For the past decade, electric cars have been the next big thing in the auto world. Now, self-driving cars are starting to steal that thunder.
But with electric vehicles making up on about 1% of global auto sales, and fully autonomous vehicles still in the deeply experimental phase, we might be overlooking the largest new business to emerge as cars are increasingly enmeshed with Big Data.
"The overall revenue pool from car data monetization at a global scale might add up to $450 billion-750 billion by 2030," concluded a group of McKinsey & Co. researchers, in a new report titled "Monetizing car data: New service business opportunities to create new customer benefits."
"Not every car manufacturer is at the same level," said McKinsey's Michele Bertoncello, one of the authors of the report. "But it's a huge industry topic as of now.
"Industry players are highly interested in this," he added. "More than the public is."
He's right. Ford CEO Mark Fields has taken to describing the automaker as both a car and information/date company, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk often touts the "fleet learning" aspects of his car maker's Autopilot-enabled vehicles as they rack up more and more semi-self-driving miles.
The public probably should ramp up its interest because as technology firms and major automakers alike seek to capitalize on this trend, issues will arise around who owns the data captured by vehicles and the networks that they feed into.
In the recent past, cars generated basically no data. And what information they did capture was stored in onboard repositories that we only accessed when something went wrong with, for example, the engine.
But with many vehicles now connected to the internet at almost all times, a trickle of rarely used data has now become a flood. And much of that new information being generated might be described as belonging to to vehicle owners.
"The car data monetization opportunity begins with an environment in which customers believe that there is something of value in it for them and that the cost is worth the benefit," McKinsey's analysts wrote, summarizing the results of a survey of owners they conducted.
"The survey revealed that, in general, customers are interested in data-enabled features that make mobility safer or more convenient and save them time or money."
According to Bertoncello, "Safety and time-related use cases were the ones that encountered the highest interest among the surveyed people."
He offered the example of "networked parking" — a sort of tech-enabled, crowdsourced parking-spot finder — as being appealing. Survey respondents, he said, would be "more than willing to pay for it" and would be "perfectly OK with giving away their location.
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