Data, a new fuel for car manufacturers


Urged by the authorities to convert to electromobility and suffering from the slowdown in sales of thermal vehicles, car manufacturers are desperately looking for new growth drivers. The juicy data market therefore appears to them as a new El Dorado … which is not without risks.

It was in December 2017, the French car manufacturer Renault announced with fanfare the acquisition of 40% of the capital of the economic review Challenges. January 2020, press magnate Claude Perdriel splits a terse statement announcing the takeover of Renault shares, confirming the end of a partnership that only lasted two short years.
The setbacks of Carlos Ghosn, the former president of the manufacturer, will not have played little in this withdrawal on the sly, can we reasonably speculate. However, it is also a confession that traditional players in the automotive sector are still seeking to enter the digital world of 3.0 cars. Drafted as connected, autonomous and electric, these automobiles of the near future stir up the anxiety and harshness of the names that count in the industrial sector, but they grope for the philosopher’s stone, because of a new space where traditional skills and modern intertwine.

Transmute the data into oil

It is often stated that data is the oil of the 21st century, and to quote – with a certain aptness – the big names of the digital revolution that are GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple) and NATU (Netflix, AirBnB, Twitter and Uber). After all, Google is capitalized at $ 429 billion while General Motors is only $ 47.74 billion, which speaks volumes about the financial strength of digital companies capable of ridiculing the former barons of the industry.

Hence the desire of the major automotive brands to capitalize on a very promising process: the circulation of information by their products, from the aggregation of data to their dissemination, via their valuation. This was also Renault’s initial wish with the AEX (Augmented Editorial Experience) project, which assumed that passengers and drivers, made passive by the empowerment of vehicles, would be willing to consume data to occupy themselves.

With 3.0 automobiles, it is less a matter of knowing where to drill to bring out “information oil” than how to refine it to obtain the essential added value. In this area, the most diverse solutions are being tested: some jump into the unknown with both feet, while others prefer to circumscribe the potentials with measure.

The extended vehicle, between digital auxiliary and technological convergence

These different approaches are symptomatic of this qualitative and quantitative leap: with the third automobile revolution, the old glories intend to take advantage of the data windfall or more prosaically not to be dispossessed of their know-how by upstarts from the IT sector.
There are several ways. The first is the external approach, which chooses a trusted provider experienced in given digital solutions (such as AvtoVaz and the Russian search engine Yandex). The second solution is the internal approach, which creates a research and development department to keep control of data flows (this is the case of Opel and OpelConnect, which combines several functions such as emergency calling battery charge control). The third possibility is the mixed partnership with co-development (example of Renault and Otodo, linking your vehicle with the connected objects of your home).
Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages, in terms of economic cost as well as efficiency and safety.

Standards, laws and questions

The phenomenon that is now called extended vehicle (compared to wireless connectivity), symbolized by the abbreviation ExVe (Extended Vehicle) is now governed by three ISO standards: 20078, 20079 and 20080.

Other laws can also be invited in this desire to clarify the rules of the game. France recently transposed in December 2019 a European text with the Law on orientation of mobilities. It provides that “shall be made accessible and reusable under the conditions provided for in this chapter and in articles 3 to 8 of the aforementioned Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/1926 of May 31, 2017, static and dynamic data on travel and traffic and historical traffic data. ”

The task is complex, since local authorities, manufacturers and technical partners are data collectors and suppliers. However, it is specified that the CNIL (National Data Protection Commission) will be consulted for any order on this subject and that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guarantees the protection of personal data.
However, it is up to the manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and digital companies to respond clearly to cybersecurity challenges due to the explosion of connections induced by this extension and the networking of infrastructures, updated when due. Above all, they will have to organize the conditions for extracting, using, distributing and sharing data, in a transparent manner and with respect for the rights of the user.

The valuation is difficult, but the stakes are high and worth the expense in “brain juice”: as recalled by the CCFA (Committee of French Automobile Manufacturers), the number of data passing through contemporary vehicles is l ” order of 25 gigabytes / hour. Enough to whet the appetites of economic players always on the lookout for growth drivers. It remains to provide satisfactory answers on the points raised.


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