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The King of Cool and Telematics

Data Blocks
Data Blocks

It’s one of the most unforgettable chases put on film – police lieutenant Frank Bullitt, played by the eternally cool Steve McQueen, speeds through San Francisco in pursuit of two criminals. In a 1968 Ford Mustang, McQueen skids around corners, bounces down inclines and leaves tire marks on asphalt, relentlessly chasing the men across the city. Revolutionary for its speed, intensity and realism, the chase scene in Bullitt poses special interest to those who work with vehicles. For them, it’s the Ford Mustang, not McQueen, who is the real star of the scene.

A Ford Mustang may not be the vehicle used in typical fleets but to watch Bullitt with a fleet manager’s eyes opens up interesting possibilities. Indeed, if Bullitt were set in modern times and the lieutenant’s supervisors had implemented fleet management technology in his vehicle, the movie we know would be entirely different. Fleet management technology bridges the gap between dispatchers and drivers. It does so by way of telematics data and a black box that connects to the vehicle’s engine. This black box sends location updates, alerts, and event replays to the system’s interface – the software program the dispatcher uses to monitor the fleet.

The first signal to Bullitt’s supervisors that something was amiss would be when the lieutenant sharply rounds a corner as the pursuit takes him toward downtown. This would trigger a Harsh Cornering alert, indicating that the driver was handling the vehicle unsafely. This could also be replayed with an Event Viewer, which would visually display the speed, direction, and tilt of the vehicle as turned the corner. Bullitt’s sudden braking would trigger additional alerts, as well as aggravate the wear on his tires. His vehicle’s next service would need to be scheduled in the fleet management system so that his tires could be rotated, or changed if needed. That’s without considering his Mustang’s suspension – the steep hills and valleys of San Francisco streets bounced his vehicle up and down, dealing severe damage to the underbody. If Bullitt were a truck driver, he would have to worry about his CSA score taking a hit. As a police officer, public relations work would have to be done in the wake of his chase. Fleet management data, reports, and vehicle replays would all aid his supervisors in their argument that his actions were justified.

Bullitt was filmed in 1968, decades before fleet management software took shape. Today, law enforcement bodies can install hardware in their vehicles that detail everything from fuel consumption to idle time data. It makes for a stronger, more equipped police force. 

It also makes for disappointing car chases – a modern day Bullitt pursuit would end as soon as a dispatcher was alerted to send reinforcements. 

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