Survey shows that 96% of consumers want to own their vehicle data

Credit: @TeslaSH24/YouTube

Amidst a major auto industry shift to electric vehicles (EVs) and software-driven mobility, a new survey shows that almost all drivers want to have ownership over their own vehicle data—though consumer awareness on data privacy and ownership are still lacking.

As part of a survey of over 1,300 adults who lease or own vehicles that they drive at least once a week, car insurance app Jerry reported last month that 96 percent of respondents said they should be able to own any data generated by their vehicles. Similarly, 78 percent of those surveyed reported that they were either uncomfortable or extremely uncomfortable with having their data collected by automakers already.

You can see a few insights from the survey below, or check out the full report here.

Credit: Jerry

Credit: Jerry

Credit: Jerry

“People were nearly unanimous” in “thinking that they should own the data that is generated by their cars,” said Henry Hoenig, Jerry data journalist, in a statement to Automotive News.

The results come as many companies plan to use vehicle data as a consistent revenue stream, including manufacturers, insurance providers, and data brokers. On the consumer side, many may not be fully aware of how their vehicles are being connected to the internet, nor how their data is being used.

Data Collection in Modern Cars and Consumer Awareness

Teslarati spoke with Andy Chatham, co-founder of the connected vehicle platform Digital Infrastructure for Moving Objects (DIMO), about vehicle data ownership and privacy. He notes that modern cars include substantial amounts of data collection, such as Tesla’s 360-degree camera view around the cars as just one example. However, he also says that consumers are less likely to be aware of their vehicles’ data collection practices than they are with their cell phones.

“Generally, your vehicle is the most expensive or the second most expensive asset that you own, and traditionally people are very aware that their phones and their computers are connected to the internet,” Chatham said. “But especially with modern cars, it’s not always obvious that the car is also connected to the internet.”

Chatham says that most automakers aren’t generally following best practices surrounding cybersecurity, noting that many let third-party sub-contractors make those decisions for them, alongside other companies in the supply chain.

“Generally, [automakers are] not following best practices when it comes to how the vehicles are networked and how cybersecurity practices are implemented,” Chatham adds.

“I see a pretty big transition from the world of buying a phone and understanding that this is a device that has a lot of data collection going on, and buying a car and maybe acknowledging that once at the beginning, but never really understanding what that actually means.”

Chatham also says companies should open up their APIs for other developers to create applications using that data, and let vehicle owners access their own vehicle data and toggle permissions directly from their cars—not unlike what Tesla is currently doing.

However, even Tesla’s approach to vehicle data may leave a few things to be desired, and the company is one of many automakers to have faced legal action over the matter. Still, the DIMO co-founder estimates that Tesla is roughly three to five years ahead of the industry, perhaps except for Rivian.

Chatham also notes that as applications for car data improve more and more, and perhaps even offer certain data monetization options for consumers, owners will become more aware of vehicle connectedness. Still, the transition to this new public paradigm could be tricky for both consumers and developers.

“In order for that to even exist in the first place, there’s a chicken and egg problem, because developers don’t want to go cut separate deals with 10 different OEMs and get them to like agree to certain terms and use different APIs. They just won’t,” Chatham adds. “They just want to build to one thing, which is what they’re used to with both. It’s honestly a big enough pain in the ass to get developers to build an iOS and Android app and deal with two separate terms of service.”

“In the car world, Toyota is the biggest automaker and they’re, what, like 15 percent of cars? So it’s not the same dynamic, and then choice is the biggest thing that allows people to protect their own privacy because a lot of consumers don’t care.”

Automakers and the Use of Vehicle Data

Earlier this year, General Motors (GM) reported ceasing a partnership with one data broker, after discovering that the company had been selling customer data to insurance companies without gaining their consent. Public backlash ensued, and affected consumers said they witnessed inexplicable increases for their monthly insurance premiums, which were ultimately traced back to the telemetry program that had shared their data.

Ford and Progressive Insurance were involved in a similar case that brought data ownership and privacy to light in 2022. Last year, Mozilla said that all 25 car companies it examined as part of a study on privacy collected more personal data than necessary, even calling them “privacy nightmares.”

Unlike some companies, Tesla doesn’t sell or rent consumer data to third-party companies, though it does collect driver information on a fleet scale for its own purposes, as the company explains on its website.

“We’re committed to protecting you anytime you get behind the wheel of a Tesla vehicle. That commitment extends to your data privacy,” Tesla writes on its web page dedicated to the topic of privacy. “Our privacy protections aim to go beyond industry standards, ensuring your personal data is never sold, tracked or shared without your permission or knowledge.”

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Survey shows that 96% of consumers want to own their vehicle data
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