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It’s a Wired World After All

At a recent Automotive Aftermarket forum, the largest issue reported on was not how to implement future technologies; but rather on the relationship between the manufacturer, dealer network, and original equipment-over-aftermarket-products. In particular, products that enables a car to be “connected”.

“The connected car is going to happen,” stated Chris Slesak, Director of Telematics at Delphi Automotive. If you don’t know the term “telematics”, you will soon. Telematics is the technology of sending, receiving, and storing information. You have likely heard of Apple’s iCloud technology. This is something similar, but in your car. Yes, you will be able to access your online music, photos, internet, iTunes account, iCloud account, contact lists, and so on in your car just like on any Smartphone or tablet.

Sounds like it might come in handy but with all things there is also a dark side. The other items that could be shared wirelessly are your speed, location, brake activity, and any other systems that you are currently operating. Some car loan companies are already using tracking devices on vehicles that still owe money on the car note. Perhaps the biggest fear is that this new technology will be used to disable a vehicle that has had aftermarket performance upgrades, thus taking away customization options from the owner and forcing them to only use manufacturer or worse, government approved parts. So you put aftermarket pipes, air cleaner and an ECU on your motorcycle, when the fuel-to-air ratios are changed from factory settings the bike (when capable of telematics) would not start because the factory has locked it until OEM settings have been restored.

The MRF spoke with panelist Andrew Christensen, Nissan of North America's Senior Manager of Technology Planning, at a recent U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure hearing about driverless cars. Mr. Christensen, said, “It’s a long way off, but it’s certainly possible with systems that include sensors and computers; but the vehicle would have to be in virtual contact with the manufacturer at all times and that technology is nowhere near fleet level.”

Fighting the technology is a fool’s errand. But there is a fight we can win: ownership. We can make a case that the data is the property of the vehicle owner.

"This is a fight for access to the customer," said Fred Blumer, CEO of VehCon, emphasizing that the aftermarket should focus less on accessing OEM data than on empowering customers to take ownership of the vehicle data. "The argument you can win is that this is the customer's data," he added; this is why it's so important to pass legislation making data the personal property of the vehicle owner. H.R. 2414 has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to do just that. The “Black Box Privacy Protection Act” gives the customer the ability to turn the data sharing off as well as make the data the property of the car, truck, or motorcycle owner. From the standpoint of consumer privacy rights, most consumers are not aware that their vehicles are recording data. This data not only may be used to aid traffic safety analyses, but also has the potential of being used against them in a civil or criminal proceeding, or by their insurer to increase rates.

Please call your Member of Congress and ask them to cosponsor H.R. 2414, you can reach the US Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.