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A lot can happen in three years, just ask Ben Volkow.

The CEO of Otonomo is at the helm of a company that has seen a 300 per cent rise in business, quarter upon quarter, and he expects the figures for the coming years to be just as impressive.

And the key to Otonomo’s success? Realising connected cars do more than just provide a safe drive. They are also a goldmine for data which can be harvested and sold on in what may become a multi-billion dollar market.

We caught up with him at Frost & Sullivan’s Intelligent Mobility Summit in London. 

Some analysts, claims Volkow, predict the data generated from connected cars will be worth $750 billion over the next 10 years.

Volkow explains: “We understood that quite a lot of cars are connected. They all come out of the factory and dealership with a small modem and a tiny SIM inside, and they send a lot of data.”

He adds: “We have a very small distribution system that takes the data and gives it to all the services that make the future – it could be insurance companies, or smart cities, or retail or advertising or media, it’s really many, many industries.”

“We’re a bit like Bloomberg, what Bloomberg does for the financial services, taking financial data from the stock market and shares it with hundreds of thousands of financial institutions, we do for automotive.’’

He tells Auto Futures that monetising data will become a prime revenue generator for the motoring industry and why transparency is paramount when it comes to mitigating the privacy challenges ahead.

Intelligent Mobility

Providing help, not hindrance

Trying to do ‘‘good’’ with car data is at the heart of Volkow’s mission for Otonomo and he has numerous examples of how the information can be used to create safer communities for people.

“We always say the driver’s first,’’ says Volkow.

Outlining his vision of how the data provided by Otonomo can be an aid rather than a hindrance, Volkow reveals car insurance companies can use the information to give safe drivers a 30% discount on their premiums.

Another example provided by Volkow involves a driver in need of a tow truck.

“By using Otonomo mechanism technology, we enable different services to identify the problem before you get stuck, then you get notification and you don’t need to sit two hours in the dark, in the rain, waiting for the tow truck,’’ he explains.

There has been a global growth in smart cities and this trend provides the perfect partnership for the data that Otonomo sells.

A smart city can use the data to improve safety, says Volkow: “They know the holes in the road, they know about places where there is a good chance to have an accident so they fix it. They make sure the traffic lights are aligned with your driving.”

“It could be a safety or emergency service in case of an accident, it gets a lot of data, like how many people are in the car, did they have the seat-belt, was the airbag open, were you driving at 20 miles or 100 miles, was the car hit from the front or the back? This saves lives, so the emergency service knows in advance, what to expect, how many people, what injuries. There are hundreds of different examples – we try to do good with car data.’’

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Privacy concerns and why transparency is the key

Volkow is the first to admit we now live in a world where our data is utilised by the ‘Facebooks of the world’ but is quick to point out: “In the automotive or motoring industry, you can’t work this way.”

“The providers of the data are the car manufacturers. For them, brand and reputation are the most important things. I look at the customer like myself. Do I want people to take my data in the dark and do sneaky things with it? Or do I want to show the data is transparent and know what is being done with it and what is being used and to be able to approve and disapprove?”

He adds: “Transparency is the way to do the long-lasting business and that’s the intention.’’

Earlier this year Otonomo announced a partnership with Daimler targeting Mercedes-Benz’s connected car customers.

Services provided include pay-as-you-drive insurance, on-demand fuelling, smart electric vehicle charging. 

Otonomo and Daimler enable customers to be in control of their data through a mobile app that reveals what data is being shared. There is also an option to revoke permission at any time.

Explaining why Daimler has been such a good fit for Otonomo, Volkow said: “Daimler is always a brand of quality. The way they treat the data. It is important for them that the data is being used in the right way, the transparency, the technology associated, so we are very, very proud.’’


Going from strength-to-strength 

Diversifying is paramount to his company’s growth and Volkow says the data from rental cars and commercials fleets will all play a part as the “more sources, the more locations [we have], our ability to do business and our value to our data consumers goes up.’’

Autonomous driving may well become the norm within 20 years and it will also be a rich source of income for Otonomo because of the data they send.

He tells us: “Today, what we see from cars, they send one, two gigabytes an hour. We are already connected to a couple of dozen autonomous vehicles, and then we see the data is rising to one to two terabyte.”

‘We say the more stuff on the shelves the better, the more interesting the shop. For us, autonomous vehicles put much more data so we have got much more stuff on the shelves.”

According to experts, by the end of the decade, 50 per cent of revenue generated by car manufacturers, will come from data and services.

It is a vision that Volkow shares: ‘‘I tend to agree, I don’t know if it’s 50 or 40 or 35, but it’s a huge opportunity and I see Otonomo as the distribution platform for making this future happen.’’

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