The Value of the Data Your Car Collects

Some experts predict that your car will soon be worth more for the data it collects than for the transportation it provides.

One recent study expects this new “data” industry will be worth more than $700 billion a year by 2030.

Meet one of the men who is helping Delphi capitalize on this trend: Dave Ploucha, president and co-founder of Control-Tec, a company Delphi bought in 2015.

Had you met Ploucha 15 years ago, when he was a powertrain engineer at Chrysler, harvesting data was the furthest thing from his mind. He was more worried about OBD II ports and check engine lights than data. But, when the recession of 2008 hit, it forced him to rethink everything.

“Funny thing about being an engineer,” Ploucha said. “Nobody teaches you about databases, like ever. You start experimenting with more efficient ways to do things and these tools start to mature up. A handful of guys here at Control-Tec were part of the thought leadership in and around that back in the mid-2000s and things got tougher at the end of the decade and that really led to the formation of Control-Tec in 2009.”

Delphi bought Control-Tec in 2015.

Part of the confusion today around Big Data, is that people assume all of the data matters. It doesn’t. In fact, Ploucha is fond of calling the trend small data to make his point. Take autonomous cars, for example. They say a self-driving car generates 4 terabytes of data an hour. Control-Tec captures only a small bit of that, “only the needles, not the haystack,” Ploucha said, just enough to help car companies reduce the likelihood of a recall and improve the quality of a product launch.

“You don’t necessarily need to acquire all the data, move all the data, store all the data, go through all the data and then not look at any of it because it was all conforming. When you start talking about the size of an OEM’s fleet – you get to 2 million, 3 million, 4 million vehicles a year…then you are talking about over 10 years, you’re talking about 40-50 million vehicles. That one OEM has 4 terabytes an hour. We could do the math but I don’t know that I could do the math. That gets crazy…moving that much data is simply unaffordable, given the value.”

There isn’t a data pipe big enough for that much data and, if there were, it would cost $400 trillion (assuming $1 for very gigabit moved), enough to bankrupt any car company that tried it. That’s just to move it, let alone store it. Besides, it’s not necessary. The key is in knowing what data to collect, to find the deviations and anomalies.

“The most recent example we had was a $2 million a month impact on one system issue. Just one of thousands. We were able to pull $6 million of exposure out of the field just like that. When it works like that, it just pays for itself so quickly.”

Control-Tech is one of three companies that Delphi has recently bought or invested in. Movimento was purchased in January and provides instant updates to cars over-the-air, much like our smart phones. Delphi announced an investment in Otonomo, an Israeli start up, in April. If Control-Tec is expert in finding the data, then Otonomo’s acumen lies in finding a market for that data – for the owner of the car, the car company, for smart cities or businesses that want to sell tires, insurance, coffee, gas – you name it.  

“The industry is just ripe for information,” Ploucha said. “Period. Traffic Density…the higher you can get that, the more money you are making.”