In this series of articles, Australian Automotive Aftermarket Magazine Editor, Allan Edwards, will take a look at future innovations that will affect the automotive aftermarket industry in coming years, including how businesses will interact with their customers.

A number of newly developed products may help independent repairers turn the tables on OEMs when it comes to collecting data from ‘connected’ vehicles

There’s been a lot of talk recently about vehicle connectivity, and for good reason.
It’s a fact that connectivity is coming and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. The main concern is how car manufacturers, through their dealer networks, will use the data that will be able to be downloaded from customers’ cars, and that they could use it to try to lock out independent repairers from the market place.
However, there are a number of new products on the market that may allow independent repairers to fight back and actually use vehicle connectivity to their advantage.
One such product is Smartplug, which has been developed and marketed by SmartDriverClub in the United Kingdom.
SmartDriverClub is an insurance company that uses a small device called a Smartplug that can allow data to be sent directly to a driver’s smart phone.
The Smartplug can send information that will alert a motorist if a mechanical problem crops up, suggest what they can do about it and find a local repairer they can talk to. It can also let a car owner know when a standard service is due and when the car registration is up for renewals.
Smartplug can also help with crash assistance, tracking a stolen car, roadside assistance and can even tell a driver where they have parked their car. Smartplug also has ‘special deals’ for most aftermarket products that drivers can access by selecting a product directly through the smart phone app.
CEO of SmartDriverClub, Penny Searles, says one of the reasons she launched Smartplug was because of her concerns about how manufacturers will use data collected from consumers ‘connected’ vehicles.
She wants to warn buyers of new or nearly new cars to check who has access to the data their car generates and how that data will be used to their benefit, before they sign on the dotted line.
Penny said the vast majority of cars coming off the production line are effectively computers on wheels, with connectivity to the manufacturer allowing data to be fed to them about all aspects of the vehicle. However, she continued, most motorists are unaware of the data their car is generating and how this is being used.
“Data from connected cars is being gathered by motor manufacturers for various reasons. It is an issue that I have felt pretty strongly about for some time and is one of the main reasons I launched SmartDriverClub,” Penny said.
“Many motorists are simply oblivious to the fact that their vehicle is transmitting data directly to the manufacturer telling them how, when and where they are driving.
“That’s OK if the motorist understands this, has given explicit consent and is getting something in return for their data but I don’t believe that’s always the case.
“They may well be giving their consent but it’s one of many pieces of paper they are being asked to sign when they buy a new car.
“Connected cars offer a wealth of benefits, such as providing a new route, communicating with emergency services to report a collision or alerting drivers to a fault and the nearest garage.
“Most of us want more personalised services and we’re willing to sacrifice certain elements of privacy to benefit from more targeted offerings. Smart phone apps are a good example of this.
“However, what is the benefit to consumers, when manufacturers record driving data?
“I launched SmartDriverClub to put motorists back in control, by providing them with access to connectivity in their car, but with full visibility over how their data will be used to facilitate these services.
“One element of the direct service customers opt in to receive is fault data from their car fed directly to book‎ which gives independent garages the opportunity to make the repair at the customer request.
“The data we use belongs to the customer, not SmartDriverClub, we just control it for them. If we have permission we will share that data with others, but we are always transparent in what we share and with whom. Motor manufacturers need to take on the same level of openness with their customers.”
SmartPlug is a small device that fits into the dash of a number of vehicle models and transmits data to a driver’s smart phone via the SmartDriverClub app.
Another recent development in response to the growing technology of vehicle connectivity has seen the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) – an organisation focused on enabling seamless mobile device-to-vehicle connectivity – release a Car Data Ecosystem paper which presents a standardised method for linking consumers with a vehicle’s data sources.
The paper provides an overview of the significant benefits of monetising a vehicle’s data along with the top use cases and challenges associated with proprietary solutions.
CCC is focused on developing vehicle data standards for seamlessly connecting consumers to service providers, offering them customised offerings that are enhanced by the data-rich pool of vehicle information.
A wide range of use cases can leverage vehicle data including usage-based insurance, real-time road monitoring, driver health and behavior monitoring, integrated vehicle maintenance, and many more. CCC also plans to define an authentication and authorisation service platform that enables data providers to offer vehicle information through any marketplace, while preventing uncontrolled dissemination and use without explicit consent.
When supported by leading automakers, handset vendors, digital security companies, insurance, and transportation infrastructure venders, a standardised Car Data Ecosystem can deliver enormous opportunities for vehicle data monetisation. CCC says it is in a position to bring these interests together to address the challenges of creating a Car Data Solution that balances the unique needs of each industry, while respecting consumer rights and privacy.
The position paper can be found on CCC’s website,
Bosch – a company at the forefront of vehicle connectivity technology – used this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to show that connected solutions have already been made a reality.
“Personalisation is a growing trend in the realm of connectivity, and we are driving this trend forward,” Bosch Board of Management Member, Dr Werner Struth, said during the company’s press conference at CES 2017.
Bosch has predicted that by 2022, the global market for connected mobility is set to grow by almost 25 percent per year as cars become an active part of the Internet of Things (IoT), allowing them to communicate with other modes of transportation as well as with the smart home.
At CES 2017, Bosch presented a new concept car that showed how different spheres of life will be seamlessly interconnected in the future.
“The vehicle will play a central role in cross-domain communication,” Dr Struth said.
He also stated that personalised communication between the car and its driver will also be expanded
“New functions are connecting the car to its surroundings, the smart home and the repair shop. These functions will make highly automated driving possible,” he said.
“Bosch is working diligently to make sure that mobility and smart services become one.
“If the car is connected to the smart home or the smart city via the cloud, there will be measurable benefits.
“Connectivity is turning the car into an assistant on four wheels.
“We believe that connectivity is more than just technology. It’s part of our lives. It improves mobility, shapes the cities of the future, and makes homes smarter, industry connected, and healthcare more efficient,” Dr Struth said.
“In every sphere, Bosch is working toward a connected world. A world that opens up possibilities no one could ever have imagined. So let’s go beyond building connected devices. Let’s build connections with real benefit – around the world, across the web, within the cloud. Let’s connect founders with funders, dreamers with doers, parts with the whole. Let’s link the virtual and the physical and leave a lasting legacy in our world. Let´s be ‘Simply Connected’.”
With all of this development in connectivity, it is important that the independent repairer and aftermarket retailers don’t get left behind. The automotive aftermarket sector needs to ensure that it is a part of the ‘connected’ vehicle era. This can be achieved through products like the aforementioned SmartPlug, but for products like this to work manufacturers must continue to make available data ports in new vehicles.
The fear is that new vehicle manufacturers will eventually close off these data ports to outside parties if they are not policed and monitored. This is one of the major reasons that organisations like the AAAA all around the world must continue to work with the authorities and government bodies such as Australia’s ACCC to ensure that independent repairers and the aftermarket in general continue to have access to vehicle data.