Part 2: Pervasive Monitoring of Vehicles

In this part, I want to discuss some of the benefits the manufactureres will reap from the monitoring of vehicles. A third (or fourth or fifth) part in his series will include some of the crazy things that could (read: will likely) happen when vehicle monitoring becomes pervasive.

Part 2: Pervasive Monitoring of Vehicles

Part 2 - Manufacturer Benefits

Manufacturers stand to benefit a lot from the monitoring of their vehicles

Welcome to Part Two in this series of articles about the pervasive monitoring of vehicles. If you haven't already read the first part, go check that out. It covers the benefits customers receive from vehicle monitoring. In this part I want to discuss some of the benefits the manufacturers will reap from monitoring the vehicles after the sale. A third (or fourth or fifth) part in his series will include some of the crazy things that could (read: will likely) happen when vehicle monitoring becomes pervasive. It may be uncomfortable for a lot of individuals.

Which manufacturers have vehicles that can send streaming telemetry data back to the mothership? We do not really know, for sure. There could be some data lurking out there on late-model ICE vehicles, but I would be surprised if there was much data to be had. The real data will come from EVs. Many EV manufacturers provide their  "vehicle privacy policies" online. These tend to include, to varying degrees, the data that is collected from the vehicles. I think that Rivian has a fairly well-written privacy policy for owners. It is the first one I read, so I may be biased. I still have a few more to read in-depth and really track how similar each one is. You can find the Rivian policy at At the end of this post are links to many manufacturers privacy policies.

It goes without saying that manufactures with the capability to retrieve data from vehicles include: Tesla, Rivian, VW, Hyundai, Lucid, Kia, Neo, Xpeng and BYD. Others that should be expected to include this feature are: Porsche, Audi, Ford, GM and others. In the near future, there will likely be no exceptions.

Let's jump into some of the reasons (there must be WAY more than I can think of here) why monitoring of the vehicles could benefit the manufacturers.

Manufacturer Benefit #1: OTA (over-the-air) updates

OTA is a huge win for manufacturers. The ability to build a vehicle that is not immutable is an incredible achievement for the customer and the manufacturer. This benefit was also listed on my previous post about customer benefits. Manufacturers can get a new vehicle off the production line faster and with more features, than if they could only have discrete components per vehicle that will never be updated once sold.

Take Rivian as an example. They are racing to get their R1T and R1S models manufactured and sold to customers as quickly as possible. Rivian have delivered over 1000 vehicles to customers to date, but all the features of the UI were not complete before they had to ship the trucks. One example is tire pressure monitoring. The UI could alert you to low pressure, but it could not report on which tires were low or what the actual pressures are. That update was recently delivered in an OTA (over-the-air) update to vehicles and was reported in multiple forums. To be fair, when the truck has a built-in air-compressor you can deal with the tires, as needed.

Tesla has been providing OTA updates to their vehicles for years, but just recently they were able to address a recall for over 800,000 vehicles through an OTA update. Imagine how much money a company can save on a recall if the entire issue can be addressed with a software update. Now, this also means that there was a flaw in the same software that caused the recall in the first place.

When you don't have dealership networks to provide skilled people for vehicle service, like traditional manufacturers have, you must rely on software to provide fixes to as many issues as possible. It will be interesting to watch how this plays out as more and more manufacturers compete for market share in this new world of autos.

Manufacturer Benefit #2: Feature focus

Finally, manufacturers can know or learn how the consumer makes use of the vehicle after the sale. Not through a customer survey that may only reach a small percentage of owners, but from the entire fleet of vehicles.

  • How often do they touch the screen to change the volume?
  • How frequently do they adjust the mirrors?
  • How often is the trunk / frunk opened?
  • Do they adjust the passenger lumbar support?

That last one, adjusting passenger lumbar support, was recently discovered as a feature that Tesla removed from their vehicles due to lack of use. This was picked up at numerous online sites.

Just imagine the treasure trove of information that manufacturers can study and learn from, not only make more useful vehicles, but to also save money on features that owners just don't use. Imagine if the UI/UX development team could actively study how customers interact with the infotainment system. They could report on all the buttons and nested switches that either get used or do not get used, to make a better UI and overall experience for the customers.

Manufacturer Benefit #3: Future Vehicles Tailored to Drivers

Like never before, manufacturers and designers of automobiles can pull data from the customer cars and track exactly how they are used. While today, we have a plethora of different types of vehicles that one can choose from, they are all very similar in what they offer. As more and more data is processed and analyzed for how a vehicle is used over the life of the vehicle, newer types of vehicles with more or fewer features may show up in the market.

Tesla has been quite generic in the vehicles they offer for sale. The Tesla Model 3 comes in three models:

  1. rear-wheel drive (single motor)
  2. long range (dual motor)  
  3. performance (dual motor).

As Tesla expands the factories with additional capacity they will be able to make future models that are more unique, based on drivers profiles.

Traditional manufacturers have had a similar process: create the basic auto, then up-sell features until the customer is exhausted. Those traditional manufacturers took the path of add-ons, better seat materials, nicer stereos, fancy headlights and really, they nickle-and-dimed customers to death. I think that future vehicles will be more similar in capabilities, yet with certain configurations that appeal to wider audiances, like battery pack sizes and charging speeds.

For example with Rivian, I really like the R1S with the quad-motors, but I probably don't need the torque-vectoring that four motors bring with it. I would likely be quite happy with a dual-motor system. That may come at a reduced cost, both to myself and to Rivian in the future. I think the sky is the limit here, as far as what types of options and vehicle abilities, manufacturers will offer.

Manufacturer Benefit #4: Vehicle Performance Feedback

Many of these benefits are things that may not bare fruit for several years. As the dataset becomes larger with more vehicles, more opportunities will present themselves for how to best make use of this data.

Some questions that may be answered are:

  • How many days does the vehicle go between use?
  • How often is it driven < 30MPH < 50MPH < 70MPH and for how far?
  • How many stop signs or stop lights does it pass on each trip?
  • When driven mainly on city streets, how does the battery perform?
  • How many miles in-between tire rotations or replacement?
  • What is the acceleration curve for each driver of the vehicle?
  • How does aggressive driving affect (or not) the components?
  • How does moderate driving affect the components?

This type of data feels somewhat like a green-field of analytics. The data can be received from every vehicle sold, regardless if it comes in for service or not. The manufacture can know precisely how many vehicles are in the field with less than 10,000 miles on them, or over 100,000 miles or how many are increasing their weekly usage by N percent.

I suspect we will start to see how this data will be used by manufactures to make better vehicles, how they handle trade-ins, what the resale value looks like over time and, again, what type of vehicle features customers really use and need. The world of vehicles and the services surrounding them will be quite different from what it is today, in as few as 5-10 years.

These are just a few general categories of how manufacturers will benefit from the vast amounts of automobile-telemetry data they will receive, as more and more vehicles are delivered with advanced systems. Not having worked in the automotive industry, I can't speculate on additional ways the data could be utilized (monetized). I am certain there are people vastly more intelligent than I am, that are working on these types of projects around the world today.

Next up in this series I want to do some wild (and maybe not so wild!) speculation on how this data and others like it, may be utilized to monitor our vehicles and ourselves, in ways we have never before imagined. I hope to get into many more details of data collection and analysis. This may result in several additional posts on this topic, depending on the complexity of each post.

Until next time, here are some links to the Privacy Policies for various auto manufacturers for late-night reading. I encourage everyone to thouroughly read at least one of them to better understand what types of data are being collected from us and our vehicles.

Comments or suggestions? Send them to me at mike [at] hollyman [dot] com.

Manufacturer Privacy Policies