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Controlled Access to Vehicle Data

Dec 2020

News & Campaigns

Vehicle inspection must also cover electronic systems and software

DEKRA CEO Stefan Kölbl
Photo: Motor Presse GmbH & Co. KG/Dino Eisele

Connectivity and automation are the buzzwords for the development of automotive technology in the years to come. “To ensure road safety in the future, it will be vital that these in-car functions deliver permanent functional reliability. They will need to be inspected properly by inspection organizations to ensure that this is the case,” explained DEKRA CEO Stefan Kölbl at the 2020 auto motor und sport conference. At the online event from Stuttgart, Germany, Kölbl called for legally controlled access to safety- and environment-related vehicle data.

The call for data access relates to only a relatively small percentage of vehicle data that is relevant for performing a general vehicle inspection. It also relates to software versions. “Over-the-air updates mean that a vehicle can be fundamentally different today from the way it was yesterday,” said the DEKRA CEO. “So, in the medium term, checking the status of a vehicle every two years when it has its general inspection will no longer be enough. Vehicle inspections will have to be performed as and when needed.” To allow safety- and environment-related data to be checked for defects, malfunctions and manipulations at any time and enable vehicle inspectors to perform their public service, the DEKRA CEO argues that inspection organizations need direct, unfiltered and non-discriminatory access to inspection-related vehicle data.

Trust center model intended to provide security

This would be possible using a trust center model with the trust center acting as a trustworthy and independent body on behalf of the state. It would give authorities, inspection organizations and other authorized bodies secure, equal and non-discriminatory access to the relevant data for automated and connected vehicles. “It is a far cry from completely storing every single data exchange with the vehicle; it’s just about accessing safety- and environment-related data that has been labeled as such during vehicle type approval,” explained Kölbl. He believes that steps should be taken to ensure that data used to carry out the vehicle inspection is genuine and complete. “Delivering this data via the vehicle manufacturer’s server does not meet these requirements. It is unfeasible for the manufacturer to retain full ownership of the data,” specified the DEKRA CEO.

The “computer on wheels” poses a risk

For Stefan Kölbl, the image of the car of the future as a “computer on wheels” risks trivializing the issue. He believes that vehicles could present an entirely different kind of risk: “When a computer crashes, we usually reboot it and – most of the time – everything goes back to normal. But when this computer weighs more than a tonne and travels at 50 kilometers per hour, the word crash could become a different meaning altogether.”

It is true that driver assistance systems and automated functions offer considerable potential to prevent or mitigate accidents, said Kölbl. “But the only way they can fulfill this potential is if they function reliably over the whole lifespan of the vehicle.” He argued that this was all the more important because highly automated driving intends to eliminate humans as a fallback option. “Although many accidents are caused by human error, humans are also capable of avoiding critical incidents by responding to the traffic situation. So if humans are to no longer have a role to play in the system in the future, the technology needs to be even more reliable.”

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