to a Fleet Complete press release.5

AT&T Fleet Complete includes AI technology in its suite of products:

  • AT&T Fleet Complete Hub: A telematics platform that enables you to monitor your drivers to help improve driver and public safety. It includes monitoring optimum engine health, vehicle utilization, equipment misuse, and aggressive driving patterns.
  • AT&T Fleet Complete Vision: An AI-powered in-cabin and road facing video solution. It helps fleet managers provide better training for road safety, mitigate risk, and protect your business from fraudulent insurance claims.
  • AT&T Fleet Complete Big Road: The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) application that simplifies driving logs and meeting Federal ELD requirements.

AT&T Fleet Complete delivers real-time insights to commercial fleet operators for greater safety and performance. You can switch easily between areas with and without Wi-Fi. It’s like having a companion helping to watch over your safety every mile of your journey.

One interesting aspect of AI, for me, has always been conversational, voice-activated communication. When Siri asks me where I want to go and I tell her, my confidence goes up as she gets me on my way. AT&T Fleet Complete has features I myself appreciate as a driver—because sometimes I’m not always aware of every potential danger while driving. Events are audibly announced to the driver en route. Real-time safety scoring is unbiased and ongoing. Road-facing and in-cabin video sidelines doubt and misunderstanding. AI telematics can readily detect a potential accident before it happens and help keep vehicles maintained properly. 

Through IoT devices, AT&T Fleet Management increases efficiency, productivity, level of compliance, and safety. NAPA Transportation, for example, aimed to simplify the telematics process, improve compliance, and better visualize fleet and driver activities. Many companies face incompatible devices, back-end systems, and limited IT bandwidth. It doesn’t have to be that way. NAPA made it easier for drivers “to focus on good driving,” according to Jim Brighton, IT director for NAPA.

A use cases of AI fleet management

Real-time AI telematics in fleet tracking management can often “remove bottlenecks, prevent unwanted events, and help decision-makers feel more confident in what the future will bring while relying less on guesswork,” according to an article published in Field Technologies Online. Emily Newton, Author and Editor of Revolutionized, writes that a robotics company came out with a “fallback” feature where autonomous trucks “pull over and stop operating when they detect a problem.”6 The feature tracks more than 1,000 metrics per second, helps find the safest spot to pull over, and even sends out an alert for help after the truck is parked.

The marriage of AI and machine vision is another topic explored in the article. The collaboration of these two technologies helps “to identify risks both inside and outside the vehicle. It can detect things such as a driver with their eyes off the road or someone who’s eating while behind the wheel. This application of AI in fleet management can also upload the data to the cloud for later review by a manager.”

Optimize your fleet with AI-enabled technology

Want to go for a “test drive”? 

I invite you to watch a short unboxing and installation video I did on the AT&T Fleet Complete dash cam kit. It was super easy to install. The toughest part was finding the On-board Diagnostics (OBD) port on my car because, if yours is anything like mine, its placement is a bit obscure. Mine is located about two feet below the steering wheel. I wired along the left side of the vehicle and then mounted the dashcam by cleaning the area with the kit’s alcohol wipe, removing the film on the back of the device, and pressing the dash cam firmly in place onto my windshield. Press record and you’re off and running. 

Of course, capturing video while narrating your drive might feel a bit nerve-wracking, but it's all in the pursuit of safety.

AI fleet management is meant to keep drivers safe through telematics and real-time monitoring. AI-driven systems help in making immediate decisions to enhance safety because, by definition, an accident is something unforeseen. AI telematics is the next generation of transportation technology, reducing risk, protecting drivers, and making our life journeys safer. 

Safer, smarter and more connected transportation

The transformative power of AI-powered fleet management in the transportation industry is evident.  It’s not just a technology but a guardian angel on the road, continuously working to ensure the safety of drivers and the efficiency of operations.  As we move forward, AI will continue to reshape the landscape, preventing accidents, and streamline the transportation industry in ways we couldn’t have imagined before.  With AI at the helm, our journey toward safer, smarter, and more connected transportation is firmly on the right path.

Learn more about AT&T solutions for the transportation industry. To connect with an expert who knows business, contact your AT&T Business Representative.

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1“NHTSA Estimates Traffic Fatalities Continued to Decline in the First Half of 2023 | NHTSA.” n.d. Www.nhtsa.gov. Accessed October 16, 2023. https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/2023-Q2-traffic-fatality-estimates

2National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2022. “Newly Released Estimates Show Traffic Fatalities Reached a 16-Year High in 2021 | NHTSA.” Www.nhtsa.gov. May 17, 2022. https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/early-estimate-2021-traffic-fatalities.

3National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2022. “Newly Released Estimates Show Traffic Fatalities Reached a 16-Year High in 2021 | NHTSA.” Www.nhtsa.gov. May 17, 2022. https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/early-estimate-2021-traffic-fatalities.

4Vailshery, Lionel. 2022. “IoT Connected Devices Worldwide 2019-2030.” Statista. May 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1183457/iot-connected-devices-worldwide/.

5“AT&T & Fleet Complete, First Provider of Connected Vehicle Solutions to Support Vision Zero Network in Helping Cities Eliminate Traffic-Related Fatalities," Fleet Complete, May 22, 2018, https://www.fleetcomplete.com/att-fleetcomplete-first-provider-of-connected-vehicle-solutions-to-support-vision-zero-network-in-helping-cities-eliminate-traffic-related-fatalities/

6“4 Amazing Ways to Leverage AI in Fleet Management.” n.d. https://www.fieldtechnologiesonline.com/doc/amazing-ways-to-leverage-ai-in-fleet-management-0001.