The subject of sustainability is rising in importance in every aspect of the corporate world. When it comes to sustainability with corporate fleets, reducing carbon emissions through electrification is top of mind.
But the concept of the connected car is opening other ways to promote sustainability. At the Geotab Extend virtual event March 23-24, Fabian Seithel of Geotab’s European business development team joined Tim Ruhoff, founder and CEO of Fleetster, to dive into this topic in a seminar titled “Fleet Sharing: Gearing Up in Uncertain Times.”
The seminar’s key takeaway — carsharing platforms and telematics are combining to open new ways to better manage existing assets and driver higher fleet utilization.
Seithel opened with a statistic that the current market for shared vehicles in Europe is 370,000 units, according to market research by IMG, and is projected to increase to 7.5 million by 2035. That growth will be driven in part by new digital key technologies, Seithel said.
Traditional consumer carsharing will continue apace, though telematics and digital key systems will boost penetration of other models such as residential EV carsharing and government and corporate motor pools. A new model is also taking shape — in-vehicle delivery.
Not intrinsically carsharing, in-vehicle delivery uses GPS and remote lock/unlock functionality to allow for the delivery of goods directly to a car, van, or truck without the driver needing to be at the vehicle. Parcel delivery companies now have new drop-off points. Service technicians won’t need to detour to the warehouse for parts. Salespeople don’t have to wait at home to receive supplies. Other services, such as cleaning and maintenance, can be handled similarly.
Geotab’s foray into digital key technologies began when it launched its Geotab Keyless product in October 2020. With this system, the Geotab platform generates security keys and sends cellular commands to Geotab’s OBD II tracking device. The keyless hardware then locks or unlocks the vehicle after receiving security validation. While other keyless systems operate independent of fleet telematics, Geotab Keyless allows Geotab clients seamless integration with their existing Geotab telematics system.
But to create solutions for end-user fleets, the system relies on a marketplace of third-party partners that integrate with Geotab’s Keyless APIs. These mobility technology partners include Wunder Mobility, Ridecell, Eccocar, Moove Connected Mobility, and Fleetster, a cloud-based fleet management and carsharing software. Alternatively, Geotab fleet customers can opt to create their own reservation software using Geotab’s APIs.
“We consider (Fleetster) a technology company,” said Ruhoff in the seminar. “Software is what we do; hardware is what we buy. … With partners such as Geotab, it comes together as mobility software and technology that we offer to our customers.”
In addition to public carsharing, Fleetster provides software, both branded or white-labeled, for general fleet management as well as government and corporate carsharing/motor pools. Fleetster is looking to expand its footprint into North America, Ruhoff said.
The Fleetster system works with Geotab Keyless to alleviate the need for a physical key, but it works with bladed keys too. Government fleet motor pool operators will remember the old-school lockbox with car keys hanging from hooks. Fleetster has replicated this in an “electronic key cabinet” that centralizes the management of keys and the handover of shared vehicles. The electronic cabinet can be managed through time-based permissions and is designed to minimize unauthorized usage.
The system can handle complex scenarios involving user permissions, business or personal trips, damage reporting, and booking for others. Yet there are other efficiencies inherent with telematics integration. For instance, data that previously needed to be added manually — such as mileage and fuel level — can now be automatically transferred through Geotab’s device. “The user only needs to tell the system the car’s cleanliness level,” Ruhoff said.
Ruhoff finished with some statistics that looked at carsharing trends during COVID-19 in Germany, where the company has the most data.
Other than predictable dips and recoveries during first- and second-phase lockdowns, Fleetster’s clients in Germany that provide public carsharing did not experience any dramatic swings. However, since the start of the pandemic, business travel using pool cars “has been quite dead,” Ruhoff said.
The new trend in corporate carsharing is to allow employees access to fleet cars for personal use. After an initial dip, this type of booking spiked and the higher volume was sustained throughout the pandemic. For private bookings, “We are looking at an all-time high,” he said.
Fleetster’s data shows that an employee-use option is a sought-after perk that also maximizes vehicle utilization. This should be considered when building business cases around corporate and government carsharing pools, Ruhoff concluded.