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AI Is Changing Transport, But Not In The Way You Expect

Data Blocks
Data Blocks

From the applications that power our office, to electronic work diaries and telematics that manage mass and speed in the trucks, your business is generating a lot of data. Yet this information is only valuable if you can use it effectively. That means bringing it all together, analysing it, figuring out what is significant and using that information to make predictions.

Chances are when you installed your telematics, you imagined diligently running reports to mine mountains of data for wonderful insights into your business. While we all have the best intentions, life gets busy and it’s easy to end up using the system to the bare minimum.

However, it’s worth integrating technology more fully into your day-to-day processes, because the insights you get from data can inform every single step of your operations. And increasingly, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) makes getting those insights a much faster task.

Much of the AI focus in transport has been on automated driving, but the reality is, driverless trucks are something we are more likely to see in the long term, especially in a country as big and sparse as Australia where the infrastructure to support it is not there.

More immediately, we’re likely to see AI and ML helping us do our jobs more efficiently, safely and profitably, whether it’s adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency brakes in the cabin or effectively managing your fuel tax credit in the back office.

More data, more action

When we say AI and ML, we’re not talking about getting a robot to do what us humans do. Rather, it’s technology that does what we can’t. It’s collecting, processing and analysing vast amounts of data instantly and showing us what we can’t see, without spending time diving through reports and paperwork.  And while we often think of data-driven businesses as the big industry heavyweights, managing fleets of 1000+ vehicles, the technology is even more powerful for small fleets and owner-operators, which make up the bulk of the Australian heavy vehicle industry. It makes it as easy as possible to increase productivity, stay safe and prove that you’re staying compliant.

For instance, say there’s a patch of road on a regular route where there’s a change in the speed limit that the drivers always seem to miss and get tickets. AI can identify this consistent pattern, alert you to the issue and allow you to create a geofence around the area that lets the driver know when they are not following the speed limit. It can even make recommendations about what might be an issue.

When it comes time to crunch the numbers, the technology allows for more accurate predictive modelling, so you can remedy issues before they become problems, or optimise business workflows.

The information you didn’t know you needed, in real time

Data is useless if nobody is looking at it, it’s no silver bullet to solve business issues. AI doesn’t rely on someone running a report. It doesn’t even rely on someone knowing what to ask.

Instead, AI can figure out what information you need to know and feed it into your dashboards, alerts and maps immediately to support better decision-making, or even help you figure out what to ask it. For instance, you can access real-time satellite and terrain view that shows the current movements of all your vehicles to know exactly where your vehicles are. The use cases are plentiful in this case, from directing drivers to the right driveway to enter as they are driving to a customer, to confirming terrain to ensure they’re on the right path.

Not only are AI-driven platforms less reliant on you or your team’s effort to discover insights, they also learn what information matters most to you. And if there’s something else you want to know; you can quickly drill into the data and pull out the level of detail that you need. You might start off by searching the top 5 speeding drivers for the month. You can then see 3D visuals by bringing in more data, like vehicle or location information, to figure out correlation of speeding drivers against locations and vehicles to tell you more about what’s going on.

This kind of data is crucial to proactively manage risk. While you’re likely already running reports to look at speeding and driver incidents after the fact, AI-driven platforms will collate and deliver insights on leading indicators. This means you can address risks in your business straight away – before they become a major issue.

It can also use that information to deliver better customer service, by generating the sort of reports you typically give your customers and then allowing them access through a self-service portal or SMSing them with relevant information. For example, alert them when a vehicle is approaching for delivery to help them prepare, speeding up the process and reducing delays.

Taking it easy

Often, we buy equipment and never end up using half the features because we don’t really know how. You probably only know what a few of the buttons on your TV remote actually do and only ever really use five of them.

The good news is, you don’t need an advanced degree in computer science to use AI-based platforms. While sophisticated at the backend, the system does all the heavy lifting to make things easier for the user. For instance, an AI-based fleet management system will understand what people are searching for when they use natural language terms, instead of requiring them to search with a specific term.  

Similarly, the last 15 years have been a journey to make life on the road easier, by digitising and/or automating a lot of the processes, like work diaries and pre-vehicle checks, that used to require reams of paperwork. AI further delivers on that, making it easier to remain complaint and ensuring digitised forms can be completed on the road and not on the kitchen table when the driver gets home. This provides fleet managers, owners and drivers a real sense of confidence that they are proactively managing all risks, productivity barriers and customer concerns to drive better results for the business.

The conversation about AI and ML in transport centres largely around automated driving, but the reality is that AI is going to reshape our industry in many other ways that make life easier, safer and more efficient.

TN360 uses AI and ML to connect your systems, collect and analyse data and use it to predict what your business needs. More information is available at

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