On Thursday 1 December, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) welcomed almost 200 guests to its ‘Smart cars: Driven by data’ conference in Brussels to zoom in on what is at the heart of smart mobility: data.
In his opening address, ACEA Secretary General Erik Jonnaert underlined that “the increasing ability of cars to exchange data with the outside world holds great potential to revolutionise the driving experience”. But to benefit from this, Jonnaert added, “a policy framework needs to be put in place to strengthen our connectivity infrastructure, protect vehicle data and facilitate third-party access to data.”
Then, Roberto Viola (Director General of DG CONNECT in the European Commission) took the stage for his keynote speech. Mr Viola highlighted that smart cars can contribute to “a better quality of life for everyone and the competitiveness of the European industry”. The Director General of DG CONNECT made clear that “we need 101% mobile coverage and 101% low latency” for the next generation of data-driven vehicles, “so it’s about huge investments”.
The second keynote speech was delivered by Dita Charanzová, a Member of the European Parliament. MEP Charanzová emphasised that “with the great power of data, great responsibilities come.” Providing the audience with further food for thought she asked: “Who is liable for an accident if no one is behind the wheel?”.
These speeches were followed by a panel discussion on the need to invest in digital infrastructure entitled "What infrastructure will we need to transmit the data?", which brought together representatives of the auto industry, telecom operators and the European Commission.
A second panel debate touched upon the issue of access to vehicle data for third-party services. Panellists representing consumers, automotive suppliers, tech companies, car manufacturers and the Commission discussed the question: "How can we protect data, and share it safely and securely?".
The closing speech was given by Matthew Baldwin, Deputy Director General of DG MOVE in the European Commission. Mr Baldwin made clear that the issues of data protection and access to data are “paramount” for the Commission.
At the end of the day, there was little doubt about whether data hold the potential to enhance the mobility experience. At the same time, however, participants also seemed to agree that all this doesn’t come without challenges and risks that need to be properly addressed.
Erik Jonnaert said: “This is precisely why we are holding this event today – to explore with all our partners the best way to use the data to increase comfort and convenience for customers, to improve products and services, and to contribute towards societal goals such as improving road safety and reducing fuel consumption.”