New is normal in the automotive industry Michael Tworek, VP of Automotive and New Mobility, ForgeRock, says, but too much development is going on in silos and ultimately will slow progress.

The idea that the automotive industry is in the middle of a huge period of change is no longer news – it’s the new normal. Every day we see new reports about tech giants’ forays into car building, and of traditional car manufacturers experimenting with self-driving capabilities or ride-sharing.

Too many industries and corporations are focused solely on ‘cooking their own meals’ – they are primarily focused on competing against each other instead of recognising they all need to be part of a greater, interoperable whole. Their behaviour is understandable as auto companies that have spent decades developing cars in exactly this way, but it will slow the progress of the industry as a whole.

An example of inefficient innovation

One prominent example of how a lack of collaboration can stifle innovation is the much debated, second generation onboard diagnostics (OBDII) dongle for usage-based insurance. This was developed by and for the insurance industry to collect data on car usage, but it is data that the car makers already had.

The devices connected to the service port of a car, which was never intended to be the basis for this kind of digital business-to-consumer (B2C) service. This made it inefficient, with the potential to interfere with the car’s own controller area network (CAN bus). With better collaboration and integration across industries, a better solution could have been devised, such as one that allowed an insurance company to ask a car maker for the relevant data on a specific car or driver for that specific purpose – with the driver’s consent of course.

Signs of progress

The good news is that the car industry has started to recognise the need for more cross-industry standards. MirrorLink was established a few years ago to bring the smartphone screen into the car and is seeing increasing uptake. A virtual car key has also now been standardised across car makers and smartphone manufacturers recently to allow the secure delegation and storage of car keys on end user’s smartphones.

As a next step, the industry is working on building relevant standards across brands and across industries to enable end-to-end services like inter-modal transportation and to monetise data from the car. There are currently several initiatives working towards this, from the ‘car data marketplace’ driven by the Car Connectivity Consortium to the distributed ledger-based Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative MOBI.

How to set new standards

Michael Tworek

This willingness to collaborate is encouraging, but it is just the beginning. How can we turn that willingness into effective bridges between competitors and adjacent industries, and what should these new standards look like? There are four key steps:

Firstly an ecosystem must jointly define the use cases it needs. This should be a long list, featuring everything from usage-based insurance and in-dash payments, to personalisation of a rental car based on the user’s digital personas or linking a vehicle to an urban mobility scheme. The key is to focus on the user experiences that the industry wants to provide, then work out what you have to build to make that possible.

Secondly, we need consensus which use cases should be addressed as a priority. We’ll need to do them all, but some are more urgent than others. I think the priorities should be in-car payments and a model of data sharing for insurance. Having standards for these use cases will create a foundation for a variety of other uses and business models, such as car sharing or recharging electric vehicles.

The third step is to define the relevant roles for each one: creating a common language for each role or device, from the car to the driver, passenger, vehicle owner or service ID. This sounds simple, but if these roles are not clear and consistent, the project will fail.

The fourth step is to use the agreed upon use cases and defined objects to build a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that can be used to authenticate, authorise and identify people, cars, devices and services. These are the sort of challenges that have been solved in other areas of digital identity and, by drawing on protocols like user managed access (UMA) for consent and privacy management, it should be possible to create a strong, user-friendly model that works across brands and industries.

The car industry has long recognised its business model is undergoing a fundamental change. Now it is waking up to the fact that it cannot undergo this change on its own. Building new technologies is not enough; there must be a change in mindset too. Embracing cross-industry collaboration won’t be easy but doing so will ultimately be to the benefit of everyone: car manufacturers, tech companies, service provides and – most importantly – the end user.

The author of this blog is Michael Tworek, VP of Automotive and New Mobility, ForgeRock

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