Audi CEO Advocates Privacy for Owners of Self-Driving Cars

In a thinly veiled jab at Google, Volkswagen Audi will take a hardline measure and draw a line in ensuring that customers’ data is safeguarded, the car manufacturer said in Berlin on Tuesday.

“A car is one’s second living room today,” said Audi Chief Executive Rupert Stadler said at a business event that also had Google Chairman Eric Schmidt in attendance.

“That’s private. The only person who needs access to the data onboard is the customer,” Stadler pointed out, adding Audi “takes that seriously.”

Different business models of new manufacturers and old

With a huge chunk of Google’s revenues coming from targeted ad sales to advertisers, information about the speed of the car that’s being driven, the location of the car and the usual routes taken during a daily commute and more such information are likely to be appealing to advertisers, insurance companies and other corporations looking to target their customer base or form a new one.

The auto industry in Germany, one of the world’s largest economies have lobbied stringently for regulators to be definitive in restrictive line on data privacy. This would make it harder for telecom and software companies to usher in a data-driven business model for the automotive industry.

Similar views are shared by rival car manufacturer Daimler which has also planned on introducing autonomous vehicles to the roads within the next few years. Daimler is actively foraying into software  being implemented into its vehicles, with Mercedes (Daimler’s flagship) and BMW, working with General Atlantic, a private equity firm are bidding for Nokia’s HERE maps. User privacy being important and fundamental is something that both manufacturers agree upon, despite being rivals.

A clear stance is being taken up by established car manufacturers, with software-centric cars stirring the debate about who ought to control data that’s generated by tech-driven vehicles and cars.

“The customer wants to be at the focus, and does not want to be exploited,” said Stadler.