Your Future Car May Sell Your Information Soon!


Imagine this: You’re driving home from work, thinking about what to eat for dinner. When you stop at a red light, an ad for pizza pops up on your dashboard telling you to drive through for RM10 off your next pizza purchase.

Carmakers have been installing wireless connections in most modern vehicles; the sheer volume of software and sensors in new vehicles, combined with artificial intelligence that can sift through data at ever-quickening speeds, and have been collecting data for the past few years. The big question for them now is whether they can profit off all the driver data they’re capable of collecting without alienating consumers or risking backlash from the local governments.

Image from:  USSA

Image from: USSA

“Carmakers recognize they’re fighting a war over customer data,” said Roger Lanctot, who works with automakers on data monetization as a consultant for Strategy Analytics. “Your driving behavior, location, has monetary value, not unlike your search activity.”

Carmakers’ ultimate objective, Lanctot said, is to build a database of consumer preferences that could be aggregated and sold to outside vendors for marketing purposes, much like Google and Facebook do today.

Auto executives emphasize that data-crunching will allow them to build a better driving experience—enabling cars to predict flat tires, find a parking space or charging station, or alert city managers to dangerous intersections where there are frequent accidents. Data collection could even help shield drivers from crime, Ford Motor Co.’s chief executive officer said:

“If a robber got in the car and took off, would you want us to know where that robber went to catch him?” Jim Hackett asked the audience during a keynote in Las Vegas. “Are you willing to trade that?”

It was hardly a hypothetical question. Car companies are betting if they offer you the right carrot—discounted car insurance, a coupon at the gas pump—you’ll share your data without blinking, just as you do when you post on Facebook or type a query into a Google search.

“The benefit there is hopefully an improved relationship, so we know you better, we understand you better and we’re able to deliver better services to you,” Don Butler, Ford’s executive director for connected vehicles and services, said in an interview in Las Vegas.

The potential to share data—both anonymized and personalized—with third parties represents the biggest opportunity, Ford’s Butler said. Like most auto executives, he’s quick to point out that customers will have the choice to opt in to services that require sharing information, such as their location or driving habits.

Image from:  CNN Tech

Image from: CNN Tech

“Your driving behavior, location, has monetary value, not unlike your search activity.”

Of course, you may not know or understand what privacy rights you’ll be potentially signing away, unless there is some form of easy-to-read privacy notices or explanation of the data sharing and use practices.

The kinds of car-data tools in play today are much smaller scale. GM infamously sent a software update to millions of vehicles in December, introducing an e-commerce system that lets drivers order coffee or make restaurant reservations while driving. In the long term, GM is also looking to monetize traffic and parking data from its self-driving cars.

Image from:  Bloomberg

Image from: Bloomberg

And you can expect more carmakers to follow in GM’s footsteps by coming out with e-commerce features in the car. Bringing Starbucks or McDonalds’ into your car lets manufacturers earn back some of the money they spend on telematics and forms a direct relationship with drivers.

What do you think? Would you trade in your data for a free cup of coffee? Leave a comment below!

Fun with CarsJoel Wong