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Major Automakers Warn of In-Car Data Sharing with Apple, Google

In a story appearing at Automotive News.com on October 31, 2014, some of the schisms and discussions around automotive data were on display:

Volkswagen Group and Mercedes-Benz called on fellow automakers to establish separate platforms for data on vehicle use to avoid handing over sensitive customer information to Google.


“We seek connection to Google’s data systems but we still want to be the masters of our own cars,” VW Group CEO Martin Winterkorn said Thursday at an industry conference here. “Potential conflict arises around making data available.”


Other sources have covered this as automakers v. Google Car. Most cite the quote above, without the opening graf.  I believe that graf is the story.  It’s less about the Google driverless car and more about in-car data that could integrate with smartphone and other apps that directly or indirectly intersect with the automobile. There’s lots of profit there.

Historically automotive systems have been intentionally opaque, proprietary and difficult to get into.  Systems were purposely made to dissuade customization, as any adult who tried to install a car stereo can attest.  Ports and inputs that should be easy to access aren’t; unless you buy the option that exploits it.  Many times that option is difficult to use, causing more driver distraction than necessary.

Right now, the market for automotive app development is in its genesis.  Code readers, meaning tools and apps to read data flowing out of the car’s OBD-II port have pretty much been the norm.

But there’s a wave of innovation coming.  Millions of developers unleashed a torrent of innovation and created a billion-dollar smartphone app market in record time.  These people have figured out ways to optimize a small part of our lives through technology.  Now their eyes are beginning to turn to the automobile and in-car data.  I’m not certain if the automotive industry is ready for that.  But maybe they have a plan…

“It’s very good” that automakers are discussing their own systems for processing and storing car data to avoid becoming dependent on “third parties,” Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said, speaking alongside Winterkorn in a discussion at the event. “That’ll boost our position when working with Google.”


Or Apple, or anyone interested in accessing that data.  The value for automakers is to develop that second platform.  This new “black box” is where the money is.  Does your app need owner in-car data to trigger or complement your unique function?  Pay a little $$$ to access the black box.  Looking to leverage aggregated in-car data for a traffic app, insurance or a weather app?  Pay a little $$$ to access the black box.


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Sebastian James


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