Otonomo hooks up with Bright Box to boost connected car data market

With the march to full autonomous driving held up by a few accidents, other connected car services more likely to deliver real benefits in the near future have achieved more visibility. The fast growth in such services has been highlighted by a partnership between Israeli connected car data marketplace start-up Otonomo and vehicle platform vendor Bright Box.

This deal also shows how insurers are investing in connected car data given that Bright Box is now wholly owned by the Zurich Insurance Group. Insurers see this automotive data as a game changer, enabling them to offer personalized services with individual premiums reflecting a driver’s actual risk based on behavior at the wheel and factors like distance travelled and nature of journeys.

This will enable them to step over constraints imposed on them by some legislators such as being prohibited inside the European Union from offering lower default premiums to women because this is deemed to be gender discrimination, even though men are twice as likely to have an accident. But for drivers, potential benefits range way beyond lower insurance premiums to include more responsive emergency services, improved real time navigation, parking location, on-demand fueling apps and predictive maintenance, as well as integration with smart city services.

Such services rely on access to data about vehicles and their drivers or owners, and so firms like Otonomo are effectively striking bargains with consumers. In return for data they will get these services free of charge, although of course they pay indirectly through insurance premiums and other means. Otonomo itself recently published results of a survey finding that despite a few high-profile privacy breaches, around 80 percent of consumers are willing to share personal automotive data in return for specific benefits.

Almost exactly the same proportion expressed such willingness to share personal data for alerts of dangerous driving conditions ahead, early detection of maintenance and repairs with detailed information, faster response times from emergency responders in an accident, improved quality and safety of roads based on feedback from the car, and traffic updates with alternative route suggestions.

Such feedback has emboldened Otonomo to ramp up its activities competing with much larger players in this area, notably Google. So far it has raised at least $40 million funding from venture capital firms including Bessemer Venture Partners, StageOne Ventures and Maniv Mobility. It already has two large OEM clients for its connected car data marketplace in Germany’s Daimler and BMW, with around 5 million cars connected to its platform.

Bright Box provides a mobile platform for connecting vehicles to their drivers wherever they are as well as to manufacturers and distributors at the back end. The partnership with Otonomo will provide more of an end to end ecosystem through which data can be collected.

Armed with this platform, Otonomo is looking to expand into new markets, especially India which is clearly a huge untapped opportunity for connected car data. Currently, only a small percentage of the country’s cars are Internet connected, but it is clear mass adoption there will follow a similar if slower trajectory to smartphones and Otonomo wants to be ready when that happens.

The country has notoriously high numbers of accidents per mile travelled, even though at last that is falling, as well as appalling congestion given its great population density, so there is scope for saving both lives and money through application of connected car data. The firm is also advancing into Japan after receiving $3 million funding from NTT Docomo in February 2018.