Alex May, Senior Manager of Fleet at Rollins, shares his thoughts on what the future of mobility means for their business and technicians.
WHEELS: What conversations are happening internally regarding the topic of mobility?
MAY: At Rollins, most of the conversations around the topic of mobility have been focused on safety. How do we safely move our drivers and their equipment from place to place?
Due to the nature of our business, our drivers are required to carry chemicals, so keeping them safe is critical. We have adopted many of the new advancements of in-vehicle safety technology such as Lane Keeping Assist Systems (LKAS) and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB). There is a lot of discussion, and debate, about what these systems can actually do. Each manufacturer has some form of assisted-driving systems but they are all different.
Our focus has been to work with each manufacturer to truly understand those differences and limitations. You hear that “These vehicles will basically drive themselves” and “Assisted driving systems is the same thing as autonomous.” It is my job to educate and train our drivers and the field on this new technology. We want them to understand this technology assists the driver; it does not take the place of an attentive driver.
WHEELS: Rollins was an early adopter of telematics, and have witnessed the space evolve. As more and more vehicles become better connected, how do you foresee improvements to this technology contributing to your safety goals?
MAY: Telematics is a great tool to evaluate a driver’s behavior: Do they drive too fast? Is harsh breaking a constant issue? The problem with these notifications is that they happen after the fact. We want to take it further. We want to get to the information that these new safety technologies are providing. How many times was automatic braking or lane assist engaged? Even information after an accident: Did the airbag trigger? Did automatic braking engage? Was there human intervention? All these bits of information will be crucial to take us to that next level of safety.
WHEELS: Sending commands to and getting information from the vehicle does bring a lot of benefits. Another benefit often discussed is the role connectivity plays in making fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) a reality. Without connectivity, driverless driving cannot happen. What are your thoughts on how AVs will impact your business?
MAY: Safety is the main benefit we foresee when it comes to AVs. We provide a service that will always require human interaction. Hopefully AV technology will get to a point where it will ensure our employees return home safely each night. However, I do not see a time when AVs would allow us to eliminate the human factor in our business. Outside of safety, real estate is another area that would be greatly impacted. Today we have multiple branches across many locations, if we could have a centrally located supply warehouse that could provide the necessary equipment our technicians need in the field, our real estate costs would be greatly reduced.
WHEELS: When fully AVs become a viable option for your business, how will that change the role of your technicians?
MAY: As stated previously, I don’t believe an AV will be able to replace a driver. As a service organization, our technicians are the face of the company and will always be needed to visit the home or business to provide the service. However, the type of vehicle our technicians utilize would likely change. A smaller vehicle could carry the technician to the customer’s location while the AV could deliver the chemical supplies and equipment or even resupply a technician without them having to return to the branch. This would not only reduce the need of real estate required for our local offices and branches, but would also improve efficiency on the job and allow the technician to service more customers in a day.
We are very excited about the next generation of vehicles and technologies that are coming and the possibilities they bring. But no matter what comes along, we will always need a technician to be there to kill the bugs.