Call for clarity on vehicle data ownership as connected car testing continues

04 July 2017

As the connected car develops at a rapid pace, the amount of data they gather from the driver grows with it. Now, a consortium testing driverless vehicles domestically in the UK, is calling on the government to make it clear who is authorised to have access to the information.

The Flourish consortium, which includes insurance firm Axa, engineering company Atkins and legal firm Burgess Salmon, warns that restricting access to vehicle data will limit opportunities that vehicle connectivity offers. This information could provide more reliable insurance services, alert emergency services in the event of an accident, or allow vehicle technicians to repair and service the vehicle.

However, as cars become more connected, with information flowing to the cloud, the question of who owns the data is becoming increasingly important. This is expected to be addressed in a draft legislation, being drawn up by the UK Government, in relation to a planned bill on connected and autonomous vehicles, which was announced in the Queens Speech at the opening of the country’s new parliament.

Data collected can range from traffic and weather conditions to personal information about the driver, and the journeys that they make. Technology company Intel, part of a consortium with BMW and Mobileye, estimates that the average connected car will produce four terabytes of data a day. Some of this information is shared with other road users to warn them of conditions ahead, while in the future it could be used to charge per miles driven and offer services to the driver.

The Flourish consortium is testing autonomous vehicles in Bristol in a £5.5m programme, one of several taking place around the UK. A report, due to be released by the group and seen by the Financial Times, states: ′Data collection is the cornerstone of the operation of connected and autonomous vehicles, and the importance of ensuring that this data can be used is clear. The use of this data will inevitably raise the issue of data protection and protection of privacy. An appropriate balance between these sometimes competing considerations will need to be found so that the UK can appropriately exploit the potential opportunities in the use of this data.’

A number of startups are developing apps and interfaces such as smart-phone pairing, or offering prognostics services, all areas where the information transmitted by the vehicle can be captured and used by third parties. Some manufacturers are opposed to this, and are considering restricting access to the OBD port, which many third-party data gatherers use to transmit information through dongle devices, limiting access to vehicle systems and ensuring the only data transmitted by the vehicle is to an approved server.

This could cause an issue with the vehicle repair market. Aftermarket suppliers and independent garage networks are concerned that vehicle manufacturers will use prognosis systems to contact customers directly offering repair services, while limiting the data transmitted to the vehicle technicians that do not have backing of the OEM.

There is also a constant worry about cyber security and how the industry will keep data mined from vehicles, including personal data, secure. With information being transmitted to a cloud storage service, there needs to be safeguards in place to ensure personal data is not stolen.

Maik Boeres, head of future mobility at BMW AG, recently spoke about security surrounding vehicle data during the SMMT Connected conference in London in March 2017. 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.’

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