LAS VEGAS — You are worth far more than you think.
Because every second of every day, you are recording data — valuable data. The route you drive, the places you shop, the music you listen to — that's the kind of information that corporations and manufacturers want. And your car is giving it to them, likely without your knowledge.
During the Automotive Aftermarket Parts Expo (AAPEX), held Nov. 5-7 at the Sands Expo Convention Center in Las Vegas, the Auto Care Association (ACA) and the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) sounded the alarm on what they deem to be unfair data collection practices by auto makers and original equipment manufacturers.
As of now, only auto makers, auto dealers and select business partners have access to the information your car generates, including the information that would provide insight into critical repairs.
"What we are talking about today is consumer choice — having an alternative repair option. And that alternate repair option has been available for decades," said Chris Blalock, director of product management for Dorman Products. "So what has changed? The role of software has changed.
"In addition to the wealth of benefits that software brings to the car owner, it allows for restrictions and limitations to be easily implemented. … Left unchecked and unregulated, you will not have the ability to repair the dozens of modules that are on your car unless you go to the OE dealer."
In September, the ACA and AASA joined forces to help protect the aftermarket industry and independent auto service repair shops from what the misuse of technology. The campaign, dubbed "Your Car. Your Data. Your Choice." aims to educate the public about the amount of data their cars collect and who has access to it.
That mission, on Nov. 6, took the form of a panel discussion titled "Cybersecurity and the Connected Car: Challenges and Opportunities." There auto aftermarket and auto repair professionals took the Let's Tech Stage to explore the issues of data collection and transparency.
Joining Mr. Blalock on the panel were Jim Dykstra, CEO of Dytech Auto Group; Daniel Massey, Ph.D. and director of technology, cybersecurity and policy program, University of Colorado Boulder; and Clay Millican, six-time IHRA Top Fuel champion.
The matter of not having the ability to choose who accesses your vehicle's data presents three problems, panelists said:
- It undermines the economic principal of competition and potentially could eliminate thousands technician jobs at auto repair shops around the country;
- It hampers the ability of the automotive aftermarket to innovate properly; and
- It fails to protect consumer privacy.
Eliminating the competition
Lack of access to the data can have a significant economic domino effect. Preventing independent auto shops and individuals from accessing information for car repairs limits traffic to those stores. Limited traffic could lead to loss of technician jobs, but it also means a significant drop-off in demand for automotive aftermarket parts, which, in turn, could lead to the elimination of manufacturing jobs.
"We need to make sure that we have access to the parts and data," Mr. Dykstra said. "I want my customers to have the choice of where their data is going to go to. We are not trying to say that we want a competitive advantage. We want a level playing field."
Mr. Millican noted that independent auto shops aren't the only ones left in the dark with the current data collection practices.
Individual car owners, often when they sign the contract to purchase the car, hand over their rights to access data on their own vehicle. That means, he said, anyone who prefers to do repair and maintenance work on their own vehicles will not be able to do so.