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June 2017

Data freedom

Simonluca Pini

Autopromotec recently became the stage for lively debates on telematics, vehicle control and data flow during the conference: "Vehicle information: access denied ?!". Industry associations focused on the importance of ensuring direct access to vehicle diagnostic data and the risks facing the entire industry.
Telematics will open new frontiers in the auto-repair world. Workshops will actually know in advance the needs of the motorist, thus the necessary spare parts can be ordered well in advance, prior even to putting the car on the lift. If, on the one hand, this will promote greater customer loyalty and an increase in programmed operations, on the other, worrying scenarios are looming on the horizon for the independent vehicle repair and maintenance world. With the aim of gaining access to the largest possible amount of data, automobile manufacturers have designed predictive maintenance services and systems that prove to be quite "limiting" for the independent market. This will not only make ordinary and extraordinary diagnosis and maintenance operations more difficult, but complicate matters even as far as obtaining the right spare parts and all other aftermarket services.
The conference "Vehicle Information: access denied?!", organized by Autopromotec and moderated by Giuseppe Polari, Director of the Giornale dell’Aftermarket (Aftermarket Journal), brought together the industry associations represented by the likes of Alessandro Angelone (National President of Confartigianato Autoriparatori) , Bruno Beccari (President of ADIRA, Independent Spare Parts Distributor Association), Elvis Colla (President of WG2-EGEA, European Garage Equipment Association) and Franco Mingozzi (Chairman of CNA Autoriparatori). Given the importance of the subject, Renzo Servadei (AICA Secretary
and CEO of Promotec) could hardly be missing, and reminded all in attendance how free access to data is crucial for the entire aftermarket industry.
Free or limited access
Figures are clear: thanks to direct access to vehicle data, more than 500,000 workshops in Europe and over 3.5 million workers are able to offer their services at competitive prices. Nowadays, the law (through the BER, the regulatory framework on approvals and Euro 5/6 Norms on OBD, diagnostics and RMI) provides for open access to repair and maintenance information to all independent workshops directly from the vehicle. As connectivity continues to gain ground, the legislature, through Regulation 2015/758/EU communicated its indications, that is to have an "interoperable, standardized, safe, open and free access platform for future applications or on-board services”. Manufacturers see things quite differently, though, and are pushing for an Extended-Vehicle-type solution, where data will be made available to independent garages through servers owned by the manufacturers themselves. A proposal that raises a number of critical issues for the Aftermarket such as: delays in data access times compared to authorized networks, uncertainties as far as access and management costs, limitations on the possibility of "cross-checking" manufacturers’ information, restriction of competition and innovation in the aftermarket sector and much more.  
Jobs under threat
In short, this would mean a long series of disadvantages for the Aftermarket industry which, as Elvis Colla pointed out, would make the market uncompetitive for independent operators with the potential loss of many jobs. The alternative to the manufacturers’ proposal, ensuring free and open data access to independent specialists and customers alike, is called Open Telematic Platform (OTP). Following requests by legal bodies, the OTP solution would provide real time direct and free access to vehicle data, placing authorized and independent workshops on the same level, and could be easily standardized.
This solution too, though, must not replace the current mode of direct access to data via the OBD port which has adequately supported the entire independent aftermarket supply-chain throughout the last 25 years.
OBD access therefore remains indispensable
A further fundamental aspect discussed at the conference, relates to the possibility that manufacturers may actually limit the access to currently free and open diagnostic data via the OBD port. Once again, the "ball game" will take place at an institutional level, following the complete revision of vehicle type approval rules. Greater clarity of course being the ultimate goal along with legislative consistency aimed at ensuring that the physical OBD plug is kept in place as well as the possibility to continue accessing all repair information whether the vehicle is moving or stationary. Already available on the market, a number of professional aftermarket solutions allow for remote vehicle diagnosis.
The importance of teaming
As Bruno Beccari pointed out, compared to other countries, creating a system-based approach to telematics seems to be more difficult in Italy. This makes it rather awkward to raise a single voice against the plans of vehicle manufacturers, despite the fact that current regulations are fairly clear on the matter. The Chairman of CNA Autoriparatori, Franco Mingozzi, reminded the audience about the importance of "forming a cartel, becoming a powerful lobby in order to counter this problem. Otherwise, independent operators are likely to disappear". Alessandro Angelone too, expressed the needs of the sector he represents, demanding the right to repair for independent operators. "To date - recalled the president of CNA - many mechatronic specialists have already been denied access. In Brussels we take part in a technical table working on road digitization, so as to freely share all vehicle data".

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