Fleet News

Make connected car data access free, say fleets

Cars parked in a car park

Fleet managers and leasing companies have sent a clear message to car manufacturers: we expect to get free access to connected car data.

Around 70% of respondents to the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) Fleet Technology survey said that manufacturers have an obligation to provide connected vehicle and driver data, with 86% saying they should not have to pay for it. 

The results, which were revealed at the BVRLA Fleet Technology Congress, come in the wake of draft proposals for manufacturers to collect and store data from connected vehicles in their servers and release it only to third parties if there is an agreement. 

The majority (57%) of fleet managers felt they should control access to vehicle data, while 62% of leasing companies saw it as their responsibility. Fleet managers felt they had a shared responsibility with leasing companies to remove data at the end of the lease. 

However, exactly how that works in practice is causing difficulties. The survey showed that leasing companies and fleet managers want the freedom to use their own telematics provider to monitor driver behaviour rather than being reliant on the car manufacturers. 

The vast majority (79%) said they were concerned that vehicle manufacturers would restrict access to telematics data, while 89% said vehicle manufacturers should allow them to install third party telematics devices provided they met the agreed security standards. 

Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the BVRLA, said: “Our sector had a very clear message that we wish to build on the telematics offer that leasing, rental and fleets are utilising today, and we perceive there being a real risk with this restriction of data by the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in terms of being able to do that and be competitive in the market.” 

He suggested that documents produced by automotive industry bodies, including the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), ignore the current use of telematics in the fleet sector, which “creates a significant work stream” in terms of the BVRLA’s negotiations with manufacturers to “ensure equal access”. 

 The SMMT’s Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Position Paper states that unless vehicle manufacturers have entered into a specific legal agreement with each of the registered keepers and/or have a contractual obligation to do so, the vehicle user data (i.e. personal data) is only ever used or shared with the express and prior consent of the vehicle user, not the registered keeper. It says manufacturers do not, by default, have an obligation to provide vehicle data to registered keepers.

It believes that the company car driver registering for the connected vehicle services, and agreeing to the terms and conditions associated with these, “must be put at the heart of any data consent process”.

The BVRLA Fleet Technology survey found that drivers were happy to share data if it helped to diagnose or prevent faults (95%), automatically alert a breakdown company (93%) or help a manufacturer identify safety and warranty issues with its parts (82%).

They were less content with sharing data about driving behaviour and performance (44% ‘not comfortable’) or selling data about their location, weather conditions or vehicle performance (36% ‘not comfortable’).

Leasing companies and fleet managers appear unsure about what data car manufacturers are collecting, with 53% unclear. Less than half (47%) said that most manufacturers were willing and able to tell them what data they were collecting. 

Vauxhall is one manufacturer which is willing to share data with its leasing and fleet manager customers through its fleet manager portal (see panel opposite). 

Kenneth Malmberg, business development lead in Europe for infotainment and telematics at General Motors, said the manufacturer does not “sit and retrieve hoards and hoards of data”.

“The only data we take from the vehicle is shown on the OnStar fleet manager page,” he said. 

“There is probably about 600 elements you could take off a vehicle and I don’t think any one company needs the 600 elements so we have set packages.”

Any data beyond the set packages would be discussed on a “case by case basis”. 

Keaney added that the BVRLA’s experience of dealing with a number of OEMs had been “far more constructive and open” to finding solutions than the SMMT’s Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Position Paper suggests. 

“So we remain very confident to be able to find our way through this,” Keaney said. 

OnStar portal offers the choice to opt in or out

Vauxhall has updated its OnStar portal to give fleet managers and leasing companies greater control. 

They now have a choice to opt in or out     of OnStar vehicle diagnostics, dealer maintenance notifications and roadside assistance services, and can control whether drivers are able to activate the Wi-Fi data trial, change Wi-Fi settings or buy OnStar packages. 

New functionality makes the distinction between an owner (i.e. leasing company) and an operator (i.e. fleet manager), with the leasing company able to grant permissions to the fleet manager. 

By activating OnStar, fleet managers and leasing companies are able to see the mileage and fuel consumption of each vehicle and receive diagnostic alerts, as well as create and export reports. 

They can choose for data not to be shared with Vauxhall by de-selecting dealer maintenance notifications. Vehicle location is not provided unless the driver opts in.

Mileage and fuel consumption is updated every 30 days but there are plans for this to be changed to daily. 

Vehicles come with a one-year free trial of OnStar services (five years for diagnostic data), after which the services are £8.95 for a month or £89.50 for a year. 

Richard Hansard, business operations leader for OnStar Europe, said changing the permissions settings had given Vauxhall “a more attractive fleet proposition”. 

“Ultimately it has improved sign up of OnStar because fleet managers now have more control over their vehicles. So it’s been well received. We’re always looking at system enhancements and we have roadmaps for the next two years and further into the future,” he said. 

Autonomous driving data needs standardisation 

The development of autonomous vehicles might force car manufacturers to share data in a standardised way. 

Jay Parmar, director of policy and membership at the BVRLA, said access to data is seen as essential for autonomous driving in the UK and that “it needs to be carried out in a standardised way”.

“I think Government may push OEMs to work together. If we are to have autonomous driving we need to make sure the infrastructure is able to communicate with the car and the cars are able to talk to each other in a standardised way,” he said.

No ‘magic button’ to clear intel at end of contract 

Deletion of data at the end of a lease or rental will be a “real challenge” for the sector, according to Jay Parmar, director of policy and membership at the BVRLA. 

“There is not a magic delete button in the vehicle members can use,” he said. 

“You often have to ask the manufacturer for certain pieces of data to be deleted. The manufacturer may say, ‘sorry, can’t delete the data, you’re not the data subscriber, it’s your customer’. By then the customer is long gone. So what can we do to protect ourselves?”

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