Connected cars: Industry will need to ensure fair play says MIWA

The “connected car” has the entire automotive industry buzzing – and rightly so, says Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA).

“Connected, automated (and later autonomous) cars are set to revolutionise the entire automobile industry,” he says. “A huge amount of data is generated in connected cars which can be processed in the car and exchanged via mobile communication with, for example, OEMs, other vehicles or the infrastructure.

As the data gathered can be anything from technical to weather, driver behaviour and even online shopping habits of car passengers, it can be valuable to many players in the ecosystem of connected driving who would like to offer services to motorists (aftermarket, navigation, insurance, online shopping, etc.), to public authorities (traffic regulation) and also to the data economy in general.

Ranft says there is however a broad consensus that despite the many benefits of connected cars, this new technology will also lead to new risks, such as cybersecurity and privacy issues.

He adds it is expected the entire structure of the automobile industry will deeply change with the advent of connected cars, particularly the relationships between OEMs, component suppliers and independent repairers. Moreover, new players (like Google) will enter the ecosystem of connected driving.

“Particularly important when it comes to repair and maintenance, is remote monitoring of the operation of cars with predictive maintenance and repair services for the prevention of defects, or in case of a breakdown.

“In order to be capable of offering these and other innovative services, independent service providers must get access to the relevant in-vehicle data and the vehicle IT system for performance directly in the car,” Ranft says.

“The aftermarket could get the short end of the stick if OEMs gain exclusive technical control over access to in-vehicle data and car IT systems.”

Les McMaster, MIWA Deputy Chairman, was recently part of a FIGIEFA webinar titled Cybersecurity – new challenges for the automotive aftermarket. FIGIEFA, based in Brussels, is the European federation and political representative of the independent wholesalers and retailers of automotive replacement parts and their associated repair chains.

The “extended vehicle” concept being employed by OEMs was discussed at length in the webinar, with industry players agreeing it may be necessary to introduce regulation to address the issue.

McMaster says independent service providers are very concerned that the OEMs can use the technological possibilities of connected cars to deploy new foreclosure strategies.

“Since the OEMs apply the ‘extended vehicle’ concept in their connected cars – which implies they have exclusive technical control over access to in-vehicle data and the car IT-system – the independent service providers cannot offer such innovative services directly to the drivers without the permission of the OEMs,” he says.

“Even if the OEMs offered the necessary in-vehicle data via their proprietary servers to the independent service providers, the technically inevitable time-lag would jeopardise such real-time services to the connected car and would negatively impact the ability of independent workshops to provide a speedy response to drivers’ needs.

“Another problem is that the OEMs would always have privileged immediate access to all in-vehicle data, whereas, even if the OEMs choose to make data available, the independent service providers would only get access to data in a delayed, filtered and aggregated form.

Other concerns include:

  • OEMs can observe what kind of data is being accessed by whom on their proprietary servers, which allows a monitoring of business transactions between independent service providers and car users.
  • The HMI (human machine interface) can lead to a much closer and direct customer relationship of the OEMs with the car users, endangering the access of independent service providers to their potential customers.
  • The current technological solution of access to data in the car, the OBD (on-board diagnostics) interface, is technically not necessary anymore because all in-vehicle data can be transmitted more easily directly through the telematics system of the car.

McMaster says it all adds up to giving OEMs a distinct advantage over independent workshops – something the aftermarket industry is determined to address and an area which has been strenuously lobbied over the last six years by the Right to Repair South Africa (R2RSA), a Section 21 not-for-profit organisation that has been advocating for freedom of repair choice for vehicle owners since 2013.

One solution which has been put forward is that instead of an extended vehicle concept, the industry introduces a shared server, which will give independent aftermarket service providers equal access to information. It may also be necessary to introduce regulation to address the issue.

“Although research regarding the question of regulatory solutions for access to in-vehicle data and resources is still in its infancy, the few existing studies come to the preliminary conclusion that the extended vehicle concept is not a suitable concept, suggesting the need for a regulatory solution.

“Although there has, as yet, been no move to draft such regulation, it is indeed something to consider as the move to connected driving gains traction and the Competition Commission gets ready to publish its guidelines for the Automotive Afermarket sector,” McMaster concludes.