The DfT says that a driver can also receive the same penalties for using a hands-free device if he or she is deemed to not have proper control of the vehicle while using the device. Companies too can feel the sting of the new rules as employers can be prosecuted for causing or permitting a commercial vehicle driver not to have proper control of the vehicle.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents says hands-free kits can be just as distracting, and wants companies to make it part of their health and safety policies that using any type of mobile phone while driving on company business should be a disciplinary offence.
Mark Squires of Nokia says it specifically targets the needs of commercial vehicle drivers when designing its mobile phones. He reckons the new rulings will have limited effect on mobile phone companies that are prepared for it.
“It shouldn’t affect anybody who has been in the business, as we have, of making car-kits.”
Nokia has always offered car-kits for its devices, he says, and, in phone manuals, it encourages drivers not to make any calls while in a moving vehicle and that it is always best to stop and call people back. Although in the past this may have been ignored by commercial drivers operating to tight delivery deadlines, the attitude to using phones will have to change and fast.
Golan Haver of Motorola says that Motorola’s latest mobile phone is uniquely designed for in-vehicle use. He says: “The M930 is targeted towards enterprises and businesses, where hands-free legislation has the strictest enforcement. For example, in the UK, employers can be prosecuted causing or permitting employees to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving.”
Haver points out that the M930 is compliant with recent changes in legislation
Squires says speech activation is becoming very big and is an important technological addition in complying with the new legislation. He says: “It’s so simple to fit a car-kit and anchor a phone securely, there should be no reason why people don’t use it.”
Even older phones with Bluetooth are fully compliant, he says. “It is becoming unacceptable to hold your phone when you are driving down the road, that wasn’t the position a few years ago.”
Technology like “auto-answer” and “hit-any-key-hang-up” is moving the market forwards and there really is no excuse nowadays for any driver to ever take their eyes off of the road.
“There’s probably more distraction from the radio in the vehicle than the phone these days.”
Squires says Nokia understands how important a good satellite navigation system is to commercial vehicle drivers and it began incorporating satellite navigation technology in mobile phones last year. He says the needs of the sector are an important part of Nokia’s business.
“We make a bespoke Sat-Nav system which is a pod that is designed to be permanently mounted in the vehicle, ” he said. Nokia has a number of units in development and already on sale that have built-in satellite navigation systems. The Nokia N95, which came on the market in early April, the Navigator 6610 and the E90 Communicator all come with 130 country maps built into the units and are ready to use straight out of the box.
Mobile phones have the ability to offer different levels of mapping for delivery drivers and can be powerful business management aids, but mapping and satellite navigation are different and its important to know the difference when buying the equipment.
“You get maps down to the street level for 130 countries, virtually everywhere that has been mapped but you don’t get navigation, that’s a purchase option.”
He says that with Nokia’s mapping system, a user can put in an address or a grid reference or a postcode and the system will draw a line for the user showing them exactly how to get to their location or series of locations for instance in the case of delivery drivers. The downside of this is that it will not give you audible instructions such as: “At the next junction turn left. At the following junction turn right.”
Squires says that under UK law a mapping only system is not suitable for in-vehicle use unless its by passenger. Satellite navigation is more expensive but is the better option for distribution drivers. This is the option that shows a map and also gives audio directions enabling a driver to use the unit without ever having to take his/her eyes off of the road.
Modern software is extremely powerful and a “major advantage for urban delivery drivers as locations or businesses can be instantly located and even contacted ahead of the driver arriving if they need to,” he says.
“We find that it has endeared us to the smaller businesses in particular. It represents a considerable cost saving for them.”
Speech recognition technology and speech activated devices are certainly going to become more and more important in the future. However, Squires says that speech recognition has reached something of a wall at the moment. “The problem is that no matter how good speech recognition is, it can’t overcome a high level of background noise. And it can’t actually overcome heavy regional accents.”
Haver says Motorola deliberately targets both truck and van drivers for its devices and has released its M930, a hands-free, in-vehicle phone for businesses.
“It’s uniquely designed for vehicles in the enterprise, fleet, public transport, government, law enforcement and emergency response industries, where professional drivers require business-critical communication to carry out daily operational activities on the road.”
The M930 is designed to be permanently fixed within the vehicle so employers are guaranteed that drivers are always connected even if they forget hand-held cell phones at home and are able to switch between drivers freely.”
The latest model comes equipped with an external RF antenna placed on the windscreen to allow extended network range, in particular in more rural areas where signals are generally weak. Haver says that the unit also has “advanced algorithms” that help suppress background noise and cancel out echoes.
The model also comes with a number of features developed specifically for the business market. A call restriction function enables employers to monitor both incoming and outgoing calls on the device, an automatic power-on function activates the phone once the vehicle’s engine is switched on. It can also mute the car’s radio during phone calls. The M930 was launched throughout Europe in February 2007, as a successor to the M900 GSM model.
