Thought leadership: UK Managing Director Peter Squire discusses the future of vehicle safety technology

Connectivity, artificial intelligence and telematics are all set to be big for vehicle technology and safety in the future. We caught up with the managing director of Brigade Electronics UK, Peter Squire, to get his thoughts on the subject.

How is technology making a difference to fleet managers and operators?

Times have changed considerably since the pandemic. Social distancing and remote working have meant there has been a real surge in interest in connected services products. This includes Brigade’s BRIDGE – a fully managed Cloud connectivity service that links to our MDR system (vehicle CCTV with digital video recorder).

The benefit of Cloud-based services, like BRIDGE, is that fleet operators working from home or unable to be in the office, for example, can still access data remotely rather than having to physically enter the vehicle to obtain information.

These days, fleet operators want to have access to as much information as possible about their vehicles. This includes things like locating the vehicle, fuel efficiency warnings and any incidents that might have occurred. Footage is crucial in determining the context of a collision and who is at fault.

Brigade’s MDR is such a stable and reliable piece of equipment, fleet operators know they can immediately access information as required – even if they are at home.

How does Brigade’s BRIDGE work when linked to the MDR?

Everything is linked to the Cloud, so the technology is similar to what you would find on a modern-day smart phone. BRIDGE allows a fleet manager or operator to access a vehicle wherever it is in the country, download the footage straight to their computer and review it instantaneously. This has allowed fleet operators greater flexibility and more power to manage their fleets efficiently – even while social distancing.

Brigade’s MDR is activated and starts recording as soon as the ignition is turned on. One of the main benefits of this is that the information is held and stored on the hard drive and the Cloud is a portal to access this – a go between if you like.

We can also set triggers on the system for things like speeding, harsh braking, hard drive failures, video loss etc. Triggers will auto-mark the recording, making it easy for fleet managers to search and find the issue in the system.

Brigade’s MDR is also intuitive – there’s a link to the video system and Google Maps. This means, in the event of an incident, the Google Maps function, which provides dates and times, can be clicked on and the precise snapshot of footage relating to the incident can be easily located and downloaded quickly.

Historically, SD-based recorders, which are heavily dependent on G-Shock, would only hold information for up to 24 hours. Therefore, if you didn’t retrieve what you needed in time, the footage would be lost forever. Brigade’s MDR with BRIDGE, on the other hand, will hold information for a month. This has huge benefits. For example, if you have a third party that approaches you and claims that your vehicle was involved in an incident with theirs a couple of weeks ago, you can still retrieve information retrospectively very easily.

What changes do you expect in the future for commercial vehicle safety systems?

Operators are looking for a complete solution – information is vital. Therefore, the merging of telematics and video data is very important. Historically, these would be standalone elements. What fleet operators now want is two systems that are integrated and can talk to each other and exchange information. The benefit of this will be that systems will work seamlessly together.

Is Brigade developing anything to streamline the fleet management process?

Brigade is working on introducing more connectivity and intelligent systems to improve vehicle safety by making sure technology aids the driver. These will use things like facial inflections to determine whether, for example, drivers are fatigued, using mobile phones at the wheel regularly or eating while driving. The system will alert operators to check on drivers and take any necessary action.

We are also working on using AI to develop lane departure warning systems that will aid drivers with keeping vehicles in a straight line.

The goal is to create ‘all things connected’. This means utilising Brigade’s existing MDR and linking other technologies to it that are powered by the Cloud.

What are your hopes for improving road and workplace safety in relation to ‘all things connected’?

AI is a massive leap forward for road safety. For example, the driver status monitoring is important for maintaining safety as it will help to ensure drivers aren’t distracted. Having an alert and the ability to mark the recordings means fleet operators can be immediately alerted to a potential issue and check on the wellbeing of their drivers. It also means there will be a greater amount of accountability.

What about privacy issues for drivers?

AI for commercial vehicle safety systems should be seen solely as a monitoring device. It won’t record a driver’s physical face but will analyse a driver’s movements and patterns to produce auto-alerts.

The safety of drivers and other road users is paramount and such systems give operators and drivers the power to prevent incidents and fatalities from occurring. Recorders can also be switched off at certain times. For example, if the ignition is turned off or a driver’s shift ends. CCTV isn’t a new concept – it is there to protect people rather than spy on them.

As well as safety, how do you see telematics helping to improve fleet efficiency?

Most telematics remotely monitor the lifeblood of a vehicle, providing information about things like fuel efficiency, harsh braking and over steering as well as data about predictive and preventative maintenance.

This means operators can access information about things that have a direct impact on their business, such as rising fuel costs, and help them to be more efficient.

Operators’ main objective is to have full fleet utilisation. Future systems will ensure vehicles remain on the road by preventing incidents, and avoiding the costs incurred by repairs and the time vehicles spend out of service. It will also mean any potential damage to a company’s reputation can be averted. All these things are helping companies to operate in a much safer way and protect their assets.

Do you think that driverless vehicles are a possibility for the transport industry?

We are still quite some way off from driverless vehicles being commonplace on roads.

With driverless vehicles, you are removing the human element, so questions arise like ‘how will driverless technology interact with other human drivers on the road?’

AI works using a series of probabilities and scales. For example, if a driverless vehicle had to react quickly in the event of an incident, would it aim for a particular area that simply limits the number of fatalities rather than prevent them completely? What would the argument and ramifications be for that?

It’s important we don’t become too reliant on technology. There should be a harmonious, symbiotic relationship between human beings and technology – it is there to support us rather than take over completely.

At Brigade, we sell our technology as a driver aid. Whether that’s a camera, sensor or digital video recorder, it is designed to assist rather than replace the driver.

What is the feedback from Brigade’s customers about our MDR with BRIDGE?

Customers are very impressed with it. They find it easy to use, simple to operate and love that it provides the information they need to do their jobs more effectively. They can access information from anywhere at any time.

One customer, who was involved in an incident that sadly resulted in a fatality, said:

“The footage we received was absolutely crucial to determining the cause [of the incident]. The police were extremely grateful we could send it to them within a matter of hours – something they mentioned doesn’t happen very often.”

Information is time critical – having services that enable operators to access footage, download it and provide the evidence instantaneously is invaluable. An impartial recollection of events is also very important for grieving families who want to understand what happened. Likewise, it’s also extremely useful for drivers who aren’t at fault as it helps them to reaffirm what they did and what happened – that it was outside their control.

For further information about Brigade and our range of commercial vehicle safety products, please speak to one of our friendly team on 01322 420300 or email [email protected].