What Are Vehicle Telematics Benefits & Features

Car telematics serves a number of useful purposes for drivers everywhere. This technology keeps people from getting lost, offers an easy way to receive roadside assistance and collects data that can be used in a few important ways. Telematics combines navigation, safety, security and communication into one convenient piece of technology that fits in a vehicle's dashboard. Automotive telematics systems receive wireless information and transmit it through a crash-resistant box.

When the everyday driver thinks of telematics in cars, they are probably most familiar with GPS navigation or two-way communication capabilities that can connect them with road assistance. These are definitely the most common uses for commercial vehicle telematics, though there are others.

Your next car will spy on you and report your driving style to your insurance company. It'll keep track of any risky maneuvers you perform and tell the police if it thinks you're to blame for an accident. And how? It's all about digital telematics.

Telematics is a method of monitoring a vehicle. By combining a GPS system with on-board diagnostics, it's possible to record - and map - exactly where a car is and how fast it's travelling, and cross-reference that with how a car is behaving internally.

Add communication over a 3G network and telematics can be used to send both data and communications back and forth between a vehicle and a central management system. Using sensors in cars and a trackside wireless network, Formula One teams have been using telematics for years for telling exactly where opponents are on the racetrack.

At the fringes, telematics is also a term used to describe 'connected car' features in general, which include live weather, traffic and parking info on the dashboard, apps, voice-activated features (such as featured on the Parrot Asteroid car receiver) and even - gulp - Facebook integration.

Common Features of a Telematics System in Cars

Most telematics systems come with a set of common features that are available with basic subscription packages.

Automatic Collision Notification

Drivers with telematics in cars can have the peace of mind of knowing that if they are ever in a crash, help is on the way. The telematics system can automatically detect the collision and summon help. The modem is protected and crash-resistant, so it will work even in the event of a severe accident. The antenna signal is typically stronger than that of a mobile phone, which means the system can reach the call centre in most areas.

Emergency Assistance

A telematics system features an SOS button that can be used to get help for an emergency that isn't related to a crash. This is a powerful security measure in case you need medical assistance or witness a crime unfolding. The communication system will allow you to reach the appropriate emergency service personnel for immediate assistance.

Good Samaritan Assistance

The SOS button can also help you assist others in need. If you witness an accident or other emergency, you can press the button to send emergency assistance to the scene.

Roadside Assistance

You'll never be stranded on the road due to mechanical failure if you use a telematics system. The SOS button can summon help in the event of a flat tire or breakdown or if you run out of fuel. Using GPS technology, assistance can find you quickly.

Vehicle Diagnostics

This feature allows you to receive a monthly email report on the condition of your car. You can choose to have diagnostics run at any time and sent to your car dealer. This capability helps to prevent breakdowns and helps dealers and customers save money.

Additional Telematics Features


Gas Price Finder

Use a telematics system to help you find great fuel savings. Navigation features will find local gas stations, list the prices and direct you there.

Local Search

Telematics can include the same types of apps you may find on your smartphone, like Yelp or Google Local Search. You can use this feature to find local attractions like restaurants, hotels, malls, nightspots and more with reviews at the ready.

News Alerts

You may choose to equip your telematics system with a news app that delivers news alerts or weather information. This pairs well with satellite radio options and can be set to automatically use your preferred channel for news broadcasts.

Media Streaming

While most vehicles can connect to streaming services using Bluetooth to communicate with a cell phone, in some cases, your telematics system will have an application to stream music from applications like Pandora.

Text Message Display

Text message and email display can eliminate the temptation to engage in unsafe behaviours behind the wheel. A telematics system can read incoming texts and emails and offer the option to send a dictated response. Some vehicle manufacturers will allow for a text display in addition to audio, while others don't enable this feature.

Enhanced Automatic Crash Notification (E-ACN)

E-ACN systems use data collected from sensors to analyze the extent of damage done to the vehicle and assess the likelihood of severe injury to passengers. This can save lives and further injury by informing passengers of their need to be careful and summoning medical care directly to the scene.

The Origin Telematics

Telematics technology developed out of the rapid expansion of the internet from the mid-1990s onwards. The greater availability and practicality of telecommunications technologies that arose in tandem with this expansion also produced new forms of remote communication. Over the years, these developed into what we now recognize as modern telematics systems, and these have been particularly widely adopted over the last decade.

Fleet management programs now enable firms to manage fleets of all sizes - from a handful of vehicles to hundreds - and help deliver major improvements across the board. Telematics has now developed to the point where it goes well beyond mere asset tracking to incorporate vehicle and driver performance as well as maintenance management.

The growth of telematics technology continues apace. Although the adoption of telematics has already become standard across various industries, the technology itself continues to evolve, and to grow in power and capacities, all the time. The burgeoning driver shortage affecting the transport sector and the continuing challenge of regulatory compliance are likely to have a major bearing on the future of telematics.

Telematics is also proving crucial in what has become known as the Internet of Things that Move (IoTtM); specifically, in transport and freight. These sectors have been leading adopters of IoT technology, with the data it provides allowing for more efficient routing and scheduling as well as generally better-optimized use of resources. The IoTtM thus encompasses, for example, location tracking and driver and equipment operator monitoring, including engine and driver hours. The main benefits of this include:

    • Reduced fuel costs. With fuel consumption being one of the most pressing costs facing fleets, detecting and reducing excessive fuel use is absolutely crucial to overall efficiency. Telematics does this through more direct route planning, reducing job site bottlenecks and cutting engine idling, while also detecting unauthorized vehicle or equipment use (enabling firms to cut down on resulting fuel usage).