Haver says: “We have an established product road map for the remainder of 2007 and continuing into 2008 that focuses on technology needs our target audience has identified as crucial in an in-vehicle phone unit. We are excited about the implementation of upcoming developments and our market’s reaction to these new additions.”
Haver says that the consumer’s perception of in-vehicle communication is changing and there is a current global trend of increasing driver safety laws and consequently increasing the penalties that drivers can face when working with a hand-held device. He says this is especially so in the UK. “Where consumers are aware that hands-free laws are enforced, there is an increasing demand from the market for new technology that complies with [these] growing regulations.”
More and more companies are operating on the road, and it is therefore necessary for mobile phone companies to deliver a hands-free solution to the market that adheres to the rising legislation. Haver reckons that the fixed install on Motorola’s latest phone is so effective that drivers cannot accidentally pick up the unit, “as they would a standard hand-held phone, out of habit”.
Graham Whitstance, managing director of Momote, a specialist in mobile applications, argues there is a need for mobile solutions to move away from focusing on old technologies such as black box tracking and satellite navigation.
“Momote offers organisations with fleets of vehicles the means quickly to develop and roll out a mobile application that provides users with the functionality they actually require, rather than a whole host of unnecessary applications.
“All fleet managers think that they need tracking and satellite navigation, but probably only because they see other people with them and not through any genuine requirement. How important is it for most fleet managers to know on a minute-by-minute basis whether their driver is driving, resting, the ignition is on or off and so on? Sometimes the answer to this is very, sometimes it is not at all.
“Having access to information not just about where the truck is but also what it has done when it reaches its destination is the most important thing to the majority of fleet managers. Sat-nav is a nice gadget to have, whereas knowing that 15 items have been accepted, one was rejected as broken and two were not on the truck and knowing this it immediately is more (much more) important. Giving the driver access to this and giving base access in real time to what the driver (as opposed to the truck) is doing offers much better cost saving / benefits to both the company and the driver.”
In December 2006, Vodafone bought Aspective, a systems integration and business software specialist. Vodafone says that for the first time a mobile network operator was able to offer customers a complete end-to-end package, including the device, connectivity, mobile application, integration and the enterprise application itself, or as a fully managed service if required.
It has recently launched the Vodafone Applications Service (VAS), which allows mobile users to access business systems remotely from a portable device. The service is implemented and supported by a team of Enterprise Mobility Solutions specialists within Vodafone that examine specific customer needs and develop applicable solutions. A spokesperson said: “It gives you the ability to work anywhere – even if out of coverage – as the network will update your work automatically when coverage becomes available again. The data on the device will always be up to date and secure, even when you are working out of the office.”
Vodafone says it gives mobile workers “improved two-way communication giving non-mobile workers immediate access to mobile workers’ data updates wherever they are”.
As well as time savings for mobile workers and reduced costs as a result of replacing paper-based systems. Vodafone says: “The client interface is designed in each case to provide only the necessary functions of the application that the user needs, optimising efficiency and keeping data transfer to a minimum.”
At the first glance the Mambo II appears to be a conventional mobile phone. The device, which measures just 97 x 48 x 23 millimetres, however, contains numerous functions that are geared specifically towards the needs of logistics providers. The device can be carried in a jacket pocket or be fixed to a vehicle. Companies do not need additional hardware of software. All that is required to use the tracking application is a PC with internet access. Mambo II can also function like a regular telephone and store up to 20 telephone numbers. The device is based on the Telit module GE864 which, Falcom reckons, is currently the world’s smallest GSM/GPRS quad-band module. It also has an integrated SiRFStar III GPS receiver. Logistics service providers can trace the current location of their vehicles at any time.
“This gives them greater flexibility in terms of deployment planning. Companies can see which driver is closest to a new customer and adapt their route accordingly. For couriers or logistics service providers, the device allows the exact utilisation of a vehicle.”
Since Mambo has a modular structure, Falcom’s partner companies and systems integrators can configure the device using software in accordance with their particular application and set up special online platforms.
David Quin, European marketing director for ALK Technologies, says in-cab technology can help dramatically reduce fuel consumption when combined with effective driver training. “Smooth progress, avoiding the stop-start pattern resulting from jams can reduce fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent. Telematics devices such as GPS or sat-nav can be used by drivers to avoid this type of delay, reducing cost by allowing drivers to anticipate and plan for road conditions.
“Telematics can deliver reduced mileage and fuel costs and increase efficiency of vehicle deployment by delivering up-to-date information and allowing drivers to revise routes to avoid potential obstacles. Getting lost is also a factor with the AA estimating that it is responsible for up to 20 per cent of time spent driving on unfamiliar roads.
“Real-time traffic congestion information and avoidance advice as well as information about approaching high risk areas such as accident black spots, schools, or congestion can prove fundamental in cutting waste as well as having a positive impact on accident rates.”