Engage Your Drivers Before the Robots Take Over by John Mills, Head of Mobile Workforce Telematics at Microlise

Posted on: Thursday, 17 September 2015 by Jackie Langridge

Stephen Hawking says that robots with artificial intelligence could take over the world in the next 100 years. This may seem like a threat not to be taken seriously, but coming from one of the pre-eminent scientists of our generation it carries a bit more weight.

Researchers have long been warning of robots and computers taking over jobs by automating processes that are thought of as human-only occupations. This year the warnings seem to be getting louder, with many news reports focussing on the jobs that have already been affected by automation.

A recent BBC news report said that driving is one of the few jobs to resist the impact of this technological revolution so far. This is despite the reports we are getting about driverless vehicles from the likes of Apple and Google and the promise of their imminent arrival. In fact, we heard earlier this summer that some UK cities are set to be among the first driverless car test beds in the world.

We can therefore assume that driverless vehicles are more likely than some predictions made by the iconic BBC technology TV programme, Tomorrow’s World. The show boldly predicted robot snooker players and secretaries. They don’t seem to have materialised yet, but I think it is fair to say that driverless trucks, whilst a realistic proposition in the medium-term, are still not priority number one in fleet efficiency terms right now.

Empowering the humans

So with that said, humans, for the time being at least, are driving the vehicles which are transporting field service engineers and other workers to jobs around the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. To make continued progress towards better fleet performance, lower emissions, safer roads and lower expenditure on fuel, the human part of the equation must be considered when strategising on the best ways to make improvements.

When considering driving style, the best way to achieve significant improvements is to empower those in charge of the vehicles in your fleet, not to dictate best driving style and expect improvements. People respond better when they are given responsibility for their own behaviour. With advances in connectivity and technology, plus a shift in popular technology towards intuitive smart phone and tablet use, empowerment is becoming more possible than ever before.

By giving staff easy access to their own driving information, which enables them to understand how they are performing, knowledge is being delivered to the very place it is needed. The famous axiom “knowledge is power” springs to mind. A driver who can see how fuel efficient they are, how many incidents of harsh braking, cornering and acceleration they have triggered and where they occurred, and can compare this to others in their company and their industry, is far more likely to take their own steps to improve.

We all love playing games

While simply having the information at our fingertips is enough to empower many of us, to take engagement to the next level, deploying game-like systems to really get drivers involved is also an effective approach.

Systems can be deployed for drivers so that they are rewarded for improving MPG or making progress against their previous performance, with incentives. The important thing is to provide an environment in which drivers have the knowledge and motivation to make improvements on their own.

Understanding human behaviour, then acting accordingly to achieve the desired outcome, is how to really affect change and improvement.

Microlise Field Service & Fleet Conference 2015

So, while predictions have been made about the imminent driverless vehicle revolution, it is fair to say that it is still quite a long way off at this current moment in time. Drivers are often still the most important element when considering your fleet performance, whether you a running a fleet of five or 5,000 vehicles. You never know, when writing this blog in 10 years’ time, it might be titled ‘Engaging your Robots’, but for the time being I think we are safe from robot invasion.

This blog has only been able to brush on the work currently being done in relation to driver engagement and gamification, but there will be much more on this topic at the Microlise Field Service & Fleet Conference 2015 on 4 November at the MIRA Proving Ground. Hear from FTA Van Excellence, Sky and former Top Gear ‘Stig’ Ben Collins.

The free-to-attend event will include a conference programme featuring a series of workshops that include the opportunity to experience life as a van driver and take to the MIRA City Course. Register now to reserve your attendance as places are strictly limited. http://fieldserviceconference.com/

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