At the Auto Care Association Legislative Summit in September, it was announced that the Auto Care Association and the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) would collaborate on the Your Car Your Data Your Choice campaign. The objective is to secure the consumers’ right to choose who can access the data that is generated and stored by their vehicle. The technology at the heart of this challenge is telematics. And the threat to the aftermarket is to tilt the field and limit the consumer’s right to choose who can access their telematics data.
The data includes diagnostic trouble codes, speed and other driving behavior, odometer readings – even the weight of the occupant (to regulate airbag deployment). This information is of interest to automotive technicians, insurance companies and government agencies. Some of this data is useful for diagnostics of the many computer-controlled systems on the vehicle. But much of it is personal data that has nothing to do with servicing the vehicle. Where you drive, how fast you go, what you weigh and where you stop to eat – this is your personal data and should remain private. If that’s not enough to ruffle your feathers, the emerging introduction of personal assistants to vehicles means your car is listening to every word you say.
Do you remember signing away your privacy rights when you bought or leased your latest vehicle? No, you don’t – because you didn’t. Without your consent, your vehicle and the vehicle manufacturers are gathering and harvesting terabytes of data about you and your driving behavior. Of course, this is a privacy issue that should enrage every vehicle owner. But it is also an existential threat to the independent aftermarket. Today, more than 70 percent of American consumers choose to care for their vehicles with parts and services from the independent aftermarket. If the folks who made the car have exclusive access to its vehicle health information, they can use those insights to market services to consumers before they are even aware of the need. It’s not far-fetched to imagine me asking my wife why she took our 10-year-old Lexus back to the dealer, and her answer is: “Because it told me to.”
The record attendance at the Washington, D.C. fly-in for the Legislative Summit was a great way to tell our elected officials that modern vehicle technology had the potential to be abused by the original equipment manufacturers. The position of the OEMs has been that for the cybersecurity of the vehicle and to prevent the introduction of any malware, the only party that can access the vehicle computer network is the maker of the vehicle. But if lawmakers and regulators let that position stand, they are condoning the elimination of consumer choice and trampling of privacy rights.
The good news is that the aftermarket has developed a secure vehicle interface that preserves the security of the vehicle network but allows the car owner to choose who has access to the data from their vehicle. My independent service shop? Turn them on. My automobile insurance company? Sure, I may qualify for a discount. The OE dealer? Only while the car is under warranty. The Secure Vehicle Interface was developed and tested with the leading technology standards bodies and needs to be incorporated into vehicle architecture. But at this time, the OEs have shown no interest in talking about any alternative to their control of the data and access to it, except to offer that the aftermarket and other parties can request or purchase access to the information they control. It’s a classic “fox guarding the chicken coop.”
The combined weight and leverage of all stakeholders in the industry is going to be needed to win a regulatory or legislative victory. The partnership announced between AASA and the Auto Care Association is an important step. But there are actions everyone who depends on the aftermarket for a livelihood can take to influence the outcome:
- Go to www.yourcaryourdatayourchoice.org and sign the petition
- Go to the Auto Care Legislative page and send a message to your elected officials – https://www.autocare.org/government-affairs/
- Help fund the work of the associations in Washington by making a contribution to the Auto Care Political Action Committee – ACPAC – by visiting https://autocareadvocacy.org
- Hang posters and countertop information to educate your employees and customers about the issue
- Host an in-district meeting with your Congressman at your business to educate them about the potential threats to consumer choice, privacy rights and you’re the jobs of your employees
Limiting consumer choice in who can access the data from their vehicle is a serious threat to the aftermarket and undercuts the privacy rights of every driver in America. This fight requires the same level of determination and funding as the Consumers’ Right to Repair did in the last decade – maybe more – maybe much more. Go to the website and get involved. It’s your choice whether to get involved and be part of the solution to ensure the viability of our industry.