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Not only from A to B, cars are data collection machines

Cars are now collecting large quantities of data and car manufacturers are finding ways to exploit the collected information.

Tesla car, London. Image: Tim Sandle.
Tesla car, London. Image: Tim Sandle.

According to McKinsey, cars generate approximately 25 gigabytes of data per hour. As automobile technology advances, from electric cars to autonomous vehicles, the data that cars generate presents a multibillion dollar opportunity.

Data is captured by many sources connected with the car, including Global Positioning Systems (GPS), sensors, cameras, and engine control units (ECUs).  The ECU, for example, is an embedded system in automotive electronics that controls one or more of the electrical systems or subsystems in a car.

This is also a theme pinpointed by Nick Jordan, CEO of data commerce platform Narrative. Jordan tells Digital Journal that automakers are “evolving their business to think of it as a data collection mechanism.”

However, he also adds that the true value, though, is in understanding how to utilize this data. According to Jordan, the car has turned into a modern computer, one that many use as often as regular computers.

In terms of the key points of interest, Jordan divided these into three key areas. With these automakers can apply such insights for new opportunities.


Jordan points out that: “Automakers are currently using data for everything from the direct monetization of the data, to providing better in-car experiences and even working with outside organizations such as insurance companies to build a vibrant ecosystem.”

Data equals value

The monetary value is something that alters over time, says Jordan: “As cars develop more sensors and can collect more data, the value goes up from $100 over the lifetime of a car, to $700, this amounts to billions once multiplied by tens of millions of cars.”

Tesla leads the way

In terms of the current market leader, there is just one name that springs to mind, finds Jordan: “One company who has effectively utilized data is Tesla – their new driving modes Full Self Driving or Ludicrous are based off of the driving patterns of those specific drivers.”

With Tesla cars, the ‘Ludicrous Speed Upgrade’ is a selection that lowers the 0-60mph time to 2.8 seconds, delivering a quarter mile time of 10.9 seconds.

Despite the above three factors, Jordan warns the automobile sector that some consumers may be wary when hearing about their car data being collected.

For this reason, it is important that companies are transparent about how the collected data is being used and by whom and why. It is also important for firms to deploy the analysed data wisely so that it ultimately adds value to the customer.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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