otonomo, data and the future of driving

You’ve heard about how autonomous cars will soon be a reality. In order for that to happen, or even for cars to get smarter, they need to get really good at exchanging data.

Ben Volkow is making that a reality. Mr. Volkow is the co-founder and CEO of otonomo, a startup developing a data exchange platform and marketplace for the automotive market that will allow manufacturers, drivers and commercial service providers to adopt an ecosystem for car services and applications.

Ben Volkow

“There’s a massive amount of data that can be provided to many apps and services such as insurance, financial institutions, retail, parking, and advertisements,” Mr. Volkow began.

The use cases are numerous, Mr. Volkow added.

Imagine paying automobile insurance premiums based not on some general characteristics you share with millions of other people but on how much you drive, how well you drive and where you drive. That benefits you. The insurance company can reduce fraud by having a record of where the vehicle travelled to in case a claim reveals a discrepancy.

Manufacturers and agencies like AAA can offer preventative services such as estimating the amount of battery life left on your vehicle. Each car has a unique identification number, and if it is being serviced for an oil change, or even if it runs out of gas, the maintenance person can be told the battery or another part is close to being done.

Should the vehicle be in an accident, the system can let emergency services personnel know the exact location, how many people are in the car and if they are wearing seatbelts.

“This is real information which can save lives,” Mr. Volkow said.

Financial institutions can offer better loans, armed with performance data for thousands of the same vehicle.

Businesses can partner to offer drivers incentives to choose one option over another, Mr. Volkow said. Knowing from credit card data that the driver most often fuels up at Brand X gas station, they can send a notification that the car needs a fill within the next 200 miles, and even tell them where the nearest station is. Throw in a free corn dog or soda to sweeten the deal and you have added revenue. Drivers of electric cars can find with stations are the fastest charging ones out of nearby available options.

Data can help maintenance garages make money while saving vehicle owners money, Mr. Volkow explained. Knowing there is a high probability (higher now that the driver’s habits are known) that this type of vehicle needs brakes or tires after so many miles, the service provider can offer a discount to get the vehicle in while parts are in stock, and before a breakdown happens that can produce further damage and a higher bill. He even envisions monitoring road quality and suggesting the safest routes.

“We can know where every manhole cover is,” Mr. Volkow said.

There are numerous other use cases, so many, Mr. Volkow hears of new ones all the time.

“When we started we didn’t know or understand the potential of the data, but now so many industries are interested in this data.”

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