dog riding in a car
Enterprises are often the earliest adopters of smart mobility solutions, particularly technologies aimed at improving driver safety. PHOTO: Joanna Malinowska

I’ll admit it — the wait for autonomous vehicles is becoming excruciating. Even before a generation of auto fans like myself grew up watching Knight Rider, our parents dreamed of flying around with Dick Van Dyke in the car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Now it’s 2017, and we’ve seen the rise of broadband internet, smartphones and virtual reality, but we’re still not living in a world where my children ride to school in a Transformer.

Driving = Business Risks

The wait is even more painful for businesses whose employees drive every day at great risk to themselves and their companies.

One out of every five business vehicles is involved in an accident each year, and business drivers are 30 to 50 percent more likely to be involved in a collision than a typical consumer.

Why? The more you drive, the more likely you are to encounter dangerous traffic situations or grow tired, bored or otherwise complacent behind the wheel.

So it makes sense that enterprises are becoming the earliest adopters of smart mobility solutions, particularly technologies that focus on improving driver safety.

And as technology makes vehicles safer and more connected, there are great opportunities for strategic marketers to leverage the newfound capabilities of their enterprise fleets in a few key ways.

Rewards for Reliability

Today’s vehicles are more connected, regardless of the make or model. As we move toward fully autonomous vehicles, the infotainment unit will become the hub for manufacturers, service providers and marketers.

With a captive audience, often for hours at a time, marketers should recognize infotainment units as an untapped resource for gathering data, presenting messaging and capturing opportunities to service their employees and other potential markets.

While only the newest vehicles have built-in infotainment units, today virtually all cars have a mobile phone on board, offering the opportunity to track, analyze and reward safe driving.

For example, an app might periodically award safe drivers with a $5 Starbucks card and route them to the nearest location.

For marketers, this offers a new platform for engaging with targeted demographics. Do you have a CRM software you’d like salespeople to use? You may find value in sponsoring a reward for a company that employs a high volume of mobile sales reps.

If your company has its own mobile workforce, you may find cultural and monetary value in partnering with other brands to sponsor rewards. The opportunities will only grow as infotainment usage expands and opens up a deeper market for driving-focused apps.

Data for Driving Change

Vehicle tracking has been around for years, but too often companies overlook the driver safety opportunities tracking data can provide. Tracking will be a critical component to analyzing driver behavior, mobility trends and safety as automakers develop autonomous driver programming over the next five to 10 years.

But even after autonomy is here, we will maintain control over certain trackable aspects of our ride, including our vehicles’ routes, stops and driving styles (when and how it speeds up, passes other vehicles, handles lane changes, etc.).

Today, we’re able to track vehicles’ location and granular safety event data to draw a large number of conclusions about drivers’ behaviors and preferences as well as information about the streets and locations they encounter.

This treasure trove of data can be used by the modern marketer to develop custom-tailored, location-based offers and events, as well as marketing messages based on projected times of arrival at any given point.

Marketers with mobile workforces can also aggregate and anonymize trip history data to help cities and other local businesses understand traffic patterns and make needed safety improvements.

Moreover, they can provide insight into growing business trends, such as which areas are proving to be growing centers of interest for each demographic their workforce represents. Within the organization, teams can use trip histories to identify popular eating spots, coffee shops, gas stations and hotels to help cater to the preferences of the workforce when planning travel and per diems, as well as negotiate vendor marketing relationships.

Corporate Responsibility for Cultural Changes

Cities, automakers, non-profits and enterprises are lining up behind the goal of zero-fatality roads, believing that technology will make it increasingly attainable.

But until fully autonomous vehicles are shuttling commuters to and from their appointments every day, we still need to keep our eye on current safety challenges. This is where a smart mobility plan becomes critical to the health and safety of your employees and your brand.

If your company is deploying a smart mobility initiative, make sure you’re sharing your trials and successes with your employees, customers and the media. Communicating the benefits of your driver safety program is not only a good PR opportunity, it’s a good way to educate your business community about driver safety and drive more widespread changes.

Smarter, safer mobility is here, and it won’t be long before autonomous vehicles enable workforces to experience life on the road with not only free hands but eyes and ears as well.

These are early days, but marketing opportunities are already emerging that can help you reach thousands of people in a focused, contextual way. Don’t wait for autonomy to arrive — build your mobility marketing strategy now to make sure your brand is along for the ride.