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COVID-19 lockdown cramped criminals’ style, finds Netstar

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The mobility leaders of the future will be those organisations that can apply data insights for the benefit of drivers, organisations and societies at large.

This was the sentiment expressed by Netstar MD Pierre Bruwer, during this week’s online launch of the Netstar Connect Report 2020/21.

The report uses Netstar telematics data to analyse the impact and effectiveness of the COVID-19 lockdown in SA, describes the emerging role of telematics in connected vehicles, and identifies emerging mobility trends.

JSE-listed Altron's subsidiary Netstar also surveyed partners and stakeholders, and reports on their attitudes to connectivity and the role of Internet of things (IOT) in motoring and transport.

Bruwer says connectivity is now non-negotiable, noting that the rise of connected mobility means that soon millions of vehicles will be connected to the Internet.

“Ultimately, connected vehicles are already generating vast amounts of data,” says Bruwer. “In future, key business differentiators will be around interpreting this data, applying it to improve customer service and business performance.

“The IOT carries enormous implications for our society, and mobile-world vehicles are a key part of this. Urban planning, social services and policing policy can and will be informed by the vast amounts of data generated.”

Netstar’s report also offers insight into the impact of the COVID-19-induced lockdown, which shows the lockdown had a noticeable effect on the country’s road use, fleet activity and traffic volumes.

The company used its telematics data to track around 300 000 vehicles during lockdown, with methodologies including gathering data around travel on local and national level by creating clusters from anonymised data about the location of ignition-on and -off events of client vehicles fitted with tracking units.

As soon as president Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed an initial three-week lockdown period, the company witnessed a spike in interprovincial travel in 890 municipal wards across SA, with the greatest increases noted in wards in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

“We can interpret this as a surge in migrant workers and urban professionals returning to their home towns on the eve of the quarantine, where they likely planned to see out the lockdown – initially stated to last just three weeks.

“From here, the movement of private vehicles almost ceased, reflecting a high level of compliance, and respect for government’s COVID-19 interventions,” says the report.

However, towards the end of level three, with level two beckoning, there were clear signs of drivers beginning to disregard the restrictions on interprovincial travel, it notes.

Turning to crime, the vehicle-tracking and recovery firm’s report shows the lockdown “severely cramped” the style of the country’s criminals. For example, incidents recorded in SA during the month of April showed a 71.8% drop from the previous month.

“During the lockdown, criminal activity also showed a correlation with movement in general. Where there was movement, there was a greater propensity for hijackings and vehicle theft. The busier wards would generally tend to experience higher crime levels.”

Driver safety

Referencing the recent truck drivers’ strike, which saw the burning of trucks on national roads, Netstar CTO Francois Stols pointed out that driver safety has become extremely relevant in the country.

Stols noted that a lot of the company’s focus at the moment is building solutions in that space, especially predictive analytics, to prevent drivers from driving into these type of scenarios.

On its partnership with Putco, Stols said the busing company has reported a 70% reduction in road accidents due to technology-driven safety protocols.

In addition, Putco’s reduction in damage claims has gone down by 36% in the two years since the protocols were introduced.

Putco management took a decision to involve Netstar to help implement a range of initiatives aimed at increasing safety and reducing accidents involving its buses, especially along the notoriously dangerous R573 Moloto Corridor.

The partnership saw Netstar use data in a real-life manner to improve road safety at the Putco driver training academy.

To download the Netstar Connect Report 2020/21, click here.

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