Carmakers fear EU plans to ease data flows will help tech rivals

European car manufacturers are seeking full control over the data sent to them by ‘connected vehicles’ they put on the road, and fear a move by Brussels that would impose sharing that data with rivals.

Connected cars are still just a catchphrase. Even if it’s caught on in Brussels, manufacturers are only just getting started putting out cars with internet functions.

But they are already nervous that the European Commission’s plans to clamp down on how they use data from vehicles will put a damper on what they will earn off the new technology.

Günther Oettinger, the EU digital policy chief, is getting ready to announce new measures to control how firms use big data this autumn. Several sources with knowledge of the file said it’s penciled in for 30 November, but officials are still scrambling to decide what kind of rules they want.

Car manufacturers are angling to control data that’s sent to them from vehicles and are afraid a move to impose rules on how they use that data or sell it to partnering firms would be bad for business.

Oettinger’s colleague Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust boss, is already eyeing those data-sharing deals.

“Car companies might decide not to share information that would tell rivals too much about their technology,” she said yesterday (29 September) at a conference on big data and privacy in Brussels.

“It’s one thing to decide who you want to cooperate with. But that decision shouldn’t deny the others a chance to compete,” she added.

The European Commission is nudging car manufacturers to develop connected and driverless cars, although auto industry sources say vehicles that run entirely without the help of a driver will not be up for sale in Europe for several more years.

Vestager acknowledged that even if driverless cars might consume less fuel and cause fewer road accidents, they still seem “almost like science fiction” to consumers.

“I worry that sometimes people think it’s a world they want to see but they don’t want to live in because they lose control,” she said.

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