Video Telematics – Surveillance or Assistance?

The use of video to capture and analyze human activity has exploded in recent years.

Illustration about surveillance or assistance

The use of video to capture and analyze human activity has exploded in recent years. From the monitoring of public spaces to in-store retail analytics, driver monitoring, and more, advances in camera technology and AI have allowed the capture and analysis of video at a scale unimaginable even a few years ago. Going hand in hand with these advancements is an inherent tension intrinsic to video – a fear of surveillance and invasion of spaces once considered private.

Video telematics, or the use of cameras in commercial vehicles to capture evidence around accidents and other incidents, has also faced this predicament since its inception. For drivers, a camera recording their every working moment can create concerns around an intrusion of privacy, that sometimes outweigh the significant benefits that such systems can provide both drivers and fleets, as an assistive tool. For an industry looking at a severe shortage of qualified drivers, a ham-handed deployment of this technology without thoughtful consideration given to the driver experience is a recipe for failure.

A more driver-centric approach to this technology starts with a legitimate understanding of the concerns around privacy. Some fleets, especially unionized and government ones, have restrictions around in-cab recording. This is especially relevant to monolithic dual-camera solutions that include both road and driver-facing cameras in one unit, where privacy concerns around the driver-facing camera are not assuaged simply by disabling the driver-facing camera in software. To address such concerns, some dashcam manufacturers provide optional accessories to cover the driver-facing camera (and also the road facing cameras for fleets that operate in sensitive environments). Alternatively, many dual-camera systems now provide the driver-facing camera as an optional accessory to the main unit.

Going beyond the hardware, the entire workflow of the video telematics solution needs to be reimagined with a view of assisting, rather than surveilling the driver. As an example, some key features we have enabled through our RideView platform towards maximizing driver buy-in, are:

  • Support for multiple hardware options: From road-facing single-camera systems to monolithic dual-camera units, all the way to modular systems with the option to add-on additional cameras, our software platform supports a variety of hardware options. This helps fleets select the option that works just right for them and their drivers. A one-size-fits-all strategy around hardware, on the other hand, limits the choices TSPs (and fleets) have as they balance driver perception with the need to improve fleet safety.
  • Real-time voice alerts to the driver: Instead of being a passive video recorder, an active agent (based on ADAS and DMS) that assists drivers in avoiding accidents is seen more benevolently. Additionally, such systems act as a virtual coach, helping drivers get better at their job over time.
  • Providing the driver a view of their own performance: Instead of being impenetrable black-boxes that only upload data for the fleet manager to view, all cameras supported by the RideView platform can connect to smartphones and tablets, and provide the driver with a view of their trips, violations, and scorecards on dedicated driver apps. This serves two benefits:
  • The driver is made a stakeholder in the process, with full transparency into the data that is logged on their performance
  • Any discrepancies they notice and want to dispute can be incorporated into the workflow
  • Driver and fleet scorecards: The use of ADAS and DMS helps our platform log unsafe incidents that would never have been captured otherwise unless they led to an actual accident (chronic behaviors like tailgating, looking at the phone while driving, etc., which cannot be captured by conventional systems looking only at GPS or G-sensor data). These act as leading indicators of accidents and help create accurate driver and fleet scorecards, which enable the fleet to take pre-emptive action. For drivers, this enables the gamification of their working experience, with all its concomitant benefits. The loop of driver empowerment is closed when fleets look at scorecards not only to redress issues but create a culture of positive recognition for good performance.
  • Protection of personally identifiable information: Compliance with data-privacy standards like GDPR has made sure that our systems can function with minimal access to personal information of drivers, with support for data takedown/purge requests within the relevant legal framework. The use of AI to blur faces when needed is just one of the myriad ways in which technology helps create confidence in our systems.

The value that video telematics brings drivers and fleets has always been abundantly clear. The prevalent narrative around it, especially in its early days, always centered around fleet owners and admins, arising from the fact that they are the ones paying for the service. For it to now cross the chasm into widespread adoption, the recognition of the driver as an equal stakeholder is key. Only when solutions arise from empathy around the driver experience, will the true potential of video telematics be realized.