Helping motorists understand the connected car

Victoria’s leading transport advocate, RACV, along with the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) today launched the My Car My Data campaign and website to help inform motorists of the emergence of ‘connected’ cars and the potential benefits and risks associated with them.

RACV Public Policy General Manager Brian Negus said connected cars offer many consumer benefits such as being able to communicate with the world around them and helping drivers to be aware of and avoid traffic snarls or dangers on the road.

However technology advances could mean that when Australian consumers buy their next new car, it will be a car that is capable of gathering information about the vehicle and the driver and sending it to the car maker minute by minute.

 “Transmission of this data can help drivers reach their destination more quickly, more safely and more fuel-efficiently. In the event of an incident or a crash, a connected car can alert emergency services and your service network bring help more quickly,” Mr Negus said.

“But the control of the data generated by these vehicles and of the security codes to access maintence and repair activities – and the emerging debate surrounding who gets to access it – is set to pose potential privacy risks and possibly drive up running and repair costs due to impaired competition.

The experience in Europe has been that drivers of connected cars have only been able to share vehicle data with the relevant car maker. Many industry observers believe that if this situation is replicated in Australia, car owners may be left with little choice but to take their car to a branded repairer, rather than an independent repairer of their choice, which will affect competition and cost.

In addition to the potential for extra cost, there are also potential privacy concerns, as connected car technology opens up the opportunity for car makers to pass on or sell personal information to third parties, such as insurers or marketers. This is significant when you consider an investigation conducted last year on behalf of Europe’s car clubs showed that highly personal information synced from mobile phones can be captured and transmitted back to the manufacturer.

Mr Negus said: “None of this is sinister in itself, but it is important that Australians are told what information car makers collect about the car and them and what it’s used for before this technology becomes widespread in Australia. It’s also important that our politicians consider the need for regulation to protect the consumer rights of Australian motorists.”

Prior to establishing the My Car My Data website, 24 vehicle manufacturers that sell vehicles in Australia were invited to make their data management policies publicly available on the site. To date, eight of the 24 have responded.

“RACV hopes that over time, more vehicle manufacturers will make their policies available via the My Car My Data website,” Mr Negus said.

The ACCC is currently conducting a market study into the new car retailing industry including whether consumers and businesses could be affected by any restrictions on access to vehicle data. RACV looks forward to the outcomes of this review.

Written by Molly Ennor, RACV Public Affairs, 9790 2997
October 31, 2016