Concepts of optimally managed mobility and appropriate services require an overview of as much data as possible from various sources. Experts agree. Much information is recorded in today’s traffic, for example by the assistance systems of modern cars. If this data is combined with that from other sources, more accurate traffic predictions can be made, resulting in better design of mobility services. Data protection advocates are skeptical of these notions of blanket collaboration. So-called data rooms can help.
The district of Zollernalb in the Baden-Württemberg administrative district of Tübingen is a good example of how beneficial and successful data collaboration can look like. There, winter is synonymous with high season for road maintenance departments. In order to make roads safer in winter and to further improve the use of road salt, they are now using the latest digital solutions – in collaboration with car manufacturer Mercedes. Sweeping and excavating vehicles can be directed to the right road sections at the right time.
For this purpose, officials use “Car-to-X” communication for vehicles as mini mobile weather stations, so to speak. “Car-to-X” describes the connection between vehicles and the traffic infrastructure, and not just at Mercedes-Benz. Cars with this technology whose owners have activated the so-called “live traffic service” via the Mercedes app and have actively agreed to share anonymous data that provides the necessary information. These come, among other things, from the vehicle’s ESP or ABS sensors: if they detect slippery road conditions, they send that, together with location data, to the Mercedes-Benz cloud in real time via the mobile phone built into the vehicle. From there, the anonymized and validated information is provided to the Road Maintenance Department.
The Mercedes-Benz vehicle data should enable the secure integration of external data, such as weather maps from the German Weather Service, via the so-called “Mobility Data Space” and provide the road maintenance department with a comprehensive picture of road conditions. For them, this collaboration means that they can draw the correct conclusions for vehicle use from data on icing events, air and ground temperature, and current weather information, for example in wet, freezing conditions. In this way, dangerous areas can be approached and eliminated as quickly as possible.
This example shows how a different set of data can enable new applications for more traffic safety, but also smarter traffic, better traffic control or more sustainable traffic concepts. To do this, the various parties involved in the traffic situation must communicate with each other more intensively – and also by way of a more open exchange of data. So it’s not just about collecting and analyzing large amounts of data, it also needs to be shared and made more accessible. However, such requests often fall on deaf ears among the players involved, whether they are from industry, municipalities or federal states.
But “data and its responsible use are becoming increasingly important in the global economy,” says Bitkom’s managing director of German digital association, Dr. Bernard Roleder, Constant. He is therefore of the opinion that Germany, as a nation that is poor in natural resources, cannot afford to keep data in “silos” and abandon its responsible use.
It is not only about mobility data but also about predictive maintenance in industrial companies and smart agriculture in agriculture through needs-based control of energy storage for a sustainable energy source. According to Rohleder, Germany can become more competitive by taking a consistent step into the data economy, reducing crisis risks, conserving resources, and at the same time improving the quality of life.
So “data sharing” was announced. But what about the willingness to share data between those who generate a significant portion of that information, among consumers? In the “Big Data in Mobility” study conducted by the Goslar Institute, the study company for consumer-friendly insurance, consumers’ willingness to “share data,” among other things, was analysed. As the study revealed, vehicle users are quite selective in this regard: they do not want data to be passed on to “everyone”, but ideally only according to the immediate and reasonable usefulness. Self-interest trumps the common good when it comes to making statements.
This means that consumers are more willing to share data the greater the value to the individual. Consumers insist on participating and ask about the use of their data. Politicians must create the appropriate framework conditions for this. However, vehicle users also consider that product manufacturers and suppliers have an obligation to handle consumer data responsibly.
To put it concretely: for Big Data to be truly useful, data must be shared. The study shows that some questions need to be answered before participating. Who owns the data my car collects? Am I or the automaker bugging them? If the data belongs to the driver, can the manufacturer store it without my permission and use it for its own purposes, as Tesla does with its many camera recordings without being asked? Who ensures that the data collected is only used for the things it is intended for? Who controls access?
In Germany, most manufacturers guarantee that the data that the vehicle identifies will only be used anonymously. Trust is needed. With data reaching the pool via the infrastructure, X of Car2X, we have to rely on the privacy protections of mostly state institutions. Then there is the secure handling of this data, for example protection against hackers who could block entire inner cities or mislead traffic.
The study by the Goslar Institute shows that counterarguments fade away when the benefits to the individual become tangible. This is also proven by an example from the insurance industry: drivers who pretend to drive carefully and allow themselves to be monitored through their own car data accept this because insurance rates are dropping significantly. This does not only work in Germany. In this area of life, too, the motto is: If I give, I give too.
So, if a large set of data is to be presented, we need to make sure that the set is not only meaningful to the community, but also worthwhile to the individual. We need a system that can withstand cyberattacks. (AWM)