The argument between car manufacturers / manufacturer-owned businesses and independent / third party car repair and other businesses over who has access to your car’s data is now well under way.
Today’s car engines contain sensors and mini-computers (as required by European law) and they have an onboard diagnostic (OBD) port, which allows mechanics to plug in a cable and access the data stored in the car's computer or electronic control unit (ECU).
As well as giving access to diagnostic performance data, this port gives access to emissions data, which enables them to check whether vehicles comply with pollution regulations.
The mini-computers and sensors (which are now important parts of modern engines) measure, collect and send data to car manufacturers about wear and tear on your car’s parts, your car’s fuel efficiency, and how far and fast your car has been driven, among other things.
Your engine’s computer also transmits other potentially lucrative data to your manufacturer such as when your service is due.
Unfair Advantage For Manufacturers?
Third-party car repair and car parts retailers, supported by the FIGIEFA, British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), Cecra, FiA, ADPA, and Leaseurope are arguing that:
- Since manufacturers are the only ones with access to the data being sent from their cars, they can recommend their own spare parts and repair shops. This is an unfair advantage that distorts the market. Consumers are given less choice and face having to travel further than they would like (to manufacturer-owned / endorsed repair shops), and may face higher bills if manufacturers are allowed to only recommend their own parts and repair businesses.
- The use of cloud-based programs called hypervisors could enable the widespread use of a vehicle interoperable, standardised, secure and open-access platform. This could provide a way for third-party companies to securely access car data, and could create fair competition in the market.
The other side of the argument comes from the car manufacturers, supported by The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA). This point of view states that:
- Allowing direct third-party access to vehicular electronic systems will jeopardise safety, cyber security (because vehicle electronic systems could be hacked) and vehicle integrity.
- Allowing third-parties access to car computer systems is a threat to trade-secrets and aspects of those systems that are covered by intellectual property rights.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
It does seem as though there is little scope for competition and a possible unfair advantage for car manufacturers while they retain sole access to car computer data. Economics, and the experiences of other markets would suggest, therefore, that servicing bills for your business vehicles are likely to be higher while the power rests with a relatively small group of manufacturers. It could also mean less choice, and more inconvenience.