“Connected LCV solutions you could only dream of”
On the occasion of the IAA in Hanover Ford announced two promising new connected vehicle fleet solutions, developed in-house by Ford Smart Mobility. That called for an interview with Dave Phatak, European Director of Ford Commercial Solutions, and Lee Jelenic, CEO of Ford Commercial Solutions.
What is your approach towards B2B connectivity and telematics?
Dave Phatak. “It all starts with Ford’s global commitment to connecting all of its vehicles by 2020. We’ve been set up as a business to deliver connected solutions for our fleet customers. Because fleet means inherently much more complicated businesses than retail customers, we are a very focused unit just looking at fleets and their problems and their needs."
Lee Jelenic. “We are a business that is solely focused on our commercial customers. Just because it’s a B2B business doesn’t mean we’re not human-centered. The way we’ve built our service portfolio is getting to know the fleet in every aspect. From the operators and the drivers of the vehicles to the fleet managers – and even fleet management companies and other telematics providers. We have looked at all those levels and we believe that with all this great connectivity and hardware in the vehicle and understanding the customers we can now give them solutions that in some cases they’ve only dreamed of”.
Why two separate connected solutions, Ford Data Services and Ford Telematics?
Dave Phatak: “In talking to customers we discovered they want freedom of choice as to how to take connected vehicles and make it work for their businesses. Some have already established telematic solutions, but what they don’t have is high quality data to feed those solutions. They use plug in devices which have inherent inaccuracy, limitations to how much data they can provide. We’ve got an embedded modem into all of our vehicles and we’ve got access to all of the data signals in that vehicle. So we can increase the range of signals, we can take off the vehicle exponentially, we can also get the accuracy and the richness of the data so that it’s clean accurate data."
Lee Jelenic: “So, the Data Services product is about providing data into third party systems like telematics systems providers to help fleets choose a telematics partner. Our Telematics product is very much focused around customers who have decided that Ford is an important large part of their fleet so that we can provide them with Ford telematics which integrates up stream into our order and delivery systems, downstream into our dealer network.”
What are the main benefits for fleet customers?
Lee Jelenic: “The key area is the embedded modem. Whether it’s a Ford Data Services customer or a Ford Telematics customer, we offer OEM grade data, i.e. data that is certified by our engineers. Because we're the Ford Motor Company, we’ve engineered these vehicles, designed these vehicles, we understand the flow of data so we can get more data, more accurate and faster than we ever could before."
Dave Phatak: “Some of the real data signals fleets need you just can’t get through some of the plug in devices, particularly around diesel signals: AdBlue levels, diesel particular filters, and so on. Drivers don’t tell the fleet manager what the problems are, they just turn the key and want the vehicle to go. Fleet managers are amongst some of the busiest people we’ve ever met and what they really need is clear insights into what they have to do to keep operating safely, legally and efficiently. They don’t want too much data, they just want those critical things that keep them operating.”
When and in which countries will your solutions be available?
Dave Phatak: “We are going to start with the UK and Germany in Spring 2019, after which we will grow progressively to other markets. We are in the software business now – software is about starting small, learning and then scaling.”
Lee Jelenic: “Our team is about 130 people globally and over half of them are software engineers. It’s not your typical Ford team. It’s a really awesome dynamic team. We are iterating and developing new software all the time. We release new software every week. When we hear things the customers want we turn it around really quickly.”
Picture copyright: Ford, 2018