AI can revolutionize physical operations, but could come at the cost of privacy

Top-down view of trucks in a depot, half covered in snow | Samsara privacy

New Samsara data reveals how AI is presenting opportunities for improved road safety and upskilling of the UK’s driver workforce, but could come at the cost of driver privacy.

The 2023 State of Privacy in Physical Operations research by Samsara has suggested that 54 percent of executives in UK physical operations businesses, who run vehicle fleets, are moving to implement AI solutions. The move is mainly attributed to providing clear advantages with road safety, driver coaching and worker upskilling.

Delving into what 100 physical operations executives find most beneficial about using AI technology, upskilling and learning opportunities for employees is a clear benefit seen by many, with 58 percent of executives believing in the importance of keeping employee training up-to-date. 51 percent of executives believe virtual alerting and coaching for safer employee habits to be the next best benefit, with the detection of unsafe employee behavior acknowledged at 43 percent. 42 percent highlighted incident detection and review as another key benefit that AI can deliver.

Despite the benefits of AI, privacy is a valid concern for 46 percent of UK leaders questioned and only 22 percent say their drivers are completely accepting of in-cab cameras with the current understanding they have.

The research expands on the in-cab camera use, with 51 percent of the organizations surveyed seeing a positive impact on driver sentiment by providing education on how the video data is captured and uploaded.

Business leaders are dealing with negative driver sentiments through several different methods, with half of the execs questioned stating proactive leadership communication contributes to increased acceptance of the cameras. 49 percent found incorporating drivers into safety policy creation helped, while 41 percent of execs thought restricting permissions of access to camera footage would help. Some execs with a slightly lighter touch, 41 percent again, agreed that providing examples of how AI can help exonerate drivers for incidents.

Commenting on the research findings, Lawrence Schoeb, senior director, legal, and data protection officer at Samsara, said: “It’s clear that physical operations businesses in the UK clearly understand the benefits of implementing AI into their organizations to drive safety improvements, particularly around road safety and the coaching and development of their driver workforces. Yet while the majority are keen to move forward with AI, the privacy concerns must be overcome.

“By working with technology partners who have embedded privacy by design into their products, they can ensure suitable control over their data. By choosing the right products, businesses can put in place the right policies, configurations, and protocols to alleviate driver concerns. This in turn will enhance the safety, sustainability and security of their operations, as against the demands of their employees, helping with their legal and regulatory privacy compliance.”