February 25, 2014 7:00 pm JST

Japan plots giant platform for vehicle data

TOKYO -- Japan plans to share a massive amount of information on cars through a single platform by 2020. 

     The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism on Monday launched a committee of information system companies, academic experts and industry bodies to look into the feasibility of creating the new data-sharing system. The members, from the public and private sector, include the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. They will identify problems that could arise in the process of putting the system to practical use by summer. The project will be submitted to fiscal 2015 budget requests.

     The government currently manages information on 49 million cars, covering everything from registration plates to accidents and inspection records. Automakers keep track of data such as vehicle locations and distances traveled via GPS. Maintenance service companies handle repair records.

     The envisaged plan calls for integrating all this vehicle-related information into a single platform. Access to gathered data will be limited only to endorsed parties, and not open to the public. The government plans to charge access fees and outsource system management to the private sector.

Benefits

The use of big data is expected to create new services and products, which will eventually benefit individuals. Appraisals of used car prices, for example, are currently done through visual checks and interviews with drivers. The new platform will allow dealers to tap into objective data, such as accident and repair records, and driving distances. Increased transparency in pricing could help consumers avoid paying too much for vehicles.

     The new data platform is also expected to help insurers. These companies currently use degrees of car usage, which is defined under the broad categories of commuting to work or leisure driving, as benchmarks to calculate insurance premiums. On the new platform, they will be able to factor in more detailed information.

     Sompo Japan Insurance, a nonlife insurer, last July began selling a pay-as-you-drive insurance product for drivers of Nissan Motor's Leaf electric vehicles. It tracked the history of driving distances through a telecommunication system exclusively developed for the Leaf. Similar products are expected from other companies.

     According to the transport ministry, the U.S. state of Oregon and the Netherlands are considering auto tax rates based on driving distances. Such discussions could also prompt Japan to review its auto tax rules.

     The committee will also discuss penalties to be imposed on malicious use of auto data. It fears that the submission of false data on accident records, for example, could affect insurance premium rates. 

(Nikkei)

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