Which data do OEMs collect from connected cars?

Which data do OEMs collect from connected cars?

Feature articles |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

The investigations show that OEMs collect a wealth of data that allow drawing conclusions on the health status of many car systems, but also on the usage profile and driving behavior of the driver.


The Mercedes-Benz B-series transmits, for example, every two minutes the vehicle’s mileage, fuel level, coolant level and tire pressure. While these data may have some relation to the health status of the vehicle, Daimler is also nosy in things that are at least questionable like how many times the belts have been tightened (as the result of an emergency braking) or the GPS position. In addition, the car stores mileage in city traffic, country roads and motorways separately, enabling the OEM to create a usage profile.


In the Renault Zoe, the ADAC experts found that the OEM can access the vehicle remotely via mobile connection and read out any desired data from the CAN bus. This remote diagnostics option is deactivated by default but can be activated at any time remotely. The car also transmits at least every 30 minutes a data packet containing several serial numbers, time stamp, GPS position, temperature and state of charge of the high-voltage traction battery. In addition, the manufacturer can request this data packet at any time. He also can change to composition of the packet via wireless connection. What’s more, the OEM can inhibit charging the batteries, for instance in the case of an unpaid leasing rate.


The data from the BMW 320d (which has already been examined in 2015) and Mercedes B-class are rather similar, though there are differences resulting from the different equipment attributes of the two vehicles tested. BMW acquires data from wearing parts and components, in particular in engine and transmission. Privacy-relevant data are generated in the head unit in the first place, in particular in cases where the driver uses to link his smartphone to the head unit. Across the mobile radio interface, both the BMW 320d and the Benz B-class, similar telematics data are sent to the OEM. However, the functionality of BMWs ConnectedDrive telematics service and its counterpart me-connect in the Benz vary significantly, mainly as a function of different equipment levels, the testers found.


The BMW 320d stored the maximum engine rpm achieved along with the associated mileage, and the time driven in each of the different operating modes of the automatic transmission, which allows conclusions about the driving style. It also classified and stored the distances driven by four different distance categories. This enables the OEM to understand the usage profile. Furthermore, the vehicle stores and communicates the frequency at which the seats are adjusted – a parameter that provides information on the number of different drivers.


BMWs i3 electric vehicle transmits the “Last State Call” automatically every time the driver switches off the car and locks the doors. This call includes the content of the error memory, battery details including cell temperatures and charge level, intermodal connection points where the driver changed for another means of transport, the driving mode (eco, eco plus, sport), operational data of the range extender, the mileage at various driving operations, quality of the charging point including malfunctions and the position of the last 16 charging points used. In addition the i3 stores the 100 last parking positions; these data however can only be read out directly from the control unit.


The ADAC criticizes that the OEMs did not provide any information on the data collected and communicated; in most cases no public documentation about these data has been available. At the same time, the experts appointed highlighted that they cannot guarantee that the list of these data is complete. As a consequence of this lack of transparency, the ADAC demands that the OEMs disclose a complete list of functions and parameters stored and that car owners and workshops get access to such a list.

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