Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares used his keynote address at CES 2023 to announce the establishment of Mobilisights, an independent business unit that the company says is “dedicated to growing the company’s Data as a Service (DaaS) business and to developing and licensing innovative B2B products, applications and services.”
That means collecting and selling data about your driving and travel habits to an unspecified variety of businesses.
“We are more than a traditional carmaker,” Tavares said. “We are becoming a mobility tech company with the size of a powerhouse and the soul of a startup.”
Under Tavares’ vision, Mobilisights products will become available to “a diverse set of entities, including private enterprises, public-sector utilities, education, and research institutions.” A set that broad could include literally any entity that wants to track you.
Stellantis’ press release on the new subsidiary describes the purpose as “fostering data-driven decision making and enabling a wide-ranging portfolio of applications and services.”
“With Mobilisights we are enabling a third-party ecosystem of application and service providers to create experiences that complement our products,” Tavares said at CES. “With data from our vehicles, we will among many other things personalize the EV ownership experience from predictive maintenance to route planning, locating charging points.”
The entity’s new CEO, Sanjiv Ghate, expounded further.
“The vision for Mobilisights is to contribute to a smarter world, leveraging the insights that vehicle data provide to inspire innovative applications and services that can transform and dramatically improve the day-to-day lives of users and businesses,” he said.
If that sounds like business-speak that’s long on vision and short on details, that’s because it is.
What does it mean?
“Harnessed effectively, sensor and other data available from connected vehicles can enable a wide range of services and applications with compelling benefits, ranging from personalized usage-based insurance to road hazard detection and traffic management,” Ghate said.
In other words, Stellantis will be able to sell your driving history to your insurance company, or other entities. Insurance companies have been working to get drivers to install trackers for several years, enabling them to charge drivers more based on driving habits and even where and when they drive.
The company plans to use the data from 34 million connected vehicles that they expect to sell by the end of the decade. Going forward, Mobilisights has exclusive access and rights to license vehicle and related data from all Stellantis brands to external customers. Those external customers may come from a variety of industries.
While a lot of this is big words with little explanation, the bottom line is that someone is using data its collecting from you — information you may not want them to have because it may not benefit you, some experts note.
Steve Black of Texas Tech University School of Law begins the abstract of a paper on data ownership with this warning, “Data protection regulations, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), all presume that the individual ‘owns’ her or his individual personally identifiable information (PII).
“However, the law of data ownership is far from settled. Is it the individual subject, or the data collector who actually ‘owns’ the data? Google, Amazon, facial recognition technologies such as FaceApp, Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs), loyalty programs, social media platforms, ex-significant others, and governments all want to know where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re doing it with. These entities collect petabytes of data, mostly without consent or compensation to the subjects.”
What will Stellantis do with your data?
Stellantis states its software strategy involves “installing next-generation tech platforms, building on existing connected-vehicle capabilities, to transform how customers interact with their vehicles.” This strategy is expected to generate approximately €20 billion in incremental annual revenues by 2030. Mobilisights will be a key contributor to those revenues.
The company does give a nod to privacy concerns.
However, customer consent may be difficult to withhold if insurance companies refuse to cover new vehicles without full access to their driving data. “The foundation of this whole business is trust,” said Ghate. “Trust in our custodianship of data and trust that we are here to create a better world.”
It remains to be seen if Stellantis customers will grant that trust.