Is it Time to Take your Fleet Beyond Dongles and Black Boxes?

If your fleet has deployed aftermarket connectivity solutions like OBD dongles or black boxes, you’ve seen how connected vehicle data can improve fleet utilization with asset tracking, route optimization, eco fuel consumption management, and fleet safety initiatives. As this data gets richer, the efficiency gains can accelerate.

However, installing and employing a connected fleet is easier said than done. Proprietary aftermarket such as OBD dongles plugged into the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port or black boxes under the hood come with some painful challenges. Here are the most common struggles that fleet managers are facing today.

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High fixed costs

Aftermarket solutions impose significant upfront and recurring expenses in operating medium to large fleets. Installation, maintenance, and connectivity costs are just a few of the fixed-cost items that add to your fleet’s budget, regardless of vehicle kilometers/ miles traveled or the actual data utilization.

The need to deploy multiple device types

A mixed-vehicle fleet may have diverse  device requirements. As OEMs keep developing and updating their car systems, existing devices may not fit the brand-new models. Consequently, you may decide to equip only a portion of your vehicles, reducing the gains that you can achieve from your fleet connectivity.

Time-consuming logistics

Aftermarket devices create a significant logistics burden throughout their entire lifecycle. They require installation, tracking, troubleshooting of malfunctions, and periodic replacements of faulty or obsolete units.

And there is more. Since maintenance and repairs may require the removal of the OBD from the diagnostics port or disconnection of the black box from under the hood, you’ll need to make sure that the aftermarket device is properly reinstalled after every servicing event.

During de-fleeting, devices need to be removed from the sold vehicle and returned to the fleet manager.

Greater vulnerability to cyberattacks

External hardware, especially low-cost devices, may also pose cybersecurity risks. According to Upstream Security, these aftermarket devices serve as an entry point for hackers to penetrate either the vehicle itself, the telematics backend servers, or even the company’s IT network. Hackers may be able to steal private and corporate data, track individual vehicles or entire fleets, or hijack non-safety and safety-critical functions.

Limited data capture

Vehicles are now producing a much wider variety of data from their sensors, processors, and high-speed data communication frameworks. Yet aftermarket devices are only capable of using a subset of the vehicle data currently available for new models. Many aftermarket devices produce a very limited dataset, for example, GPS and accelerometer tracking only. As a result, you’ll struggle to unlock the full potential of your fleet data.

The Answer: Embedded Connectivity

As connected vehicles become widely available from OEMs, fleets are beginning to take advantage of embedded connectivity through devices deployed in vehicles while they are still in the factory. Embedded connectivity solves many of the aftermarket device challenges, offering efficient and logistically effortless connectivity, enhanced security, and potentially richer datasets.

What’s Holding Back the Transition?

Virtually every fleet manager we meet immediately sees the value proposition of fully connected vehicles, but the reality is that OBD dongles and black boxes will be with us for a while longer. Here’s why.

  • Nascent business models: Direct integrations with an OEM’s data platform present a host of legal and technical challenges. Most OEMs do not have the organizational structure to negotiate directly with fleets of all sizes, and building a data platform with easy, secure data access requires a complete new set of technical capabilities.  
  • Lack of standards across OEMs: Data attributes, units, and formats vary across OEMs and even within the same OEM. This makes it hard for your fleet management applications to use data from embedded devices without significant data processing efforts. 
  • Regulatory compliance issues:  Some connected car data may be considered personal data in the geographies where your drivers work. Regulatory compliance—and the associated consent granting and revocation processes for sharing car data—become a major headache when that data must pass through the OEM’s data center.

I’ll dig into these issues a bit deeper in an upcoming post.

What Should Fleet Managers Do Now?

  • Otonomo has been working with leading automakers to solve the embedded connectivity issues specific to fleets. While we think it’s too early to abandon aftermarket devices altogether, today is the perfect time to build an embedded connectivity roadmap for your fleet. Otonomo Automotive Data Services Platform helps you gradually and smoothly phase out aftermarket devices, while utilizing high-quality data available from OEMs to improve vehicle performance, usage, and safety.By working with the Otonomo Automotive Data Services Platform, you gain:
    • Quick access to normalized data, across multiple OEMs, through a single integration. Otonomo data is cleansed, normalized. and enriched to create smarter data sets.
    • Flexible consumption of the data that’s actually needed at a fraction of the price and operational effort.
    • A single interaction point to grant and revoke consent management for all vehicles from all OEMs.
    • Instant connectivity to value-added services that are already connected to the Otonomo Platform, including preventive maintenance, optimizing residual value, automatic parking payment, and more.
    • Additional revenue streams and value creation by monetizing your fleet’s data.

    If you’d like to learn more about Otonomo’s fleet connectivity solutions, let’s talk.

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