OBD based telematics have become a key driving force in modern transportation and fleet management. Fleet owners and operators, drivers and society at large have benefited greatly from reduced accidents, reduced emissions, improved fuel efficiency and overall more productive vehicles. It would be foolish, however, to take these benefits for granted.
Cyber security threats and privacy concerns have emerged as key issues for the internet based economy at large, and the transportation industry is no exception. In fact, given the leading role transportation plays in commercializing digital innovation these issues are of vital concern to the industry.
Solutions to these concerns are critical to the preservation and ongoing innovation of telematics enabled commercial transportation and fleet management.
The On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) port was designed to provide a simple way to test emissions data-reducing the environmental impact of vehicles and ensuring public accountability. From it early days in the 1990s, the OBD port did that and more. It has evolved into a critical tool. We now depend on the OBD port to save lives, control costs, protect the environment, increase efficiency, and provide objective data against which to measure published engine performance figures. A quarter-century after the OBD port’s introduction, its ecosystem has grown to provide key, innovative technologies to support fleet owners and managers, regardless of the underlying choice of vehicle.
As manufacturers move to the “connected vehicle,” regulators have voiced concerns about the security of on-board computer systems, and have raised questions about privacy protection for personal driving information.
Stakeholders of the OBD ecosystem, including fleet owners, fleet managers, aftermarket suppliers, automobile industry associations, government regulators and automobile manufacturers, must ensure the ongoing availability of a robust OBD port that continues to provide critical benefits while protecting security and privacy. As with other digital technologies that have become central to contemporary life, such as the smartphone or cloud-based storage, a balance can be reached that ensures continued access to valuable OBD data without undue privacy and security costs.
I. The OBD Port: Safety, Savings, Compliance, and Choice
An OBD telematics device is a small, smart box that, depending on device capability, can be plugged into a wide range of vehicle makes and models to retrieve diagnostic information for transmittal to cloud based servers.
Aftermarket telematics devices and software offer fleet operators a range of considerable advantages including safety, reduced cost of ownership, environmental protection, and manufacturer accountability.
A. OBD Telematics Encourages Safe Fleet Drivers
A key benefit of an advanced OBD aftermarket solution is to improve fleet safety by promoting and incentivizing good driving. For example, fleet operators have the option to use OBD systems to design and manage risk and safety programs including real time driver feedback and coaching. These programs center on measurable events such as speeding, seatbelt usage, sharp cornering, or over-acceleration.
The accurate analysis of these events is based largely on data collected from the OBD port and can be used to create programs that advance driver and road safety and prevent accidents. Accident reconstruction can also be used to show that drivers were not at fault.
Another important safety feature for fleet managers is Hours of Service reporting. As required by U.S., Canadian, Hours of Service regulations in other jurisdictions, drivers must record when they start driving, when they stop, and other important trip details.
This safety measure combats accidents due to lack of sleep and loss of attention. Many telematics solutions reduce the overhead of this reporting; and more importantly for public safety, they provide an auditable trail to ensure compliance with the safety regulations.
Indeed, proposed new United States safety regulations, if implemented, will require electronic logging devices (ELDs) to communicate with the engine control module through the CAN bus the network that automotive devices use to communicate.
An important feature of the OBD Port – its universal nature – ensures that each of these safety related programs and compliance with regulations can be implemented across vehicle brand.
They do not depend on a particular manufacturer or vertical integration.
Fleet operators can choose the solution they like, knowing that data is standardized across non-homogenous fleets and compliant with applicable safety regulations in the countries where they operate.
B. Access to OBD Port Functionality Lowers Costs
The ability of fleet owners and managers to access OBD port functionality lowers their cost of ownership in at least five ways:
- Minimizing repair and maintenance difficulties or anticipating them before they become larger,
- Reducing fuel consumption,
- Automating driver procedures,
- Ensuring compliance with regulations, and
- Analyzing trends that can be observed only when large aggregates of data are available.
Electronically ensuring compliance also lowers costs. Right now, telematics assists fleet managers to provide near-paperless Hours of Service compliance. Ensuring that third party aftermarket devices can use the OBD port to provide this service will be vital in ensuring that fleet operators are able to cost-effectively and uniformly ensure compliance across vehicle manufactures and types.
OBD port functionality enables fleet operators to track, compile, and benefit from a wide range of automotive data, providing substantial cost savings.
C. Third Party Access Increases Regulatory Compliance and Public Accountability
The EPA regulations regarding estimating miles per gallon (in the United States) require self-testing and reporting by the auto manufacturers.
In contrast, OBD-based telematics products generate measurements that draw on real life driving conditions across a wide geography, which provides a useful counter-balance to the self-testing performed by the manufacturer.
Third party data collection adds a layer of transparency that benefits fleet operators, regulators, and vehicle manufacturers.
It provides fleet owners and managers with assurance that their vehicles are reaching promised efficiency benchmarks and that their drivers are complying with Hours of Service regulations. It provides regulators with independently designed tools that ensure compliance. And it provides vehicle manufacturers with a key ally to ensure transparency and enhance credibility.
In sum, OBD port functionality can help restore and solidify drivers’ trust in regulatory compliance and vehicle related information, without which further regulatory interventions into vehicle operation may be inevitable. As noted above, moreover, fleet operators have come to rely on the OBD port to facilitate and automate regulatory compliance.