A little over two years following the start of the Major Accident Reporting system all new cars must now be equipped with an automatic emergency system, known as eCall. This requirement will come into effect throughout Europe from March. This is good news as it will speed up the emergency response times and the injured will receive aid sooner, which will save lives. However, eCall goes further still. The system works via an internet connection so the cars will be automatically networked much like smartphones and will be able to continuously send and receive data.
Freedom of choice for consumers over a data monopoly for car manufacturers
This new data has the potential to provide drivers and passengers with more and improved services: faster breakdown assistance, the way to the nearest petrol station or direct feedback on driving habits are just some of the possibilities. Insurers can and want to offer their customers new in-car services, too. The potential and entrepreneurial scope are boundless, provided we refrain from setting artificial barriers.
To avoid these barriers, we need to establish as quickly as possible who will have access to the new data from connected cars. German motor insurers have a clear position on this: the data does not belong to the manufacturers but to the motorists. They must have maximum control over the data and be free to decide whether, when and to whom to send data or when and from whom to receive which service.
The GDV, the German auto club ADAC, the automotive industry and the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV) have been campaigning for years at all levels for clearly regulated data sovereignty for motorists. Moreover, the European insurance and reinsurance federation Insurance Europe has started a data protection campaign every motorist should support: #data4drivers. Now is the time to get involved as the European Union must act now to ensure motorists can exercise their data sovereignty and avoid a data monopoly on the roads. The manufacturers already enjoy a massive competitive advantage and a lack of political action will only strengthen their market position day by day.
A data monopoly will enable vehicle manufacturers to prevent entry to this burgeoning market by excluding other providers and enjoying major monopoly-related gains – to the detriment of motorists who will have a restricted offering for a higher price. If that were the case for smartphones, the owner would only have access to the apps of the company which made the phone. This is nothing short of absurd, there are over three million apps available to people with an Android operating system. The real added value of smartphones comes from these handy apps and the creativity of their developers – the same expertise can make a connected car into a bona fide smart car.
We need a platform for connected cars that is independent of manufacturers
As with smartphones, connected cars also need competition for creativity and optimal service. The ideal technical solution is a connected car platform independent of automobile manufacturers, which standardise data exchange and make it secure and accessible to all providers. That is what German motor insurers want and there is research to support their position: a study mandated by the EU Commission concludes that the “on-board application platform“ really is the best solution as it allows motorists to access their data, ensures competition and prevents car manufacturers from dominating the market.
That is why the legislator needs to act fast and create the requisite framework for such a platform – after all, to simply stand by while new monopolies arise would be anything but smart.
Jörg von Fürstenwerth