The Growing Dominance of Data Stirs Debate in the Auto Industry

Innovation can be very exciting, but it can also be challenging. The transitional periods that it takes us through often come with some smoothing out to do along the way. This is the process that the auto industry finds itself in now. As a survey from Molex found, people in the field are both optimistic about and concerned with aspects of the technology that is currently transforming the way we approach the manufacturing and use of cars. While connectivity is expanding the way we experience driving, it is also opening the cybersecurity threat landscape and stirring a bit of controversy over the handling of data.

Survey Reveals the Developments Impacting the New Generation of Automobiles

After gathering the insights from 519 participants in engineering, manufacturing, strategy and other automotive company roles across the globe, Molex recently released the conclusions of its study on sentiment around the change happening within the field. Of these industry figures, 94% reported that they are intrigued by the opportunities that evolving tech has in store for vehicle creation and capabilities, with in-car connectivity, data storage systems and cloud computing leading that list. But as these developments are incorporated and turn our cars more and more into a “data center on wheels,” as Help Net Security describes, over half of respondents cite cybersecurity as a major obstacle among those that many believe will come with a greater reliance on software. As they look to implement these technical advances into automotives and address these concerns, many stated that they intend to build relationships with leading tech organizations like Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Cybersecurity Takes Center Stage at Auto Industry Events

That focus on cybersecurity is becoming increasingly apparent, making its way into industry events such as the AFSA Vehicle Finance Conference where Avani Desai, partner and chief executive officer at Schellman & Company, discussed the importance of its prioritization. Desai emphasized two points, that organizations make sure that they are putting defenses into place and that they are educating their teams on these practices. In what she called “security by design,” Desai explained that this entails, “Making sure before you have any type of implementation, or you go through any type of change or a digital transformation, you’re talking to your employees and telling them the security controls that you’re getting put into place,” according to Auto Finance News. She also outlined some suggestions for approaching cybersecurity, including properly disposing of tech that may no longer be needed but could still store sensitive information. One of the main topics that she hit in these suggestions was mindfulness around data. From backing up data to deleting old data to encrypting valuable data, she highlighted how these steps can help to prevent breaches.

EU Data Regulations Lead to Debate in the Auto Industry

However, it is the handling of data that is also causing a rift within sectors of the auto industry.  The Molex survey covered earlier found that 28% of those polled ranked data storage and analysis as another potential issue to arise alongside the influx of connectivity. Nearly all also agreed that properly responding to this will require a sense of cooperation among the variety of parties involved. Data is certainly proving to be a critical concern but dealing with it is not proving to be so harmonious. As Reuters reports, EU regulators are in the midst of putting together plans for laws that would oversee the details unfolding around digitally enhanced vehicles. This oversight, though, has carmakers and insurers, leasing companies and repair shops going head-to-head. While the manufacturers are hesitant to support such regulations, other entities argue that they are necessary to avoid carmakers from monopolizing the data collected from their systems. Richard Knubben, deputy director general of Leaseurope, told Reuters that without the EU taking this action, independent companies like repair shops will be in jeopardy. So, it basically breaks down to the question that Ioanna Lykiardopoulou at The Next Web wrote, “Should automakers hold all the power or should data be democratized amongst various stakeholders?” Based on both pieces, manufacturers like BMW and Stellantis have stated that they are willing to negotiate terms under the conditions that third parties pay for access to data and align with cybersecurity measures.

It has yet to be determined how the industry, legislators and others impacted by such decisions will come together but working through this will more than likely remain a significant part of navigating this transitional period for automotives.

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