How does the government prevent monopolies

Let's prevent the data monopoly on the street

01/24/2018 Column

The data from connected cars does not belong to the vehicle manufacturers, but rather to the drivers. Nevertheless, there is a threat of a data monopoly on the part of automakers - because there are currently no clear legal rules. A data protection campaign by European insurers underscores that it is time for the Federal Government and the European Union to act.

© data4drivers: Let's prevent the data monopoly on the street

A good two years after the start of the accident reporting service, all new car models across Europe must be equipped with an automatic emergency call system, the eCall, from March. That's a good thing: Rescuers arrive at the scene of the accident earlier, the injured are helped more quickly, and more accident victims than today can be saved. But something else happens with the eCall. Because the system works via an Internet connection, the cars will in future be automatically networked and thus resemble rolling smartphones that can continuously send and receive data.

Freedom of choice for consumers instead of a data monopoly for car manufacturers

This new data has the potential to provide better and better services for cars and passengers: Faster breakdown assistance, the way to the cheapest petrol station or direct feedback on driving style are just a few of the obvious ideas. Insurers can and want to make new offers to their customers in their cars. There are no limits to imagination and entrepreneurship - at least not if we don't artificially create boundaries.

So that such limits do not arise in the first place, we have to clarify as quickly as possible the question of who is actually allowed to have access to the new data from networked cars. The attitude of the German motor vehicle insurers is clear: the data does not belong to the car manufacturers, but in the hands of the drivers. They must have maximum control over the data and should be free to decide whether, when and to whom they want to send which data or from whom they want to receive which service and when.

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The GDV, but also the ADAC, the motor vehicle trade and the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations have been campaigning for clearly regulated data sovereignty for motorists for years and at all levels. Most recently, the European umbrella organization Insurance Europe started the data protection campaign # data4drivers, which every motorist can use should support. Get involved, because so that drivers can actually exercise their data sovereignty, the European Union must act now and prevent a data monopoly on the road. The competitive advantage of the car manufacturers is already immense, a lack of political action makes their market position even stronger every day.

With sole access to the data, car manufacturers can foreclose the emerging market, exclude other providers and reap high monopoly profits - to the detriment of motorists, who get a more limited offer at a higher price. Applied to the smartphones, it would be as if the owner could only use the apps of the company that built the smartphone on them. An absurd idea in view of the more than three million apps that users of the Android operating system can choose from. Only these useful apps and the creativity of their developers make smartphones really smart - and would turn a networked car into a real “smart car”.

We need a manufacturer-independent platform for connected cars

As with smartphones, we also have to allow competition for the best idea, the best service, with connected cars. The ideal technical solution for this is a manufacturer-independent platform in the networked cars, which standardizes the exchange of data, makes it secure and is accessible to all providers. The German motor vehicle insurers are committed to this and have received professional support: A study commissioned by the EU Commission comes to the conclusion that the required "on-board application platform" is actually the best solution - because it does Gives motorists sovereignty over their data, ensures competition and prevents car manufacturers from dominating the market.

The legislature should therefore quickly create the right framework conditions for such a platform - because to stand idly by when new monopolies emerge would be anything but smart.


Jörg von Fürstenwerth

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