23 June 2020
Salsa Digital

The discussion paper

The National Transport CommissionExternal Link (NTC) released its discussion paper on government access to vehicle-generated dataExternal Link last month. The discussion paper is open for commentsExternal Link up until 3 July 2020.

What is vehicle-generated data?

Cars and other vehicles are capturing more and more information. This data includes things like location data, traffic incidents, road conditions, and statistics on driver behaviour like speed, braking, changing lanes, and so on.

The report defines vehicle-generated data as: “any data generated by a vehicle that produces information about the vehicle, the environment around the vehicle or the use of the vehicle.” At the moment this data is not used to its full potential. While vehicle manufacturers have access to their own cars’ data, there is no consolidated view of data across manufacturers, and areas that could benefit, like road safety, don’t have access to that data at all here in Australia.

Why is the government interested in vehicle-generated data?

While it’s still a relatively new and evolving area borne from cars becoming ‘smarter’, governments around the world have recognised the potential. For example in Europe, the EU and industry have drafted a memorandum of understanding around the exchange of vehicle-generated data in specific safety use cases.

Sharing data between industry and transport agencies

The NTC is proposing a similar strategy here in Australia, setting up a collaboration between transport agencies and industry to share data with the goal of improving road safety.

Automated emergency calling after an accident

The NTC is also proposing the introduction of a system similar to the EU’s eCall. This safety mechanism sends automated crash notifications to emergency services for action. The NTC paper cites estimates from the EU, that eCall can speed up emergency response time by 40 per cent in urban areas and 50 per cent in rural areas.

The system would need to be built into the car manufacturing process, and the government would need to make this safety feature mandatory. In the EU, eCall is mandatory for all new cars sold within the EU from April 2018.

Other uses of vehicle-generated data

In addition to potentially setting up a system similar to eCall here in Australia, the discussion paper also identifies other applications for vehicle-generated data. Road safety applications could be focused on crash alerts (so drivers are alerted when there is a crash ahead), environmental alerts (such as ice on the road), and driver behaviour (identifying behaviour that decreases safety, such as speeding).

Data could also be used to:

  • Improve transport networks through traffic analysis and real-time traffic management

  • Improve transport planning, using real data to model future traffic volume and travel times

  • Dynamically manage heavy vehicles

  • Improve road maintenance, with data about road issues fed back to the relevant transport agency

Salsa Digital’s take

The use of vehicle-generated data shows how governments can embrace digital transformation to deliver benefits for citizens. In this case, using vehicle-generated data could improve road safety and provide other positive benefits to road networks. While there are issues that need to be addressed (e.g. the amount of data (in terabytes) that is generated, privacy concerns, and working out a non-commercial data exchange model), vehicle-generated data also provides a huge opportunity. The timing is also in our favour, with Australia looking into this issue early, before ‘smart’ vehicles really take off here.

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