Vehicle Telematics Design Needs an Integrated Approach

By Jeff Edelstein


AmeriTrak Fleet Solutions

August 04, 2023


Vehicle Telematics Design Needs an Integrated Approach
Vehicle Telematics

A vehicle telematics system designed to address the challenge of data-enhanced snow and ice fighting is necessarily complex. This is due to the large amount of collected data and the disparate nature of required and “nice-to-have” sensors.

This complex system must also address the necessity to distribute all collected information to inter-agency users and third party information vendors in near-real time. This is all happening as multi-tasked background processes, which are not apparent to the vehicle operator (our so-called “Back-of-the-House”).

A “Front-of-the-House” option available to AmeriTrak users is a hard-real time, in-cab user interface presenting all or some of the collected data. Some of the features that the optional user interface can provide include user selection of current road and weather conditions, current weather condition maps, interfaces to third-party information products such as MDSS and TAMS. It also includes a live, hard-real time map showing your position in relation to the positions of other vehicle operators in your fleet, allowing the vehicle operator to turn on and off a 5-minute live precip-weather radar overlay. AmeriTrak’s optional “Front-of-the-House” user interface provides excellent situational awareness to vehicle operators.

The following image shows the optional in-cab user interface main page, from which additional information, data entry options and operator configuration may be accessed.

Data Collection

The foundation of all this data is, of course, location services obtained from real time GPS. Location and time-stamped information layers are added, such as:

  • Road chemical application rates and quantities
  • Road surface temperature and ambient air temperature
  • Humidity and dew point
  • Indirect road surface conditions such as film thickness, type and estimated friction (grip)
  • Real time engine data from the vehicle’s J1939 CAN-bus interface
  • Real time and historic engine trouble codes

Considered another “data” item, up to four cameras can be directly attached to the AmeriTrak system, collecting both timer-triggered snapshots and real time full-motion video. Snapshots are sent to AmeriTrak’s data center in real time for archival and immediate distribution to downstream third-party information providers, such as Traveler 511 systems, while full motion video is stored on the telematics platform. When needed, video of interest may be reviewed and/or downloaded directly from each mobile computer through a secure connection to each device’s built-in user interface.

Edge Computing and Security

AmeriTrak’s approach to a growing ecosystem of required and/or desired attached third-party sensors is to directly and flexibly integrate them onto the telematics platform. At the same time, everyone participating in this space must be hyper-serious about cyber security. AmeriTrak’s approach to flexible and extensible data integration uses high-level programming languages and data modeling integrated within the realm of a state-of-the-art Unix operating system that extends our data center security model onto each mobile computer (yes, AmeriTrak is a Unix shop...). AmeriTrak is able to easily accomplish this, while providing excellent responsiveness, by applying the VBOX family of in-vehicle computers from Sintrones.

While providing excellent performance, affordable pricing and reasonable supply chain timing, the Sintrones solution gives AmeriTrak the ability to easily grow our application complexity and computational density by simply migrating up and down within the VBOX family of in-vehicle computers. For example, on-board GIS computing is applied to every acquired GPS coordinate pair, providing on-route resolution, route compliance, layer intersection analysis, nearest mile post resolution, etc. with no performance degradation. All GIS layers of interest, for each specific application, are registered as part of AmeriTrak’s software repository fabric.

But Wait, There’s More

We have briefly described an AmeriTrak application developed against the difficult macro-scale problem of data-enhanced snow and ice fighting. The authors would be remiss to not mention the highly modular nature of this, and other AmeriTrak projects that allow our applications to be quickly configured or enhanced to solve other vertical problem spaces such as Transit, OTR Trucking, Rail Safety, etc. Please come and visit the Sintrones Booth at the APTA Expo 2023 in Orlando, Florida this October. You will be able to see and interact with a live demo of AmeriTrak’s software running on a Sintrones VBOX, demonstrating the power and flexibility of the VBOX family of in-vehicle computing solutions.