The sophisticated development of voice-controlled technology introduced by the smart home “trend” is the best thing that has ever happened to fleet management. Or, more to the point, driver safety. Hands-free was already something that vehicle technology was working on when smart homes took center-stage in popular tech trends. But the voice controls of the original hands-free programs and GPS routing were clunky and often not really as hands-free as we would have liked.
But with the introduction of the fully integrated, wireless, and intuitively responsive IoT network, fleets are the ones that stand to benefit the most. Fleet managers have the ability and greater future potential to tap into a vehicle’s systems to provide direct guidance to drivers. And drivers are gaining more and more control over their vehicles and devices while finally able to keep both hands firmly on the wheel.
Let’s take a quick yet thorough exploration of where today’s voice control technology is taking the present and future of fleet management.
Voice-Controlled Vehicle Lights, Sound, and Internal Features
Part of the challenge of professional driving is physical coordination. Drivers must control every aspect of the vehicle with quick flips of buttons, levers, and switches. While automated transmission significantly simplified driving the cars of thirty years ago, now vehicles are capable of so much more. Today, drivers are still reaching for the touch-pad or volume-knob to control the sound system. They are still flicking levers to control the lights or reaching for the CB radio to convey messages. These little actions could lead to distraction at a critical moment, as mobile devices have taught us.
As voice automation in vehicles is refined, soon drivers will be able to control more than their GPS with voice. They will be able to say “Brights” and have the brights switch on and off or “Scan” and “Stop” to control the radio without having to reach for a button or stab at a touchscreen.
Voice-Request Stats, Facts, and Updates
Smart home AI personalities like Alexa are already integrating with vehicles to provide conversational information to drivers who need it without requiring someone to pull over and look up a fact or update on their phones. Alexa will read off web searches on command, provide weather reports, and convey updates from HQ through the appropriate skill. This allows drivers to ask for and receive the information they need on-demand without taking their attention from the road for a moment. In fact, Alexa even reads Kindles and plays Audiobooks for entertainment.
Hands-Free Route Navigation Changes
GPS responsive navigation with traffic, weather, and construction updates is definitely among the best things that has ever happened to fleet drivers. The ability to see traffic and a moving map in real-time is invaluable, even for those talented individuals who can navigate the city smoothly without it. However, changing routes has traditionally required stopping or tasking the passenger to interact.
Voice controls are only recently reaching the point where AIs can effectively understand changes in routing commands, or maintain a route while accepting orders to make minor adjustments. But as the technology advances (and with the assistance from HQ-controlled navigation) drivers will be able to adapt their routes aptly with voice commands alone.
Drivers Safely Update Service Customers while On the Road
For fleets that provide on-site service to customers, keeping the schedule is important. But because you don’t control the traffic, the weather, or the construction plans for the city sometimes making an appointment is impossible. And sometimes drivers make much better time than they expect. When either occurs, it will be useful for drivers to have the ability to trigger a helpful service schedule update sent to the customers.
Hands-Free Requests for HQ or Emergency Assistance
Finally, vehicle voice controls are making it ever-easier for drivers to maintain communication with HQ while on the road. Whether they need a new route, updates, or emergency roadside assistance, drivers are gaining the ability to trigger a hands-free conversation with HQ sometimes without even making a phone call. Voice communication has made it possible to simply open an internet-powered channel back to dispatch for whatever assistance or update a driver might need.
Technology is changing the landscape of business fleet management and the future is bright. The trends and innovations brought on by the smart home and IoT products have far greater safety and functionality potential for fleet managers than has yet to be imagined. Soon, we will be seeing vehicles that are fully voice-automated from the headlights to fold-out cupholders. For more fleet management insights and innovations that will make use of your USB upfitting, contact us today!