    • More cost-effective maintenance. Telematics warns managers of mechanical issues with vehicles and equipment, which allows them to address these problems sooner and thereby reduce the danger of downtime (which is not only inconvenient but can also have serious knock-on effects for other jobs). It also makes scheduling preventative maintenance simpler, which again helps to maximize vehicle and equipment uptime.


    • Better communication. Previously, keeping in touch with drivers and operators out in the field could be a complex business. Telematics simplifies communication processes and significantly reduces the need for human operators and drivers to check in and report back, automating much of this process. As well as ensuring that managers have access to the data they need faster, this allows operators to spend more time concentrating directly on the job in hand.


    • Enhanced safety. Another crucial consideration (and a central legal responsibility) for firms operating fleets of vehicles and equipment, safety is of paramount importance. Telematics improves safety management by monitoring both driver and operative behaviour and vehicle and equipment performance. It allows anomalies - such as unsafe practices - to be detected and addressed quicker. It also allows for emergency assistance to be directed straight to the site where it is needed, through location tracking.



Telematics Devices And Software

Most commonly, telematics data is collected by a small device installed in the vehicle (or another asset) itself. This collects stores and transmits different types of information relating to the vehicle's performance, condition and usage. There are different types of telematics devices available that offer different functionality and benefits. The most accurate and secure telematics devices are hardwired, these devices offer tamper-proof functionality and a wider range of connectivity to peripheral devices.

Telematics devices are often connected to other in-cab driver interfaces that enable drivers to receive jobs, capture proof of delivery, complete pre-trip inspections and even get real-time feedback on their driving performance.

Imagine a highly intelligent computer in your vehicle that is able to report on nearly every detail from speed and idling, to fuel use, low tire pressure, and more. This information can mean saving on maintenance costs by better monitoring vehicles or improving fuel efficiency by learning more about driving habits. All of this describes the universe of telematics, also known as GPS fleet tracking.

To track assets, information from the vehicle is recorded via a small, telematics device - also called a black box - that plugs into the OBD II or CAN-BUS port. A SIM card and modem in the device enables communication on the cellular network.

There are several key components of a telematics device:

    • GPS receiver


    • Engine interface


    • Input/output interface (expander port)


    • SIM card


    • Accelerometer


    • Buzzer



What Do We Do With All This Data?

Telematics data provides a clear picture of a driver's behaviour, which is a strong indication of whether a driver will have an insurance loss or not. When shared with insurance companies, the data can be used to establish car insurance premiums based on actual driver behaviour rather than standardized demographics like age, gender and marital status, and one's driving history.

In fact, many insurance companies are favouring the use of data from telematics, known as usage-based insurance (UBI), over the traditional factors in determining insurance premiums. That's great news for drivers who could see lower premiums as a result of their positive driving behaviour.

For drivers who may not realize a reduction in premiums, telematics can indicate where adjustments or improvements need to be made such as driving slower, driving less, or taking corners at a better speed to improve their driving record and possibly lower their insurance rates.

Better Drivers And Improved Road Safety

Telematics can also make any car a "connected car" providing safety benefits to drivers such as alerts to dangerous road conditions or accidents ahead, weather hazards or car maintenance requirements. Drivers can be steered away from potential problems with features like lane-change monitoring, rearview cameras and autonomous braking. Telematics could send emergency teams and insurance companies to the aid of a driver who's been in an accident. In essence, telematics technology has the potential to save lives.

Where Are Telematics Devices Installed?

You generally install telematics devices in your car's on-board diagnostics port (OBD II Port), which all vehicles that are newer than 1996 have. This port is typically located beneath the steering wheel of the car, making the device easy to install. As soon as the telematics monitor is installed, it will start recording information about your driving habits and passing them on to a connected app or to your insurer.

What Are the Advantages of Telematics Devices?

The main advantage of the telematics device is the potential for car insurance savings. Provided you are a good driver, and you can get a hefty discount on your insurance when the device reports your travel history. If you aren't a great driver, the telematics device can help remind you to avoid hard braking, heed the speed limit, and drive safer overall. When you know you are being recorded, you're encouraged to have better driving behaviours.

How Do I Get a Telematics Device?

There are several options for getting a telematics device in your car. The first is to buy a car that has one built into the vehicle. Newer cars may have this technology built right in.

If you don't have a car that already includes this technology, then you can simply purchase a device from a tech store or online and install it yourself. Your insurer may also offer a specific model through a program like Drive Safe & Save or SmartRide. In that case, contact an agent to get a telematics device for your car.

Telematics devices are just one element of a safe driving plan. You can also make your car more secure by adding aftermarket safety devices, like dashcams or anti-theft devices.

Is 'Pay As You Drive', Right?

Wrong. Although the use of telematics is, ahem, accelerating, it's also undergoing a change from being focused on a pay as you drive (PAYD) to pay how you drive (PHYD).

"We basically monitor and assess the driving behaviour of the vehicle user via on-board technology which enables us to provide a much more accurate rate and a very specific understanding of risk," says Johan van der Merwe, MD of pay-as-you-drive car insurer Coverbox, which also offers free theft tracking.

"The amount of information we gather from devices installed in customers' vehicles - time and location of journeys, driver behaviour during those journeys, and so on - means that we are in a position to develop much more bespoke insurance products, personalized to specific drivers."

Telematics also means that well-behaved drivers can be rewarded with lower fees.

"We all know young drivers who are maniacs behind the wheel, but we also all know young drivers who are incredibly safe and sensible behind the wheel," says van der Merwe. "The current insurance market lumps them all together as being an equally high liability. We can change that."

The more detailed the information collected, the closer the insurance industry can get to accurately apportioning blame to specific drivers involved in an accident.