Vehicle Access Control For Fleet Management & Co.

fleet management

The automotive industry is going through a rapid transformation. Emerging trends in the mobility space are transforming the way vehicles are designed and how people interact with them. The balance of convenience, reliability and price is shifting from owning to using. Hence, car sharing isn’t showing any sign of slowdown. But the future of mobility is more than shared—it’s autonomous and connected. It’s growing at a fast pace, offering innovative solutions to the mobility challenges we face. 

This article, written by an Associate member of our Partner Network, Tapkey, looks at the growth of the industry and examines the challenges of key management for fleet managers. Furthermore, it gives an overview of car access solutions available on the market.

To read more articles in our shared mobility trend series, click here.

Vehicle Access Control For Fleet Management & Co.

Shared Mobility On the Rise

fleet management

The shared mobility market started to develop rapidly around 2010. In 2017, there were already around 10 million people using this type of service, and according to a study by Frost & Sullivan, this number will reach 36 million by 2025. The trend towards sharing instead of owning is one of the main reasons why fleet management and car sharing has developed into multi-billion-euro industries. 

There are three industries that noticed the changing social trends and entered the car sharing market: car manufacturers themselves, short-term car rental companies and entrepreneurs who saw a chance in the peer-to-peer (P2P) car sharing model. Since new car sales are shifting from private to corporate, it’s important to also have a look at the topic of fleet management. By 2021, Deloitte forecasts a share of new car registration of 37% for private and 63% for the corporate channel. This implies an increasing number of corporate fleets and company cars which need to be managed. But managing a fleet is a complex task and involves organizing operations, managing employees, maintaining fleet safety and much more. Of course, there are several challenges fleet managers have to deal with. One of them is managing access to the vehicles and the key management itself. 

Key Management: A Challenge For Fleet Managers

fleet managment

Whether you’re dealing with a fleet of 50, 100 or even 1000 vehicles, keeping control of your vehicle keys is of utmost importance. In the past, sharing vehicles required a physical handover of keys in most cases, which is especially time-consuming and inconvenient. Taking and returning keys on a constant basis can turn things into chaos really quickly. Just think of the following situations: An employee gets sick but take the car key back home. Someone needs to pick it up, which takes time and creates unnecessary costs. What if the person using a shared vehicle loses the key? Organizing a replacement key is not just time- but also cost-intensive. Mobile access helps fleet managers and car rental operators to optimize their processes and get rid of such unpleasant situations. They can allow access to the vehicle only to “approved” people, restrict time and manage access for different drivers at different locations. 

The development of technology is affecting the automotive industry in a great way. Cars are becoming large smart devices with advanced emergency braking capabilities, mapping technology for autonomous driving and better fuel efficiency. But much more: The integration of APIs into automotive systems and applications are experiencing a strong upsurge, particularly access control systems to unlock cars. There are different access control solutions on the market and customers have to search for the one that fits their needs and preferences the best, depending on various variables like ease-of-installation, ease-of-use, cost or functionality. According to Gilbert Hödl, CEO of Tapkey, the requirements of fleet managers, car rental and peer-to-peer car sharing providers are very different. 

Retrofit vs. OEM Solutions

witte digital wave

Connected mobility is being rolled out in stages—starting with modern-day cars. But that does not reflect the reality on Europe’s roads. The average age of a car is close to 11 years (10,7) and only less than 20% are 4 years old or younger and therefore potentially have connected vehicle features. Car manufacturers often offer connected car technologies as an optional extra, which deters many buyers. This is where retrofitting can be a win-win option. One big part of retrofitting is car access. Car access retrofit means the modernisation and completion of access to existing cars. Even older cars can be equipped with a modern access solution—quickly and at very low cost. There are three different technologies for car access solutions: 

  1. Proprietary access technology: Proprietary technology is any combination of processes or systems of interrelated connections that are the property of a company. All the major OEMs have proven to be among the most innovative operators in the car sharing game. When speaking about proprietary access technology, we mean that hardware and software are installed in the car and all processes are integrated into the hardware. It’s a complex, high-cost solution, but it brings all the necessary functionality, like GPS tracking, fuel consumption tracking or real-time vehicle tracking. It’s perfect for OEM sharing services, like for example ShareNow, a car sharing service operated by the BMW Group and Daimler. 

  2. Retrofit access solution connecting to CAN bus: Most of the digital key management systems for cars require a setup in terms of CAN (Controller Area Network system) integration or disassembly of car keys. Electronic control units (ECU) are connected via the CAN bus. In an automotive CAN bus system, ECUs can be the engine control unit, airbags or the access control system for instance. Take Invers as an example. Once integrated, the telematics provide real-time vehicle data and process commands. That’s why it’s even possible to find out if the car is locked or not.

  3. Retrofit access technology using a key box: The car sharing box by WITTE Digital​ is a plug-and-play solution for distributed, keyless car access. The unlock mechanism is based on Tapkey’s access technology, which was integrated using the open API and Mobile SDK. The physical car key is stored in the car sharing box in the vehicle and it’s completely non-invasive with all vehicles available even during installation. It can be installed in less than three minutes and there is no mechanic needed, which means that there are no additional costs for installation. Besides many other solutions, it isn’t dependent on internet connectivity. This comes with a high degree of flexibility and helps maintain workflows and processes —be it in the countryside or in a parking garage. Car rental companies, peer-to-peer and free-floating car sharing companies can use the box—independent of car brands (nearly 80% of available cars in Europe). If you want to get more details about your fleet, you can collect telematics data with an additional dongle as well.

To sum it up: Car access retrofit solutions are more affordable, while OEM solutions cost a lot of money. High cost of OEM access solutions prevent majority of drivers from enjoying enhanced safety and a user friendly access experience. Retrofit access solutions tend to be more user-friendly. They can eliminate key management cost and increase security even further. This means maximum ease of use and maximum convenience for drivers. By integrating mobile access, it’s even possible to enable delivery of third-party services that complement car sharing solutions, e.g. access to parking at all public transportation locations or trunk delivery by logistics firms. 

The market leaders of the future will be those who offer the best technology, the widest range of additional services and the easiest access. 


Guest article by Andrea Sandru from Tapkey. Andrea is Content Manager at Tapkey​ since May 2018. Sharing interesting insights on all aspects of smart access control—that’s basically what she does all day. Her range of responsibilities includes: Developing website content, writing blog posts and help center articles and dispatching the monthly newsletter. Furthermore she’s responsible for the social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. 

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Note: This article has not been endorsed or sponsored by any of the providers mentioned and there is no affiliation between movmi and them.

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