By Unlocking Vehicle Data, Car Rental Companies Help Build Smarter Cities

This post is the latest in our “Driving Local” series. It’s our editorial focus for the month of August, including topics like autonomous vehicles and the car as the ultimate “local” mobile device. See the rest of the series here


In the $164 billion car rental industry, connected vehicles represent a major opportunity for streamlined business operations with a significant return on investment. With billions of road miles being driven on their vehicles each month, car rental firms like Avis, Enterprise, and Hertz all stand to benefit from the advancement of connected-car technology.

The latest player to make significant headway in this space is Avis Budget Group. As operator of three of the most recognized brands in the industry — Avis, Budget and Zipcar — Avis Budget Group represents a mobility ecosystem of more than 11,000 locations in approximately 180 countries. The company recently partnered with the connected-car data firm Otonomo to manage its connected cars on Otonomo’s automotive data services platform. Otonomo will help ABG derive insights from its large connected vehicle fleet, including anonymizing, standardizing, and delivering data from Toyota, Ford, Peugeot and GM vehicles.

The deal between ABG and Otonomo is expected to generate more than 4 billion road miles of data this year, and 7 billion road miles of data by 2020, with much of that data being used for predictive maintenance, smart city planning, and streamlining of the rental process.

Otonomo CEO Ben Volkow says this new partnership offers validation of his company’s business model, as Otonomo works to help ABG gain actionable insights from its connected cars. Whereas other data platforms are limited in the vehicles to which they connect, Otonomo’s automotive data services platform collects insights from a range of makes, models, and telematics technologies.

With such a large fleet of vehicles, ABG’s datasets could have significant impact on the automotive industry as a whole. ABG has national coverage and the company’s fleet is very diverse, with more than 200 makes and models spanning multiple years.

In addition to streamlining its own operations, reducing costs, and improving customer satisfaction, ABG plans to use the data it collects through Otonomo in outside partnerships, as it collaborates with cities and other organizations that benefit its customers and the general public.

“Potential smart-city applications range from traffic management to planning,” Volkow says. “Groups like J.D. Power are currently committed to using our services to improve their existing consumer research solutions and launch new applications in the future.”

J.D. Power plans to use ABG’s data to compliment its consumer research on different makes and models. The insights will ultimate become a part of the company’s Voice of the Vehicle analyses.

ABG’s data also has the potential to help make roads safer, improve traffic flow, and make city parking more efficient.

“As our vehicles become more connected, we see a rising opportunity to unlock more consumer services,” Volkow says.

Otonomo isn’t the only data services firm trying to make headway in the automotive market. By 2025, most carmakers plan to have more than 90% percent of their new models connected, representing major opportunity in the automotive data space. According to McKinsey, this growing adoption will balloon the potential value of connected car data to $1.5 trillion by 2030.

Among Otonomo’s industry competitors is Smartcar, a vehicle API built for developers. Volkow says his firm is unique because its data services platform is focused on ensuring transparency and privacy for drivers. Features like the Consent Management Hub and the Anonymization Engine, for example, aim to safeguard driver data. These features also allow Otonomo’s partners to remain compliant with privacy regulations, like GDPR.

For its part, ABG says it plans to use the data collected through Otonomo’s platform to engage with new public and commercial partnerships.

“Otonomo is a pioneer in transforming car data into valuable insights,” Volkow says. “We’re excited at the opportunity to realize our vision in partnership with Avis Budget Group.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

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