Is coffee killing fleet productivity?

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Updated Jun 26, 2015

Ford Motor Company engineers have completed a real-world driving experiment with Hewlett-Packard with the hopes of discovering which commuting commonalities could provide future breakthroughs in fleet management, personalized services and recommendations for individual drivers.

[ click to enlarge + ][ click to enlarge + ]One of the least shocking yet most consistent observations was that commuters love a good cup of Joe. The experiment, in which HP fleet vehicles were equipped with wireless sensors plugged into each vehicle, found that regardless of location, most HP drivers grabbed coffee at the same national coffee superstore and refueled with the same brand of gasoline.

It’s not exactly a shock that commuters like a coffee stop. There’s a reason why there’s a Starbucks on nearly every street corner. But Marcy Klevorn, Ford vice president and chief information officer, says data analysis about commutes and driving routines could lead to greater economies of scale for company fleets and new solutions for optimizing underutilized vehicles.

“The Fleet Insights experiment is one of the first steps to better understand and learn about how driving behavior is changing,” she says. “Fleets could see operating costs lowered through national buying contracts and improved utilization and maintenance, while individual drivers could receive coupons or create cooperative pools to share unused vehicles.”

Ford data scientists and IT leaders used the HP Vertica analytics engine, part of the HP Haven platform, to explore patterns and multiple dimensions of fleet driver activity. Also, each driver could access their data using a custom smartphone app to recall trip details, if needed.

Aside from drivers’ preferences for high-priced coffee, observations during the experiment revealed traveling employees often left their vehicles unused at the airport for days – vehicles that could be utilized more effectively by nearby drivers; and that 70 percent of trips took place during weekdays with a typical trip distance of 13 miles or fewer.

The Fleet Insight experiment data collection phase was completed this month after gathering information from nearly 100 vehicles. Data analysis will continue through the end of 2015.