Data Transforms Automakers Into Mobility Players

Image credit: iStockphoto/BeeBright

Automakers are continually seeking to differentiate their products. But they have also come together to share and collaborate on key developments at crucial points.

Volvo, for example, pioneered the modern seatbelt in 1959 and then gifted it to the industry. It realized the invention’s potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year.

Recently, Tesla has worked with Toyota to develop an all-electric RAV 4 EV. And Volkswagen is making its MEB electronic vehicle platform available to Indian car maker Mahindra, which plans to use MEB components as part of its “Born Electric Platform.”

VW says that its MEB platform and its components are designed as an open vehicle platform that allows car manufacturers to expand their EV offerings.

As the momentum for connected cars continues to gather pace, the idea of data collaboration is also emerging, and many stakeholders in the auto industry want common access to data produced by telematic sensors.

The insurance industry, for example, has long talked about data being a key to managing risk and claims leakage. The most cost-effective way of making this a reality is for insurers to receive data directly from vehicles through equipment installed by the manufacturer. The scope of datasets is expanding all the time with the implementation of new sensors and systems.

Ford is already moving in this direction, supplying occupancy information to insurers.

“We are giving insurers the power of new insights, enabling them to have more regular dialogue with customers to help them reduce their risk. For example, the insurer might inform them if they have more harsh braking events or drive faster when on the phone,” Graeme Stevens, Ford’s data products and services manager, said at a U.S. conference recently.   

In the same vein, the auto repair industry is also calling for access to vehicle data and has stepped up its lobbying efforts in Europe.

In Japan, telco NTT has teamed up with Toyota on the Toyota Connected project, developing a cloud-enabled Mobility Service Platform collecting big data from connected vehicles. 

Towards collaboration

At the Australian company Intelematics, which supplies data services to corporate car fleets, program manager Dan Kelly believed the idea of cooperation should also move into a collaboration between manufacturers who are often competitors.

“As the market accelerates to meet a surge in demand for EVs, vehicle manufacturers are realizing that operating in isolation may not be the smartest or quickest path to success,” said Kelly, speaking after the recent Mobility 2022 conference in Sydney.

“Vehicle manufacturers are realizing that operating in isolation may not be the smartest or quickest path to success”

Data, says Kelly, is a good place for this collaboration to start as the auto industry looks for sustainable solutions and OEMs create partnerships to develop new approaches and products.

“In Europe, for example, they have established a shared data repository which can be openly accessed — giving entire industries valuable insights into road use, environmental metrics, and trends. Creating a similar facility in Australia would create a solid foundation for collaboration,” says Kelly.

“The way we think about innovation also needs to shift. Creating more technology and newer types of data may not always lead to the best outcomes or ROI.  Installation of new equipment, while effective, can come with significant lead times and costs. Building data models with new and existing sources can give a quick return on investment while newer measures are deployed.”

He says data is also the key to creating new cross-industry partnerships.

“At Intelematics, we have seen success generating data which is of benefit to mutual partners. For example, bringing together a large auto OEM and a major road authority to share in-car and road data — one using it to build better roads and the other better cars,” says Kelly.  

“The global mobility industry’s transformation has far-reaching implications. What we do next will have a significant impact on the industry, people’s lives, and the environment. I firmly believe that partnerships will drive future opportunities and deliver the most positive outcomes.” 

The first step, he said, is to break down existing silos by recognizing that we are all part of the same ecosystem and accepting that no company can be good at everything.

Reduced recall

One area in which automakers are already collaborating is in the supply chain. In Europe, 28 partners — including several manufacturers, suppliers, and tech companies such as Siemens — have created a data exchange ecosystem called Catena-X. It enables data sharing to the European Union’s GAIA-X data standard, which enables data exchange while retaining data sovereignty.

There is evidence that the project is already delivering benefits. In one case, a manufacturer found a quality issue that had the potential to impact tens of thousands of vehicles. It reduced the scale of the recall through shared data, which enabled it to pinpoint the quality issue and reduce the number of vehicles in the recall.

The next step is to integrate Catena-X into ERP systems to transfer data and create a software-as-a-service solution for smaller suppliers to upload their data directly.

Ultimately, the industry which produces cars is also set to create vast volumes of data in the coming years. The patterns of usage are only just emerging. Still, collaboration has emerged as a vital issue that has the potential to help the car industry re-invent itself as providers of mobility solutions.

Lachlan Colquhoun is the Australia and New Zealand correspondent for CDOTrends and the NextGenConnectivity editor. He remains fascinated with how businesses reinvent themselves through digital technology to solve existing issues and change their entire business models. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/BeeBright