Will personal data be the price to pay for connected cars?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

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Connected and automated cars will collect enormous amounts of data. [GettyImages]

Connected cars is one of the fastest growing use-cases in the Internet of Things (IoT). More like supercomputers on wheels, the data-gathering possibilities of these ‘devices’ are endless – and they’re already driving out of showrooms today.

Our road network is destined to become a connected network of vehicles, each collecting inconceivable amounts of data on everything from location, performance, environment and not least, drivers – or as will be the case with automated cars – users. The promise from the automotive industry is that big data will lead to safer traffic, less congestion and cheaper mobility, but there’s no denying the huge monetization opportunities either. And for those, personal data becomes gold dust.

That said, the imminent implementation of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as well as the recent Facebook data scandal has privacy and protection of such personal data on everyone’s lips. How can drivers control their data? What are the potential benefits and risks? 2025AD.com seeks insights from industry experts to give a solid foundation for public discussion and decision-making.

Driven by data

Cars have been generating data for quite some time already: on-board computers are nothing new. The data they produce however are usually of a technical nature (engine status, tire pressure, fluid levels, mileage …) and are only stored locally and temporarily. But the amount and type of available car data is growing exponentially as cars not only become more connected but more autonomous. The sharing of these data is where the potential lies. Organizations will be keen to get their hands on them to optimize their products and services or to develop new, personalized in-vehicle experiences for drivers and passengers. There will be benefits to be had – and it seems data will be the currency with which consumers will pay for them.

The more data you share the better?

Ben Volkow is CEO and co-founder of Otonomo, an Israeli start-up that specializes in collecting and selling car data. In a recent interview on 2025AD.com, Volkow talked about how consumers might benefit from lower vehicle costs in exchange for their data: “Drivers have the potential to realize more value from the data they own, both financial and otherwise. This could include a safer, more convenient on-road experience or personalized services, accessible while on the move, and ultimately this may even result in a lower vehicle cost of ownership.”

But he also reflected on the need for stricter regulation. Indeed, rather than seeing the GDPR as stifling his firm’s business prospects, Volkow sees it as an opportunity: “Regulation is an acknowledgement that our industry is changing our world. All of these rules will help drive OEMs to commercialize the data they create – regulation is creating a foundation upon which for us to build. Otonomo is unlocking the potential of automotive data to ‘pave the road’ to a brighter and safer tomorrow.” Read the full exclusive interview here.

Making moral machines

Trust and transparency: key ingredients for consumer acceptance, but not just when it comes to data privacy. If the public is to fully embrace self-driving cars in the future, it must trust that the machines can make ethically acceptable driving decisions in every conceivable scenario. For example, if a collision is unavoidable, should the car “choose” to collide with a car with a single occupant to avoid a school bus with 20 children? Is the car obliged to prioritize protecting its passengers above all else?

Some nations are leading the charge in setting up commissions to advise on such ethical conundrums: with Germany, far out in front. In a guest opinion piece on 2025AD.com, influential management thinker Professor Hermann Simon highlights the difficulty facing any legislating body on these thorny issues: “Based on what has so far been reported, the commission is refusing to put a value on human life… so how can a system work if we cannot quantify human life?” Read the full article here.

About 2025AD.com: A marketplace of ideas

Data privacy is just one of many topics on 2025AD.com – an open marketplace of ideas on connected automated driving. The thought-leading platform is powered by automotive supplier Continental, who envisaged a neutral place for everyone to exchange ideas, knowledge and opinion (often differing!) on this key topic of the future.

Under the headings of society, business and technology, 2025AD.com educates on the fundamentals of AD as well as deep-diving into a huge range of topics: from the who’s who in the industry to boundary-pushing Artificial Intelligence. You’ll find interviews and guest contributions by high-ranking experts, representatives and opinion leaders as well as multi-faceted infographics for free use. An opinionated analysis of the latest developments in the “Week in automated driving” column completes the picture.

However, at 2025AD’s core is community. Both the website and the social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – encourage the community of over 10,000 decision makers, experts and enthusiasts monthly to get involved by commenting, taking part in polls or presenting their own visions, ideas and challenges. After all, only when society is on board will we see automated driving’s potential realized.

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