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“Carriers are facing an existential crisis, as usual,” said Roger Lanctot, associate director of Strategy Analytics’ global automotive practice. “They know they can’t afford to not play in the connected car space.”So far there isn’t much money to be made linking vehicles to the internet. The carriers don’t disclose financial details about their connected car units, but analysts estimate the average monthly revenue from car subscriptions is in the range of $1 to $2 per vehicle. It’s a growth area, however, with new car connections exceeding new phone subscribers last year for the first time. Wireless carriers, struggling with maturing subscriber businesses, are eager to push into new areas such as smart cars, media, advertising and connected machines.“We believe Verizon has a right to play and win in this space, given that it all starts with the network and the connection,” Andres Irlando, Chief Executive Officer of Verizon Connect, said in a March interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. “We aren’t just focused on the wireless connectivity: We play at the software and platform layer.”One area that Verizon and other companies find potentially lucrative is collating user and vehicle data—things like location, engine performance and driving patterns like number of left turns, which are a big predictor of accidents. But harvesting user information has become a troublesome endeavor in the wake of scrutiny around Facebook Inc., which said data on as many as 87 million people, most of them in the U.S., may have been improperly shared with research firm Cambridge Analytica.
Pop Up Ads Could Come to Your Dashboard, With a CatchCustomers who opt in could allow data collected in a connected car to inform things like mechanics hotlines, usage-based insurance rates or roadside assistance with pinpoint accuracy, Irlando said. But driving data can also make Verizon money if sold on a large-scale, anonymous basis, like pushing information on roadway conditions to traffic aggregators, he said.
“We don’t do anything with data that is individualized without the expressed permission of our customers. But on an aggregated basis you can imagine multiple business models to support that,” Irlando said.While the tech industry grapples with a privacy firestorm, car-data specialists like Telenav Inc. and Israel-based Otonomo are angling for deals with automakers to do things like share driver data with insurance companies, gas stations or fast-food restaurants, which could use it to sell ads or provide coupons.Roger Entner, an analyst with Recon Analytics, said he’s skeptical carriers can tap significant revenue from the current connected-car market. Verizon and AT&T aren’t collecting any user information that’s greatly different from what Apple Inc. gets with its iPhones or Google and carmakers could collect currently, he said.