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This sensor doesn’t miss a scratch

Mobility has to deal with over 3’500 claims involving its vehicles every year. (Too) often, it’s unclear how the damage occurred – and who’s responsible for it. A sophisticated sensor system’s now about to change all that. Mobility Fleet Manager Viktor Wyler answers key questions regarding the new sensor boxes.


  • Mobility

What are sensor boxes?

Sensor boxes are not unlike an aircraft’s “black boxes”: using highly sensitive accelerometer sensors and artificial intelligence, the technology registers damage events and communicates them in real time. The system’s able to detect, for instance, when a car hits a post or is gently bumped from behind. It even works while the vehicle’s stationary.

What happens if there’s a collision?

Every box has a SIM card that communicates with the Mobility network. In the event of a registrable incident, the data collected from the sensor box is automatically evaluated by the artificial intelligence and transmitted.

How many sensor boxes have been deployed to date?

Some 750 Mobility vehicles will be fitted with the technology by the end of February. That’s around a quarter of all our vehicles. We’ll evaluate the results during the current year and fit more vehicles with the boxes based on our findings.

Which 750 vehicles have the sensor boxes been installed in?

We’ve started by focusing on vehicle types that are most often involved in damage events. At present, that means vans, minivans and vehicles in the Emotion and Combi (estate) categories.

How big is the box – and where is it located?

Our sensor boxes are about the size of two bars of soap and are permanently mounted in the vehicle.

How reliable is the system?

The system already does a very good job at recognising whether a collision involves minor, medium or major damage – or whether the vehicle in question has simply driven over a speed bump. The artificial intelligence is constantly learning, so the sensor boxes are getting better at differentiation. 

Why are these sensor boxes necessary?

Two main reasons: firstly, claims and their associated costs have been rising for several years. And secondly, incidents keep occurring where we haven’t been able to identify a responsible party – either because users fail to check the vehicle before driving off, or because the damage isn’t reported. The sensor boxes will help us identify the cause of incidents more reliably going forward.

What other benefits does the system have?

In the event of a damage event, we and the driver will know about it without delay. The advantage is that the next steps – assessing and estimating the damage, and bodyshop and maintenance interventions – can be organised more quickly, which means the vehicle can be back on the road more quickly. Moreover, we can reliably determine how the damage was caused, assign it to the person who caused it, and quickly clarify what proportion of the cost they’re liable for.

What’s the situation regarding data protection?

That’s an important issue that was looked at in detail in the run-up to the pilot project. The data collected is anonymised, securely encrypted and transmitted to the cloud environment. In the aftermath of a damage event, only vehicle-related data is processed – no personal data. But at the end of the day, Mobility is able to assign the journey during which the incident happened to a particular driver.

Will this mean that customers no longer have to report their damage?

No, they will – that’s what our “fair play” rules require. Customers are still required to check the Mobility vehicle for damage before driving off and immediately phone problems through to our Service Center. This also applies to damage events that occur during their reserved time.

Is Mobility doing anything in terms of accident prevention?

This is something that’s constantly on our minds. While the sensor boxes are mainly used for detecting damage when it occurs, we do lots of other things to try to prevent it from happening in the first place. This includes specifying driving aids such as parking sensors, a reversing camera and blind spot assistance when we procure new vehicles. Another preventive measure is the driving courses that we regularly offer our customers – and which we’re about to relaunch.

Any final message to the Mobility community that’s constantly out and about?

Our aim is to cut the number of claims, something that benefits not only our customers, but also us as a company. However, this can’t be achieved with sensor boxes or other technological innovations alone. Our community has to play its part in achieving our common goal. Even little things help reduce the risk of accidents. To give you an example: before driving off in a Mobility vehicle, people should always take a few moments to adjust the seat and the side and rear-view mirrors. They should also be particularly careful when manoeuvring in and out of the parking space where the vehicle’s stationed – because that’s where most of the damage occurs.

Innovation from Germany

The 750 or so sensor boxes currently installed in Mobility vehicles come from Germany. The technology was designed and developed by carValoo, a start-up with origins in thyssenkrupp Automotive Technology, a corporate group with an international reach. carValoo’s automatic damage detection technology helped the company rapidly make a name for itself in the European fleet sector. carValoo markets a range of proprietary hardware solutions that can be easily and quickly retrofitted to any vehicle. The company’s vision in the medium term is to have its products integrated into vehicles as they’re being built.

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