Winning the race for consumer confidence and data

The opportunities to make use of the huge data sets generated by connected and autonomous cars was a central theme at the 2018 Consumer Telematics Conference that brought together executives from a variety of sectors including telecoms, insurers, carmakers, suppliers and start-ups.

There are no shortage of companies that say they can help car manufacturers find gold in the masses of information. Yet, two challenges loom: gaining consumer consent for access to their data and securing data everywhere from its point of generation to the myriad places it might end up.

Consumers and the car

With autonomous cars on the streets of dozens of US cities, it’s hard for consumers not to be aware of them. Still, acceptance of connected car features could be much, much better. According to Dan Mender, vice-president of business development for Green Hills Software, there’s a big gap between proofs of concept and production-ready vehicles. The industry needs to keep clarifying the difference, otherwise consumers won’t trust the technology.

Bryn Balcombe, chief strategy officer for Roborace, thinks his company’s intelligent car races can do a lot to educate the public. “Motorsports engages the public; competition brings it to life,” he said. At the same time, seeing vehicles race at extreme speeds reinforces the message that they’re safe and reliable.

Executives from T-Mobile, cloud platform Mojio and SAP said the success of T-Mobile’s aftermarket SynchUp product was because of its simplicity. Eventually, via SAP, the dongle device and app will offer multiple features including parking and insurance but “you don’t show up with 15 different use cases to consumers,” said Mojio CEO Kenny Hawk.

A new generation of voice interfaces are likely to become important, if the success of Alexa is any indication. However, when used for navigation, some kind of visual confirmation of the address is necessary to make sure the car doesn’t send the driver off to the wrong location.

When it comes to privacy, consumers will need a simple and understandable way to provide consent to share their data. Michael Morgan, a partner and co-leader for global privacy and cybersecurity with McDermott Will & Emery LLP, noted that companies already struggle with consumer privacy. “When you talk about open data models, it’s infinitely more complex,” he said. “Consumers making complex decisions about how their data is handled will be a challenge.”

Data is the key to monetisation

Getting consumer consent to access their data is critical for making use, and money, from that data. Roger Lanctot, director of automotive connected mobility at Strategy Analytics, noted a shift within the industry from a focus on direct monetization – getting drivers to subscribe to connected-car services – to a mix of direct and indirect models that also gains revenue from partners for access to drivers and their data.

David Lukens, director of telematics, LexisNexis Risk Solutions, outlined four immediate opportunities for creating value from driving and vehicle data:

·         Usage-based insurance;

·         Lowering insurance risk by notifying the owner if the vehicle needs maintenance;

·         Sending recall notices and monitoring response, with reminders;

·         Understanding how ADAS systems are used in the real world, which can inform product development.

The first two steps to data monetisation, Lanctot said, are secure connectivity between the telematics control unit and the CAN bus and an open API that allows partners to access data.

Some carmakers are already positioned to monetize data. For example, General Motors charges fleet operators for access to vehicle APIs, while BMW has more than 50 companies registered to obtain VIN-specific data, Lanctot said. “Aggregating and sharing data across automakers and reselling data one to many will be transformative but only if the industry can build data sets that are rich and valuable enough, as well as secure enough, to create a value proposition.”

Plenty of companies want to take that role. Wejo’s Adept platform identifies which data has the most value for a particular industry sector. Steve Pimblett, chief data officer, noted that, while carmakers are already curating data, they are losing much that could be useful to third parties.

The Edge Computing Consortium, or AECC, aims to make high-volume vehicle-to-cloud transmissions smarter and more efficient. Pulling value from the data requires new way of thinking about infrastructure, according to Erik Ekudden, CTO of Ericsson, a founding member. “It needs to work globally in a multi-operator, heterogenous environment.”


The acronym for CTS 2018, held in Las Vegas, might well stand for Consumer Telematics and Security. Joe Fabbre, director of platform solutions, GreenHills Software, reminded the audience that a single exploit can simultaneously impact hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of cars. “Mass production equals mass destruction,” he said.

Blockchain is a promising technology for securing both consumer data and the software and hardware within a vehicle. Matt Jones, senior vice-president of software engineering for Hyperloop One, called blockchain technology a “Swiss Army Knife,” with many possible use cases. Most immediately, it can be used to track software and hardware parts in a vehicle.

In fact, IBM is developing a software-defined vehicle based on blockchain. “Blockchain in business is based on knowing every party participating and whether they are allowed to make a transaction or not,” said Rajiv Phougat, CTO for industry solutions and strategy, automotive, aerospace and defence at IBM.

Mobility and smart cities

New models of car ownership and usage seem inevitable, with automakers and other legacy businesses hoping that providing mobility services can expand their customer bases, open new sources of revenue and counteract a potential decline in personal car ownership.

However, why get stuck in just one model? Alex Thibault, general manager of North America for Vulog, a platform for shared mobility, said hybrid mobility services, which his company facilitates, let providers access broader markets. For example, providing both roundtrip and free-floating carsharing plans, a company can serve different use cases and types of consumers.

Rahul Sonnad, CEO of Tesloop, a provider of Tesla carsharing, agreed that hybrid services are the best way to create a fleet that’s economically compelling.

It’s not clear whether ride-hailing services, whether piloted or autonomous, will take cars off the road or increase overall trips. Municipalities need to test various services to determine whether they create value, according to Tina Quigley, general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada. Only then can they make the case for spending taxpayer dollars for smart-city initiatives.

While there’s plenty to be done to improve traffic and transportation in cities, autonomous vehicles are being built around existing conditions. While signage and street markings could be improved to make it easier for self-driving vehicles to get around, Uri Tamir, senior director of strategic initiatives at Mobileye, said very little infrastructure will need to change for autonomous cars, because they’ll be driving alongside piloted vehicles.

It’s the data infrastructure that must change in a massive way. This year may show more evidence that the industry’s handling of data is maturing enough to bring the vision of truly valuable connected-car services to reality.

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