The fleet industry is growing increasingly concerned at the lack of clarity around how manufacturers are collecting data on vehicles and drivers, as more connected car features are introduced to the new car market.
Fleet representative body ACFO and the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) are seeking clarification on who owns the data collected, used and protected by fleets and manufacturers.
John Pryor, ACFO chairman, believes that while some larger fleets may be aware of the level at which brands are collecting data on vehicles, generally awareness is low.
He said: “The big trouble is with who owns this data. Is it the manufacturer? Is it the fleet? Is it the leasing company? Who has the right to know and is it possible to switch off that data collection when cars are being used away from work for personal use?
“There are still big questions that need addressing and there is so much to look at with this.”
With an estimated 80% of cars expected to be connected by 2016, the industry is experiencing an explosion in the amount of data that is generated and processed.
An increasing number of fleets are having telematics devices installed into their vehicles, and manufacturers are keen to gain market share.
Mercedes-Benz has its own telematics division, Fleetboard, and is looking to take a more central role in providing telematics and fleet software services directly to fleets.
“The telematics suppliers have been first to market,” Pierre Lussier, Fleetboard manager at Mercedes-Benz France said. “But who is better to supply services for vehicles than the manufacturers themselves?”
However, he said the big challenge is not only whether manufacturers have the ability to technically handle and interpret the masses of data collected from vehicles, but the legal implications that come with that.
New EU data protection laws are due to be introduced in 2016 as regulators seek to catch-up with the increased sharing and use of data via the internet.
Rather than being legislation that can be interpreted, new data protection regulations will be binding across all 28 member states.
Carlos Ghosn, Renault Nissan Alliance chairman and CEO and president of ACEA, the body which represents vehicle manufacturers in Europe, said manufacturers across Europe have set out five principles of data protection which the industry will adhere to.
These principles include transparency, customer choice, ‘privacy by design’, data security and proportionate use of data.
Ghosn said: “Data protection is an issue carmakers take very seriously, as we are committed to providing our customers with a high level of protection and maintaining their trust.”
Models like the new Volvo XC90 do not have an OBD port for external parties to access diagnostic information and manufacturers are widely expected to move to a cloud-based system in the future where all diagnostic information gained from modern vehicles’ sophisticated sensors are shared to the internet through an online portal.
Lussier, who was speaking at the recent TU-Automotive ‘monetise connected fleet data’ webinar, said manufacturers will be looking to track data on engines, emissions, driver behaviour, fuel efficiency and wear and tear as well as advanced real-time mapping and traffic information.
That data could then be passed on to fleets and leasing companies to improve operating efficiencies, plus franchised dealerships, taxation services, insurers, emergency services and road authorities.
Lussier said: “The sensors in vehicles can now pick up a lot of information and the cameras built into modern cars make what we can collect extremely accurate.”
He sees a future in which every car could be like a ‘Google Maps’ car, analysing every road they are on, updating routes and traffic problems in real time for every other car to access.
“At the moment, we’re at the frontier and the situation with vehicle data is a bit like the wild west, from a legal perspective,” he said.
The BVRLA is campaigning for vehicle owners and drivers to be in charge of how their data is used and wants the Government to support the introduction of open, standardised and secure platforms to enable this to happen.
Gerry Keaney, BVRLA chief executive, said: “The arrival of the connected car means that the dashboard is now a point of sale for all kinds of products and services, while vehicles themselves have becomes telematics devices, capable of delivering gigabytes of valuable real-time data.
“Regulators and legislators are trying to ensure they keep pace with this new environment, but the fact is that current data protection, type approval and block exemption regulations are well out of date.”
Keaney recognises it will take time to put a new regulatory environment in place, but he wants to make sure vehicle owners have the right to opt out of any connected offerings that might conflict with the services BVRLA members offer, for example breakdown or roadside assistance, accident services and the arrangement of any servicing and repairs.
He said: “We are also seeking clarification around which driver data is collected by manufacturers and who is responsible for meeting data protection rules.”
However, as more and more connected data becomes available, Chevin Fleet Solutions says that basic questions remain unanswered.
Ashley Sowerby, managing director at Chevin Fleet Solutions, said: “This is a fast-moving area but one where the potential benefits for fleets are substantial so it is important that, as an industry, we work to get things right.
“There are many questions to resolve but probably the one that concerns us most is who controls the data generated by connected cars and who has access to it?
“Manufacturers may want to act as gatekeepers to this information but it is doubtful that they can claim to have ownership of the data.
“After all, it is generated by the fleets that own the vehicles in question.”
Sowerby told Fleet News it was difficult to predict whether manufacturers would replace the current telematics sector. But he added: “Whatever the outcome, there will definitely be a need for ever-more sophisticated fleet management software to enable managers to make sense of the huge amount of information that will become available to them.”
He is calling for key stakeholders in the fleet industry to “hammer out some basic standards”.
Chevin holds operational data on more than 850,000 vehicles that are managed using its FleetWave software, so has some experience of the kind of issues that connected vehicle data bring.
Sowerby said: “The data that we hold has a commercial value. We can access information on how thousands of different types of vehicles operate in real world conditions.
“From time to time, we have been approached by organisations who would like access to that data and we have refused, but it shows that there is an appetite for the kind of information that the connected car and van will provide.”
Sowerby wants the industry to have an open dialogue to raise concerns, “rather than stumbling into compromises”.
“Making decisions now could pay dividends later,” he said.