Access to data proves to be a debatable issue for the automotive industry

24 July 2017

24 July 2017

The issue of data access relates to the amount of information that connected vehicles will gather, and who will be allowed to see that data.  

While conventional vehicles store information on their ECU system for access by technicians when servicing, new cars will instead transmit a multitude of different parameters to a cloud, with journeys, locations, driver preferences and more joining diagnostic data in being used to offer services to the driver. 

However, this data becomes valuable to the vehicle manufacturer, which could then sell it on to interested and relevant third parties. Control of this information could also mean that services used to having access to vehicle information may suddenly be cut off, while manufacturers could develop their own plans and offer them to the customer at the point of sale – the vehicle. 

Yet while manufacturers may feel they can do this, drivers may feel that the information is personal, and therefore they have the rights to it, rather than the carmakers. The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) recently announced the results of a survey conducted in 2016, with 300 responses from fleet managers and members, all sharing their views on sharing data. 

Around 70% of BVRLA members and fleet managers believe that vehicle manufacturers have an obligation to provide vehicle data, with 86% saying that they should not have to pay for it. 

Nearly 80% of respondents said they were concerned that vehicle manufacturers would restrict access to telematics data in order to further their own business goals. Almost 90% believe that manufacturers should allow them to install third party telematics devices, provided that they meet agreed security standards. 

When asked for their views on sharing data, drivers were overwhelmingly happy to do so if it helped to diagnose or prevent faults (95%), automatically alert a breakdown company (93%) or help a manufacturer identify safety and warranty issues with its parts (82%). 

They were less comfortable with the idea of sharing data about their driving behaviour and performance (44% ′not comfortable’) or selling data about their location, local weather conditions or vehicle performance (36% ′not comfortable’). 

BVRLA Chief Executive Gerry Keaney said: ‘Connected vehicle data is rapidly becoming the new currency of the fleet sector and will drive many business models in future. This is a new, unregulated environment which explains much of the uncertainty and concern about the roles and responsibilities played by different fleet sector participants.’ 

However, in less than a year, the EU will introduce the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), replacing the Data Protection Act (DPA). This applies to ′personal data’. However, the GDPR’s definition is more detailed and makes it clear that information such as an online identifier, for example an IP address, can be personal data. The more expansive definition provides for a wide range of personal identifiers to constitute personal data, reflecting changes in technology and the way organisations collect information about people. 

This means that manufacturers and fleets that are gathering data need to ensure that the information is secure and cannot be used without permission. Yet it also provides an excuse for them to not give information back to the industry. 

One area that may suffer is the independent servicing market. According to industry body FIGIEFA, which represents the independent aftermarket in the EU, the design of closed telematics systems that control the complete flow of data to and from a vehicle threatens competition and innovation on the independent aftermarket for motor vehicle spare parts, tools, servicing and repair (as well as all services ′around the car’). 

In May 2017, a new ′stakeholder’ coalition came together to ensure that their voices are heard in Europe over the issue of data access. The coalition believes that quality of data provided dictates quality of service, therefore aftermarket suppliers and businesses need real-time access to that collected by connected vehicles. Currently, this only goes via a closed telematics system, making it impossible for other service providers to compete fairly and equally. 

According to FIGIEFA, one of the concepts under discussion suggests channelling the remote communication for independent market operators through the vehicle manufacturers’ proprietary servers (the ′Extended Vehicle’). This would give vehicle manufacturers exclusive control of access to in-vehicle data and information (who, when, what, how), allowing them to determine the access conditions, impose their own business models and monitor the businesses and processes of independent stakeholders – with whom they directly compete in the automotive aftermarket and with a wider range of other vehicle-related services (e.g. financial, leasing, insurances). This would negatively impact independent operators and service providers’ ability to compete. 

There is also the issue of data security. Maik Boeres, head of future mobility at BMW AG, recently spoke about security surrounding vehicle data at the SMMT Connected conference in London. He said: ′There is a lot of data that will be generated with automated vehicles. Manufacturers in both the German and European associations have created what we call the ′OEM extended vehicle back-end’, which we are all implementing, and this means we take the data from the vehicle, store it on a secure web-based server and give it to selected parties. It is up to us to look after that cloud of data, so we need to install and maintain secure systems on the transfer line. It is then up to the manufacturer to keep that security updated and therefore liability falls to us too.’″¯ 

The issue of data is one that will continue to be debated at different levels, in different markets, around the automotive industry as technology develops further. Each party wants its own stake, but in the end, it is down to the customer to decide who has access to their own information.