Car Data Unlocks As Many Opportunities as Concerns

Cars are producing data that can help automakers, personalize experiences and improve driving skills. Mobility data is not without issues but can provide fascinating future use cases. TU-Automotive talked to leaders in the field of car data to explore trends and results.

Data for insurance and partnerships

“What we found is that there is a relationship with insurance telematics driver tracking and a reduction in casualties,” said Adam Hudson senior director, US connected car team, LexisNexis Risk Solutions who cites the recent UK study of telematics in which analysis of the latest road casualty statistics showed the number of 17 to 19-year-old drivers who have been killed or seriously injured in road traffic accidents has fallen by 35%, since 2011, compared to 16% for the driving population as a whole that notes four-in-five young drivers are estimated to have a telematics policy today.

“Traditional telematics information such as GPS, hard braking and speed that can detect aggressive driving are the hallmarks to measure risk on the road,” said Hudson. Telematics partnerships also help insurers find good drivers. LexisNexis partnered with Mitsubishi with roadside assistance telematics. Hudson says they’re finding a high opt-in rate to participate in the program to get discounts on insurance rates. The company also developed a distracted driving smartphone app to see how people are engaging on the road and the data is showing phone use accelerates risk, says Hudson.

Data use for insurance, however, creates concerns across the globe. Three-quarters of respondents in China would share data with insurers, only around half of the motorists in Japan and the US would do so. Only four-out-of-ten German drivers would be willing to do so. Young drivers in the US are more open to insurance telematics with two-thirds willing to share their driving behavior data in order to gain favorable insurance rates, according to a Continental mobility study.

Data for automakers, suppliers and marketing

Roger C. Lanctot, director, automotive connected mobility, global automotive practice, Strategy Analytics, said: “Car data provides a great retention tool for OEMs because helping consumers put their own data to work to help them get around or better service and preserve their car is critical to maintaining consumer interest in owning cars.  If the consumer doesn’t care about his or her car they are one step away from not caring about owning that car at all.”

“Data analytics are important to get insight about the vehicle,” said Scott Frank vice-president of marketing for Airbiquity who notes that some systems work where only the most important data is sent over to the cloud via cellular or Wi-Fi reducing the use of bandwidth.

“It’s like an app store. We let the software providers do the creative stuff and we provide the platform in order to make it operate,” said Frank. He notes automakers can monitor a new part in vehicles and then send out over-the-air (OTA) updates to fix the part and avoid costly recalls at dealerships when a software problem can be updated remotely.


Keeping track of sources of the hundreds of millions of lines of code in a vehicle is very important to track liability. “When automotive becomes about building software and not building metal then it becomes necessary to look at the contracts with the providers,” said Adam Boulton, chief technology officer at BlackBerry. “If a vulnerability is found, who is responsible and who pays for it?” It can be expensive for an automaker to fix a vulnerability depending upon the contract.

Data can be used for monetization such as marketing but there has to be a clear opt in or out value for the consumer, says Frank. For example, General Motors’ Marketplace enables drivers to buy donuts or pay for gas from the dash.

Data for people

“Automakers are focused on the cars,” said Dimitri Maex, president Sentiance who is working with five of the top ten automakers. Companies have begun using smartphone data to ‘learn’ about the driver. Algorithms then know when to precondition the climate of a car, set the GPS mapping for a daily trip or predict transportation preferences. Maex says that as automakers become mobility companies, knowing that a customer uses an SUV on the weekend and a bicycle on weekdays, can help personalize mobility options.

Data protection

Industry organizations and the European Union are calling for privacy protections that automakers need to consider. “In respect to GDPR, automakers should be aware that one of the main novelties of the regulation that potentially has a great impact on them is the introduction of an obligation to implement data protection by design to all their products and systems that touch any information related to an identified or identifiable person,” said Gabriella Zanfir-Fortuna, EU data protection adviser, policy counsel at Future of Privacy Forum (FPF).

He also points out that automakers need to take into account and implement privacy enhancing technologies from the design stage and to engineer systems in such a way that the core GDPR data protection principles, such as purpose limitation and data minimization, are embedded in their products and services.

“In 2014 almost all of the top automakers, except Tesla, created a good baseline for data and privacy which was a good step to take,” said Lauren Smith, policy counsel at FPF. She is concerned that cars are becoming more like smartphones and users need an easy way to delete data that is very simple. It’s important that people have location privacy, for example, locations can disclose that someone’s going to an AIDS clinic, abortion clinic, mosque or synagogue says Smith, who notes consumers should have the option to allow data to be used for safety but not for marketing.

As privacy issues grow so do the creative uses for car and mobility data. “When the car detects by a fingerprint scan that the driver is a teenager, the car settings can be automatically modified to improve safety, not accelerate fast or go above a set speed limit,” envisioned Boulton. “When we work with the automakers, we find new use cases all the time,” concluded Maex.

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