The adoption of AI in physical operations is gathering pace.

Mention artificial intelligence (AI) in the same sentence as lorries and other commercial machinery and people automatically think you’re referring to driverless vehicles. And while there’s plenty of development work going on in this area, we’re unlikely to see drivers replaced by AI-powered autonomous trucks any time soon.

While AI may not be at the wheel — yet — it is already playing a key role in these industries powering systems that are helping to improve the efficiency, safety and management of businesses.

Industries that have been historically underserved by technology are starting to embrace smart systems to help cut costs, reduce waste, improve fuel efficiency, and become more efficient organizations. Data insights are helping to influence management decisions that have a direct impact on the profitability of businesses.

AI-powered tech is helping to plan more efficient routes and improve the safety of their frontline workers. And AI-augmented dash cams are being installed into vehicles not just to record incidents, but to help prevent them from happening in the first place.

AI Dash Cams Improve Safety

For instance, AI-cameras can monitor driving behavior such as harsh braking or erratic driving and alert drivers — much like a co-driver — if they need a nudge to concentrate on the road ahead.

What’s more, this technology can also be wirelessly connected so that video footage and alerts can be simultaneously uploaded to the cloud and shared with office- based fleet managers — taking driver safety to a whole new level.

This connected approach provides a complete overview of how the vehicle is performing and how the driver is behaving.

A constant feed of data and information funneled into a dedicated training platform helps managers and drivers understand how accidents are caused, and what they can do to prevent them. And when accidents do occur, there’s video evidence to show what really happened which can also be used to prevent similar crashes from happening in the future.

Using data-backed video footage to underpin a company- wide safety initiative can help
to incentivize safer driving and provide accurate real-time data that can be used to improve driver coaching.

According to Tony Draper, Head of Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) Manager at UK-based M Group Services Plant & Fleet Solutions, using such technology is a game changer.

“The problem was, we didn’t have the visibility to understand what was causing accidents,” said Tony, “such as the context of the incident, how were other road users behaving at the time of the event…environmental and weather conditions, and if drivers were tired, distracted or looking at their mobile phone.“

This meant we didn’t have the information to stop any problems before they happened.

“At the same time, our systems were not able to tell us whether or not our drivers were at fault. That meant they risked getting the blame, even when they were innocent, and potentially facing disciplinary action.

“And our bottom line was taken a hit with bills for insurance premiums rising with every accident,” he said.

And M Group Services is not alone.

AI-Inspired Data Leads to New Business Insights

In fact, aggregated anonymized data from 400 Samsara customers — which have collectively traveled more than 793 million miles in the last 12 months — detected a 47% reduction in vehicle crashes.

More importantly, fleet operators that used both vehicle telematics and video-based safety solutions saw a 63% drop in crashes within the first year of adoption.

Such safety programmes have also had an impact on cost. By encouraging better driving, engine idling is reduced — which can be pinpointed to individual vehicles and drivers in combination with telematics. In many cases customers saw a 40% reduction over the last 12 months. Assuming a price of $5 per gallon of fuel, that’s equivalent to a saving of roughly $2,500 per vehicle per year — of half a million dollars for a 100-strong fleet.

In addition, because managers have sight of every vehicle or piece of machinery in the fleet, businesses reported a 20% improvement in vehicle use, thereby maximizing investment and minimizing waste.

Wherever you look, businesses in the physical operations sector are embracing AI. According to Samsara’s State of Connected Operations Report published earlier this year, 90% of operations leaders have implemented AI and automation technologies or plan to by 2023.

Make no mistake. The adoption of AI within physical operations is happening. And at pace.

Philip van der Wilt

VP & General Manager, EMEA, Samsara.

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