“I think AI is often misunderstood,” says Nienke. “We see it presented in the media as something scary: a technology that’s growing beyond our control. But in fact, the decisions AI can make are very limited, and nothing like human decisions. It seems to mimic how we think, and that intimidates people, but the truth is that AI can’t do what we can.”
AI meets automotive
Even so, AI is still an extremely valuable tool for all kinds of industries and businesses. In the automotive sector, there are two main groups of AI applications: those specific to vehicles, as in self-driving cars or resale valuation predictors, and those that are more general, such as contact centre technologies or digital marketing tools.
“One of the main strengths of AI is that it takes away the need for a person to sit and repeat the same simple task thousands of times,” Nienke continues. “An AI model can learn from previous examples and mimic the right human response. What’s more, the AI can even tell us how likely it is that it’s done the right thing – so any tricky cases can be flagged up for review by a human expert.”
AI puts people in the driving seat
At LeasePlan, this is put to good use in one of the company’s main AI applications: predictive maintenance. “Using data from the vehicle, the driver and our suppliers, we can train AI to pinpoint when a vehicle will need maintenance,” explains Nienke. “Having that advance warning is very helpful, for planning, safety and many more reasons. In addition, we can use AI to approve scheduled maintenance requests, which means we can get drivers back on the road sooner!”
LeasePlan’s various contact channels also use AI technology. This makes it easier for customers to find the information and answers they are looking for – and, if necessary, to get in contact with the right LeasePlanner to support their needs!
From telematics …
Nienke is particularly excited about the work being carried out on telematics. “It could really supercharge our operations,” she says. “Telematics is data that monitors where vehicles are and how drivers are using them – so it adds an extra dimension to the traditional static data you’d find in a contract, for example. Of course, this raises moral questions that the AI world is fiercely debating …”
Data privacy and the ethical use of data for AI purposes is a hot topic. The EU has proposed an AI Act to regulate the development of AI, which would be the first such scheme to come into existence anywhere in the world.
“At LeasePlan, we’re keeping a close eye on external regulatory developments, but we’re also working on our own internal AI governance measures,” continues Nienke. “Areas like telematics have a lot of potential – in areas like safety, for instance – but we also want to be careful about how we handle our machine learning operations and protect our customers’ data.”
… to teamwork
With so much to gain from AI, it is important to go about it the right way. Nienke believes that LeasePlanners have a key role to play in working alongside – and helping to improve – the business’s growing AI portfolio.
“We’re all in this together,” she says. “It may be a whole new way of working for many people, but it’s clear that AI is extremely important for the digitalisation and future growth of our business. That’s why our team listens carefully to feedback and requests from our colleagues in all kinds of departments, all over the world – so we can get a clear picture of what they and our customers want.”
Clearly, AI is already playing an important role at LeasePlan, supporting LeasePlanners, fleet managers and drivers alike. No doubt many more exciting uses have yet to be discovered: only time will tell what new AI applications are waiting around the corner!