30th January 2017

An Appy solution for the BVRLA’s concerns over connected car data

The grass certainly doesn’t grow under the feet of car and van manufacturers or indeed technology firms, with advancements in smart vehicles, the internet of things, telematics and big data coming along thick and fast. We’ve already reached the point where so many things from buildings and other inanimate objects to bicycles and even toothbrushes are either connected to the internet or the cloud already, or have the potential to be.

Naturally it’s vehicles that are of primary interest to Trak Global Group when it comes to the IoT, as our products and services are primarily developed for the benefit of fleet and private motorists. In the automotive world, one organisation whose comments get people standing attentively on their hind legs like meerkats is the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, or BVRLA for short1.

With over 900 members caring for a fleet of more than 4.5 million vehicles, the BVRLA’s 50-year-old voice matters and they reckon that 2017 will see “a raft of innovative connected services introduced… primarily in the area of servicing, maintenance and repair… while… smartphone-based fleet management and driver apps will bring the cost, emissions and road safety benefits of telematics within the reach of every fleet operator. Indeed, our very own Appy Fleet solution is one of the fleet management apps the BVRLA is referring to, and it’s certainly true that connectivity is sweeping across the whole gamut of vehicles, from vans and luxury saloons to humble fleet superminis.

In their look ahead at 2017, the BVRLA also makes reference to the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that will kick in next year, leading them to forecast that the twelve months in front of us will include an “increased focus on how UK firms ensure compliance”, which they say “will become an absolute priority as vehicle and driver data usage rises exponentially.”

Just over six months ago, the BVRLA published what it considers to be best practice principles2 for the handling of personal and vehicle-specific data. The trade body’s main goals were aimed at ensuring that3:

• express written consent is given by drivers before any data is collected
• OEMs will store vehicle data in an anonymous format to protect drivers’ identities
• vehicle manufacturers won’t share or otherwise pass data on to other parties without prior permission
• data will be made available to vehicle owners and drivers on request
• vehicles can be disconnected and their data wiped if requested by their owners
• OEMs won’t encourage drivers or fleet managers to use particular service providers, customers hence remaining free to have their vehicles serviced by independent garages if they wish
• chargeable or otherwise monetised services made possible by data creation will be launched transparently.

Not long thereafter, the BVRLA released a Fleet Technology Survey4 and learned that 63% of respondents strongly feel that additional standards and regulation are needed to control the access to and use of driver and vehicle data. Out of the 85+ fleet managers polled, a quarter identified concerns over data as one of the most significant hurdles in the adoption of the latest fleet technology. Realising the wide-ranging benefits that entirely mobile smartphone app-based fleet telematics solutions like Appy Fleet can deliver, 29% of the fleet managers said they expect them to become more popular in the near future, elbowing out previous ‘black box’ hardware technology.

Although the percentage of surveyed fleet managers who feel that cost is a barrier to telematics adoption has fallen from 34% in 2015 to 20% a year later, it’s still worth noting that the majority of app-based telematics systems charge a fee, whereas our own Appy Fleet product is entirely free.

Just before the festive break, the BVRLA came out expressing “significant concerns” over how vehicle manufacturers intend to control connected vehicle and driver data, on the back of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) outlining its own official position on connected car data access and usage, particularly in relation to third parties. In a nutshell, the BVRLA is concerned that fleet managers, vehicle owners and drivers may not really be as free as they’d like when it comes to being able to choose an independent servicing and maintenance provider as opposed to a franchised facility.

The BVRLA welcomed the ACEA’s recommendation that vehicle data should be stored in a format that is not only safe and secure but that is also standardised and allows for fair competition5, which are ingredients Trak Global Group also agrees with. OEMs controlling access to collected data still poses a concern for the trade body, though, despite the ACEA suggesting the adoption of a neutral cloud server ready for multi-brand access.

Trak Global Group has always considered data security of utmost importance when developing new hardware, software and online solutions for fleet and private motorists, so it was music to our ears to read the comments from the ACEA’s Secretary General, Erik Jonnaert, who said last week6: “It is important to remember that a vehicle is not a smartphone on wheels. It is a means of transport, the primary function of which is to bring people and goods from one place to another.” We also agree with his further comments: “It requires much higher standards in safety, security and privacy compared with smartphones or other consumer devices. It is the vehicle manufacturer’s responsibility that the vehicle operates in a safe and secure manner.”

The basic principles contained in the ACEA Position Paper7 ‘Access to vehicle data for third-party services’ dated December 2016 are entirely logical, seeking to ensure vehicle users’ freedom to use independent service providers, that fair competition won’t be stifled, data will be kept private and secure, liability will be assigned to the most appropriate parties and that the neutral cloud database will allow interoperability.

Appy Fleet, Trak Global Group’s completely freemium app-based telematics system, can easily be placed into private mode, making it ideal for grey fleet drivers or those who are permitted to use their company cars or vans for personal use. Whilst it provides managers of fleets of all sizes with plenty of information to help keep their vehicles running more smoothly, efficiently and safely, Appy Fleet sticks to the data that matters, which is transmitted and stored securely without the need for hard-wiring, keeping personal data to a minimum. Users’ data isn’t shared with third parties, which is another facet that helps alleviate the BVRLA’s concerns.

Why not test-drive Appy Fleet yourself, however many or few vehicles and drivers you care for?

Sources:

1. http://www.bvrla.co.uk/news/press-release/fighting-fit-50-bvrla-previews-landmark-year-fleets

2. http://www.fleetnews.co.uk/fleet-leasing/news/latest-fleet-leasing/2016/06/20/bvrla-publishes-best-practice-principles-for-company-car-data

3. http://www.bvrla.co.uk/sites/default/files/documents/data_principles.pdf

4. http://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/fleet-industry-news/2016/07/06/fleets-call-for-industry-wide-standards-on-connected-car-data

5. http://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/fleet-industry-news/2016/12/04/bvrla-concerned-over-access-to-vehicle-data

6. http://www.eubusiness.com/Members/ACEA/data-economy

7. http://www.acea.be/uploads/publications/ACEA_Position_Paper_Access_to_vehicle_data_for_third-party_services.pdf