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Inquiry to examine who owns vehicle data

Web of intrigue: A government inquiry has been set up to look into ownership of data collected in web-connected cars.

Government to examine who should have access to vehicle data – car-makers or owners

19 Dec 2014

THE Australian federal government has asked the automotive industry to examine the issue of who owns the data generated by vehicles and who should have access to it.

It is believed to be the first time that a government anywhere has set up an inquiry into the creation and gathering of vehicle data, which is seen as a potentially large business opportunity.

It could also be a significant anti-competitive weapon if vehicle data was controlled by one segment of the industry.

The independent vehicle repairers are anxious to ensure that they retain access to the data for repair and servicing work and that it does not become captured by the car-makers.

Other companies not related to the car-makers or repairers are also keen to gain access to vehicle data.

The advent of telematics – onboard wireless communications – has made the gathering of data easy, while the forecasted increase in the number of web-connected vehicles on the road means there will be a fast-growing volume of data to analyse.

Previously vehicle data was only available to car-makers and their dealers through the on-board diagnostic (OBD) port.

However, more non-manufacturer companies are now fitting transmitters to the OBD port and sending the data to a central database, where it is analysed.

At present, this is mainly used by car rental companies and fleet operators, but some industry players can see big opportunities for the collection and analysis of data from millions of vehicles.

The independent repair industry fears that the car-makers may seek to control the vehicle data by eliminating the OBD port altogether and transmitting the data directly to their own databases, cutting out third parties.

From 2015, all vehicles made in Europe will have to have an embedded SIM card so that emergency services can be alerted if there is a serious accident. This SIM card can also be used for other functions, such as data transmission or receiving internet radio.

Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) chief executive Stuart Charity highlighted the capabilities of a vehicle connected to the internet.

“What a web-connected car does is give the vehicle manufacturer the power to communicate to the vehicle owner directly through the vehicle itself,” he said.

“The vehicle can tell the dealership when it has an issue, it can book itself in for a service, it can even order the parts it needs online directly.

“The vehicle can monitor itself, and the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) can monitor the health of the vehicle.” Mr Charity said there was talk in the industry that car-makers were considering doing away with the OBD port and conducting all the vehicle diagnosis wirelessly.

This would cut third parties out of the loop and deliver control of the data to the car manufacturers.

“There’s a whole lot of issues that are then thrown up in terms of who owns the data the vehicle is generating,” Mr Charity said.

The decision to examine the telematics issue capped off a campaign started by the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), which represents the major state- and territory-based car clubs such as the NRMA and RACV.

“This is something Andrew McKellar at the AAA pushed very strongly for,” Mr Charity said. Mr McKellar has moved to Paris to take up a position with the Federation Internationale d’Automobile.

“The AAA launched a campaign in May called Your Car, Your Data,” Mr Charity said.

“It goes much wider than just repair. Once your car’s wired, road tolling, insurance and other aspects can be monitored.

“It throws up a lot of consumer issues.

“This inquiry is a world first. It is the first time the telematics issue is going to be addressed as a separate process. They didn’t even get that in the US choice of repairer agreement,” Mr Charity said.

The announcement of the inquiry was attached to the bottom of the heads of agreement signed this week to guide the development of a code of practice for the granting of access to repair and service information to independent repairers.

It reads: “The signatory parties note that the progressive uptake of emerging vehicle telematics technologies is enabling increased transmission and use of data relating to vehicle use, performance and diagnostics.

“The signatory parties acknowledge that access to and ownership of telematics data from individual vehicles presents a number of emerging issues for consumers, vehicle manufacturers and motor vehicle repair and service providers.

“The signatory parties agree to implement a process to develop protocols relating to vehicle data access and ownership. The signatory parties agree that progress should be reported within 12 months of commencement of this agreement.”

The parties to the heads of agreement are the Australian Automobile Association, the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association, the Australian Automotive Dealer Association, the Australian Motor Industry Federation and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

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