Car Data Not Just for Pro Racers

By: Clay Millican
Date: October 29, 2019
Source: Automotive News

Drag racing is a high-intensity sport. The races are loud, competitive and — above all— fast.

Beyond what's on the surface, there's actually a lot of science behind what we do.

Though the runs down the track are quick, the hours spent before and after every run poring over data produced by our race cars during those few seconds is crucial to every aspect of racing. We look at the race car's vital signs, such as exhaust gas temperatures, fuel pressure, how fast the front wheel is turning, G-force levels and ignition timing.

The cars most Americans lease or own produce vast amounts of data, too. Most newer model cars on the road today collect data that helps mechanics repair and maintain them.

But even though it's your car, you don't own the data it collects. Only carmakers have direct access to this data and can control who sees it and how it's used.

Now, I eat, sleep and breathe cars, but, like many American consumers, I had no idea I didn't own the data my car collects. And the implications for this issue are substantial. Besides potential privacy concerns, it could cost you money. By restricting access to car data, carmakers are making it more difficult for you to visit your trusted auto repair shop and could force you to get repair and maintenance services at a dealership, which are usually more expensive and more inconvenient. If you're like me, the relationship between you and your car mechanic is essential. I've been visiting the same mechanic since I was 16 because I know he's going to give me a fair price and great service. If I can't control who has direct access to my car data, including the data he needs to repair my Dodge, he might not be able to do his job.

Just like my mechanic, my crew chief, Mike Kloeber, and I need access to the data my race car collects to do our jobs well. You might be able to run a race car without it, but you certainly aren't going to break any world records or win championships. It's no secret that I'm no scientist, but luckily Mike is a pro at analyzing racing data and giving me pointers on ways to improve my performance. The decisions we make by analyzing this data could very well make the difference between being a champion or a runner-up.

And like the relationship between my mechanic and me, Mike and I have a relationship based on trust. It's that trust that helped us win six straight world championships together.

But just because you're not a professional driver doesn't mean you shouldn't have the right to access your car data. It's time to make Washington realize what's going on and understand how consumers will lose the most if carmakers maintain exclusive access and control of car data. That's why I visited Washington in September to discuss this issue with lawmakers and fight for a driver's right to access and control their car data. We need to fix this problem before it gets any worse.

It's your car — you should own every part of it, including the data.

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