Part 1: Pervasive Monitoring of Vehicles

There are many benefits to be found with vehicles that store data from a variety of sensors and even send some of that data back to the manufacturer of the vehicle for processing. Customers can benefit from this data to make their vehicles more reliable, more feature-rich and hopefully last longer.

Part 1: Pervasive Monitoring of Vehicles
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Part 1 - Customer Benefits

Vehicle owners stand to benefit a lot from the monitoring of their vehicles

It would be disingenuous to talk about monitoring vehicles if I were only to highlight some of the negative (or possible negative) outcomes. There are many benefits to be found with vehicles that store data from a variety of sensors and even send some of that data back to the manufacturer of the vehicle for processing.

Do manufacturers get data from their vehicles today? Yes, definitely. How many vehicles and how many manufactures? I'm not sure I have a complete answer to that question today. Some of this information is more difficult to detect due to vehicles that may only use 3G/4G/5G/LTE connections to report vehicle data. An Audi A4 has only a SIM card and the ability to use some early service called Audi Connect. We never used that service and to be honest, have no idea what information it would send back to Audi. Think of that as a telemetry 1.0 version with limited use-cases. When vehicles connect to home WiFi, the tech-savvy users can start to identify how much data is being sent back to the mothership.

Advanced vehicles and manufacturers are all taking care to add data telemetry and processing into their entire fleets of vehicles. Tesla is one of the first to send a tremendous amount of data back to Tesla from the Model S, X, 3 and Y. Rivian, a new EV manufacturer of the R1T and R1S vehicles has a partnership with Amazon AWS to handle their cloud computing:

You can bet your bottom dollar that all new BEV vehicles on, or coming to the market, will have significant amounts of telemetry data that will be sent back home for analysis. So what are some of the benefits to the customer of owning a vehicle that collects a lot of data?

Customer Benefit #1: Failure Prediction

This is a very cool benefit to customers - failure prediction. Streaming data from the vehicle can give the manufacturer enough information to know when a part or component may fail. This allows the manufacturer to schedule a repair of the soon-to-be-faulty part even before it fails. For new manufacturers with a much different business model (Tesla, Rivian, Lucid), this can make their service delivery a more efficient operation, rather than having a Dealership Service Center in every city.

Items that may be identified with telemetry data for possible failure could be:

  • Brakes and Brake Pads
  • Tire wear / alignment issues
  • Battery pack degredation (State of Charge decreases, abnormal drain, charge cycles)
  • Cameras
  • Heating / Cooling system
  • Touch screen / Computing
  • Air Filter replacement (think of your furnace filter reminders you get from your thermostat today)
Customer Benefit #2: OTA Software Updates

Gone are the days when the car you purchase off a lot (will there even be dealer lots?) remains as-is. Just like smartphones, cars will have software updates that will bring new features, bug fixes and UX improvements. Hopefully these will not highlight the need for a "new model!" to improve performance, but it will likely happen as the vehicles age.

Owners will gladly provide their feedback on Twitter / Reddit / Facebook / Forums of things they think could improve the vehicle. Remember the tweet to Elon Musk about dog mode? That feature showed up shortly thereafter and has been a lifesaver for many pets.

There are many customers that have very thoughtful ideas and suggestions of how a product could be improved upon. Manufacturers that create vehicles capable of updating software and actually push updates out to the cars will be loved by their owners. This keeps the end-user satisfaction high while also helping to keep the vehicle on the road for more miles / years, thus reducing waste.

Just some features that have been delivered to customers with OTA updates:

Software updates with new or improved features help keep the customer engaged with the vehicle and the manufacturer. This makes for sticky customers and those are the ones that help sell the brand.

Customer Benefit #3: Unlock New Features!

This is an interesting one and something that may be good or bad, depending on what ends up being delivered to the customer. The fact is, cars are no longer wheels and engines, they are revenue machines. Tesla may be able to upsell many customers on the Full Self Driving (FSD) feature with a montly fee. The difference between new EV and traditional cars is that all the vehicles delivered from Tesla, Rivian and others, have identical hardware installed in them (mostly). The Tesla FSD chip is already installed in your car. If you did not purchase the feature with the vehicle, you can add it on later with just a license update. No going to a dealership to get some special part installed - it's already there.

This is one reason why these new companies are showing such high market capitalization values. They can upsell customers with the vehicle they already own. Rivan has a sort of cheesy feature that has been dubbed "tank turn." This is where the truck can spin in a circle by rotating the wheels on one side clockwise, while the wheels on the other side turn counter-clockwise. This is similar to how a tank turns with tracks, hence the name. I can't think of a use for it, personally. It does destroy the ground it is performed on (and has to be soft/low-traction). This could be a paid-for feature license later on. More likely, they may have additional drive modes that are more specific for rock crawling, for performance (launch mode) or other modes that could gain revenue.

This is a bit of a green-field or blank slate. Who knows what features may be unlocked for money down the road? I only found out today that Airstream is making an EV camper trailer that has a battery pack and electric motors! The possibilities may be endless and creative people will be exploring new ones.

Customer Benefit #4: Warranty Status

This is a benefit that may be loved by some and hated by others. My prediction is that as more manufacturers have single-owner vehicles with longer warranty offers, the validation of a warranty claim may become less subjective.  I predict that warranty claims will become pro-rated, depending on the claim.

Example: if your electric motor(s) have a failure is it because:

  1. The motor was defective (as seen by thousands of other vehicles) OR
  2. Because you did full-on acceleration from stop 87 times in the last 120 days (higher than the average of 2 times per 120 days for all other customers)

This gets into the really grey area of statistics. If the manufacturer can prove (through the data) that the ONLY vehicles to experience motor failure are those that have been driven "hard" or in a certain manner, this may open up a whole new world for warranty claims and denials.

For the person that says "I rarely drive my car and when I do, I never drive it excessively hard," this can be proven. No longer is it my word against yours. Why do you think Hertz is buying a fleet of Tesla vehicles? No more customers driving a rental car like they stole it and causing millions of dollars in damages every year. This benefit will again, be hated or loved. If you are a person that just wants the manufacturer to fix anything that breaks no matter what you do, you might hate this because you are going to be paying a lot more money out of pocket for repairs. For the owner that drives conservatively, they will likely love this feature as it will save them money and they will favored by the manufacturer.

Customer Benefit #5: Good Driver Discounts

This is another possible feature that may be loved or hated, depending on the individual. The fact is auto manufacturers are getting into the auto-insurance business, not just selling the cars.

Tesla offers auto-insurance direct to consumers and they say exactly how this may benefit the driver:

Rivian is also offering insurance directly from the manufacturer. They offer this as a more comprehensive offering, complimenting their vehicles. Offroad insurance will be unique and help owners out if they have a breakdown while offroading. Rivian will also be offering discounts to drivers that make use of their Driver+ feature that includes emergency braking and lane management.

Personally, I really like this concept of good driver discounts. Can I save a quarter every time I come to a complete stop at a stop sign? Yes, please and thank you. But many people will be disappointed with this change. Gone will be the days of "I swear I did not do anything and the wheels just fell off." There is just too much data to prove or disprove any accusations.

This are just SOME of the benefits I have identified. Stay tuned later on for a special follow-up on some really crazy (are they?) ideas of how vehicle data, sensors and telemetry can be used for good and for bad. But before that, the next part in this series will be on the Benefits to the Manufacturer that vehicle data telemetry can bring.

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