Data sharing can improve the connected car experience for drivers, but is there transparency on how our data is being used?

7 minute read

Technology has provided drivers with remarkable improvements in both safety and convenience over the last few decades, but it has also turned cars into data-gathering machines. By definition, connected vehicles share data in order to be ‘connected’, however, with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) predicting that all cars in key automotive regions will be connected by 2026, automakers need to build trust with consumers if they want drivers to be willing to share their personal information.

Connected vehicles that fulfil driver’s needs for accessible, affordable and safe transport require the sharing of data such as car health, location, driver behaviour and environmental factors that may impact the driving experience. To implement the underlying technology which will enable shared mobility and autonomous vehicles, automakers need to drive behavioural change - relaying concerns around the sharing of vehicle data by increasing transparency and communication, as well as looking closely at data usage from suppliers and partnerships. 

The Wider Ecosystem 

The automotive industry is only just getting to grips with data, connected services and the potential they offer, but major software players, such as Google, saw the value of data collection from connected vehicles a long time ago. When fed into Google's much wider ecosystem of data-driven services, data collected from connected vehicles, such as real-time road safety information and locations, can then be integrated into Google Maps or their search function to provide users with up to date, accurate traffic information or tailored search results, all helping to boost their usage figures. 

Partnerships with automakers make sense for Google, whose entire business model is built on mass data collection, and selling targeted advertising to accompany it. When Volvo and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance originally signed up to Android Automotive, there may have been an assumption that the automakers would be sharing data from their connected vehicles with Google, however, both have recently chosen to partner with Microsoft Azure, potentially leaving Google as nothing more than a software supplier. 

However, there are further examples where Google is currently able to collect data from connected vehicles, potentially without the automaker’s awareness on the true extent, and information around how this data is used by Google is certainly limited to the public. By requiring drivers to log in and opt-in to access Android Automotive-enabled features, drivers can be quick to give consent to sharing more data than they bargained for. This backdoor data collection can harm automakers' relationship with drivers, as well as jeopardize partnerships with other connectivity providers. There are also strict laws within the automotive industry limiting the monetization of drivers’ personal data so it is the responsibility of the automaker to safeguard their drivers and ensure transparency around data collection and how it is used. 

Data Security 

The biggest concern for most drivers when asked to share data is the fear of being hacked. As a byproduct of enabling connectivity within vehicles, this intrinsically also opens up the possibility of the vehicle being hacked, with the risks involved increasing as the integrated technology and associated data sharing increases also. 

As recently as last year, ethical hackers installed software into a drone and flew it over various Tesla vehicles, using WiFi to remotely open the doors to gain access to the parked cars. Hacks are by no means news to Tesla, with one ethical hacker a few years ago claiming to gain control over the entire network of vehicles and controlling them remotely. 

The possibility of hackers gaining control of vehicle systems and accessing the driver’s personal information presents automakers with the never-ending task of keeping up with advancing technologies to stay ahead of any data security breaches. Over the past 15 years, software use in vehicles has increased dramatically. Today, there are approximately 100 million lines of code in each vehicle, with this number expected to rise to around 300 million by 2030 as we transition towards autonomous vehicles. For comparison, a current passenger aeroplane only has around 15 million lines of code. Automakers are well aware of the risks of a data breach and now employ advanced cybersecurity teams who look for vulnerabilities in cars, pinpoint risks and help to safeguard against hackers with systems that can operate reliably, but also improve the overall safety, convenience and environmental impact of connected mobility.

Building Trust 

A recent survey by Capgemini found that 63% of car owners would not be willing to share the data generated by their vehicles and 67% stated they would only share anonymised, but not personal, data. The data marketplace operator Otonomo delved deeper, asking drivers who they would feel comfortable sharing data with. 65% replied they would trust car manufacturers, second only to credit card providers with 72%, and ahead of software companies and social media sites on 50% and 19% respectively - however a lack of trust is still evident with 21% believing that data collection is solely for marketing and advertising purposes. 

These suspicions regarding data sharing can be attributed to a lack of transparency by selected software companies, whose basic business model uses personal data to sell tailored adverts. Google, for example, made $146.9 billion solely in advertising in 2020, accounting for more than 80% of its annual revenue, by encouraging consumers to accept data mining as an everyday transaction, exchanging personal data for access to their desired features and services.

Laws limiting the potential for automakers to monetize drivers’ personal data require that all data collected from connected vehicles remains anonymous, this can cause issues with Google integrations, as automakers usually do not have visibility of the data Google pulls from the car. 

GDPR and CCPA require automakers to get permission from the driver if they intend to share data collected from their vehicle. The automaker also needs to prove that the driver cannot be identified from their data and that by sharing, they are able to improve future driving experiences as opposed to commercial gain.

A major factor in this is public trust – customers expect robust security as standard within the automotive industry. Drivers are unlikely to openly adopt today's connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) unless their privacy is guaranteed and monitored regularly, without which the global growth of automotive innovation could plateau. 

Using data to improve services and enhance the driving experience

As mentioned, the automotive industry has strict laws regarding the use of personal data which is why Parkopedia only uses data from its global OEM partners to improve its products and services. For example, every time a vehicle parks in, or leaves a parking space, a parking event is generated. These events are then shared with Parkopedia and the data is used to increase the coverage and accuracy of our dynamic parking space availability predictions, which are provided to millions of drivers every day.

In a large number of cars currently on the road, in-vehicle ultrasonic sensors and cameras are able to scan the surrounding environment and collect information. In our case, delivering data that relates to available parking spaces in the car’s immediate vicinity. Drivers in European and North American cities currently spend an average of 55 hours a year searching for parking spaces. This corresponds to 1.3 kilograms of CO2 emissions per ‘search’ and accounts for up to one-third of inner-city traffic. By integrating vehicle sensor data, Parkopedia is able to generate high-quality parking space availability predictions which are used by drivers to save valuable time while reducing emissions and costs associated with the search for parking.

The use of such technology and data to improve user experience, as opposed to data monetisation, is not just limited to just the parking industry. In-vehicle data can also be used to provide drivers with live, accurate and precise information on EV charger locations as well as their operational status. 

Driver Acceptance 

Otonomo also found that only 22% of car owners think that automakers are collecting data for the benefit of future car improvements. For connected cars to be truly successful, this figure needs to grow rapidly in the coming years. It is widely reported how connected car data is key for automakers to generate revenue, reduce costs and improve the user experience. To further encourage driver acceptance, the connected car products, incentives and service offerings should be personalised and delivered at the optimum time without distracting the driver. 

Automakers need to be transparent about how they use car data, partner with trusted software suppliers, demonstrate learning and improvements made from data collection, and use incentives to increase consumer trust and adoption. This will, no doubt, grow their drivers' willingness to share and contribute to the success of the connected-car experience.


Every year since 2003, October has been recognised as Cyber Security Awareness Month (CSAM).

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