Jury Still Out on Automaker Data Deals

Automakers worldwide are beginning to understand the data they collect from car owners is a valuable resource.

As vehicles continue to their evolution towards software and application driven machines, data sharing agreements with third parties will be a critical factor to any expansive monetization strategy. However, automakers face a number of challenges, including data privacy and security, hashing out contract agreements with data agglomeration specialists and other actors and numerous technological hurdles to facilitate the movement of clean, actionable data at a fair price.

Aseem Uppal, principal analyst for connected cars at IHS Markit, said many carmakers have shown a forward-thinking approach when it comes to collaborating with third-party app providers. Some, such as Tesla, Audi and Ford, for example, have directly integrated third-party apps in their infotainment systems, while others, including Volvo, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, are working with Google to adopt the Android automotive OS, which comes with a plethora of applications.

He noted a few automakers are also working with market players such as XEVO to provide location-based commerce services, in-car media applications, mobile apps, and enterprise services. “Tech companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon and Baidu have made massive inroads in the automotive space,” he said. “A lot of value can be generated from vehicle data but, to capitalize on data monetization opportunities, automakers need to change their business model to stay relevant in the coming years.”

He said that if they want to compete, they need to adapt to the new reality and adopt a software-first approach backed by connectivity at all levels, pointing to Tesla as a well-known example of how adopting technology can have a positive impact. “Automakers should also understand that not all data is created equal and different service providers or app developers are looking for different data points to create a value proposition,” Uppal said. “Real-world collaboration is the key to the automotive industry’s future as it can get car companies what they want much quicker and at an economical cost.”

Since no single company can deliver on all the automotive use-cases, to compete effectively, carmakers should explore new models of collaboration and data-sharing to build an engaging ecosystem. Uppal noted one of the biggest concerns is data ownership because it specifies who collects, controls, process, uses and shares the data. “Different stakeholders have different perspectives when it comes to who owns the data and who can profit from the data,” he said. “Another aspect to consider is that mobility data is challenging to anonymize, which raises some privacy and security concerns. Lastly, the lack of standardization contributes to inconsistent data collection and sharing practices.”

For Ben Volkow, founder and CEO of Otonomo, which fuels a data ecosystem of automakers, fleets and more than 100 service providers, an important role of connected car data platforms, is the cleansing, normalizing and enriching of the car data. “Automakers generate unique data attributes for each make and model they produce,” he said. “Having one data platform to easily access normalized data from multiple automakers is a significant business enabler for data consumers. The same is true for the automakers, which are in the car business, not the data business.”

Volkow said he expects the range of connected car services to expand rapidly, because of innovations in emerging applications areas like insurance and concierge services. However, the technological data-sharing challenges are manifold, he noted, with providing easy access to the data, via API or an extraction tool, of critical importance.

Data normalization simply makes the data easily understood, requires developing a standard nomenclature for the wide variety of data coming from the car sensors and different meta-data, while eliminating erroneous data to improve the quality of the data and query results will also be important.

In addition, by supporting aggregation and filtering capabilities data consumers can find the data they are looking for, and data privacy compliance is key, with the need for an effective consent management tool to enable proper consent for sharing the data. “To enable privacy regulation compliance, a full functionality consent management solution is needed,” he said. “For example, the ability to collect driver or vehicle owner opt-in/opt out at the vehicle and driver level. This capability should also extend to mass fleet onboarding, Subject Access Requests, the right to move data and the like.”

Matt Arcaro, an IDC analyst covering next-generation automotive technology, said because the market is still so new, automakers are reluctant to make bold data-sharing deals, partly because they still don’t know what the data is actually worth. “What’s the value of the data you’re purchasing, what data in the end is value?” he asks. “Is it raw data, that requires a lot of manipulation to provide value, or is it bundled data? Those are still outstanding questions that have kept the industry from moving forward.”

He said that is where data aggregators like Otonomo and Wejo can be of use to automakers, whether it be in the EU, which favors a server neutral approach, or in other markets where other agreement structures are still being hashed out.

“We’re starting to see some movement but no one’s really cracked the nut on it, whereby they set a framework where any party can agree to your terms of service and everyone gets access to the data at the same cost, which allows aggregators to pull data as needed for specific use cases,” Arcaro said. “Because this is a really early market, how do you know what’s going to be successful in four or five years?”

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