Data is unlocking new possibilities in connected cars. Quite literally.
Amazon expanded its in-car delivery service this year to certain Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Packages can be delivered right into a customer's trunk, provided they're willing to give the online retail giant access to GPS data on their vehicle's whereabouts and permit it access.
In California and Florida, fuel-delivery companies are rising in popularity, eliminating the need for customers to stop at gas pumps. For now, consumers order service via an app, but soon, a fill-up will be automatically prompted when the data shows the fuel tank has dropped to a certain level.
Fleet owners in Europe are using vehicle data to thwart car theft. By monitoring changes in tire pressure, they can tell when cars or trucks that are supposed to be parked start moving.
These are merely the first glimpses of an era in which troves of new services and features can deliver discounts and enhanced experiences. They are made possible by the fact that more data is harvested from vehicles than ever before — and the quantity and variety of data continues to grow. But all that potential is predicated on a big bet that drivers are willing to share — or, effectively, sell — their driving and vehicular data.
"We liken connected cars to a cellphone on wheels," says Lisa Joy Rosner, chief marketing officer at Otonomo, an Israeli startup that has built a data-aggregation platform that anonymizes vehicle data from multiple automakers and bundles it for commercial use, so long as drivers give permission. "On our phones, we share our data because we get so much out of it. You get apps that make the phone more interesting."
Otonomo can track as many as 500 data points from vehicles, and the company is working with automakers including Daimler and with third parties such as insurance companies and municipalities that use customer data.
Applications include some that are generally known, such as usage-based insurance and predictive maintenance diagnostics. But more interesting uses are in what global technology consulting firm Gartner calls an "embryonic" stage. Some offer convenience and discounts, while others hold lifesaving potential.