The image on the right is probably familiar to all of us. It’s the Google car. Astonishingly, it has logged more than 500,000 miles without an incident. Did I mention it has no driver? I know that most of you are familiar with this project. Some of you find it scary. Some even think it will be the end of our industry. I, on the other hand, am not buying into the frenzy. I look at the Google car as being really cool and just another sign of progress in the automotive industry. I’ve seen a lot of this progress in my time, and I’m confident it will continue.
The other image below the Google car on the surface would appear to be rather harmless – just a simple little device that plugs into the OBD II port and either records data or transmits it to a central location that records and accumulates it from other vehicles motoring around our roadways. Not very scary at all, right?
Wrong! This little device will be at the center of one of the largest controversies the automotive market has ever experienced. Here’s the really scary part: The debate over this device and many of our own futures will be decided in Washington with us having little or no control over it. That, to me, is very unsettling. Let me explain.
Telematics devices are currently showing up in vehicles and are being used by insurance companies to offer discounts to safe drivers. Seems pretty safe. But what about all the other data that could be accessed by a device like this? This data could be used for repair purposes and actually be a great tool to service customers and help us repair damaged vehicles. In the future, this data will have tremendous value, and many will want/need to get their hands on it.
That’s where the rub comes. It seems that many people today believe they own that data. Insurers say they own it, automakers believe they own it and the aftermarket believes that it should have access to it.
Actually, it’s recording information owned by drivers just like you and me. I say it belongs to the vehicle owner. Of course, everyone should have the ability to access that data, but only after the vehicle owner decides where he or she wants it to go.
“Right to Repair” is an important issue to the aftermarket. Many have fought a long and arduous battle to ensure that all can access the necessary information to repair vehicles – and the battle is not over yet. Consumer rights to telematics data will not be any easier. As members of the automotive repair industry, the collision repair segment needs to be sure we’re being heard on this issue.
Stand up and be heard on this issue. Our future depends on it.