Motor Trend published an article about the new 2017 Porsche 911 (it's got a turbo! whoooosh) yesterday, and while it's largely just a lot of car jargon, there's a bit in there about Android Auto that caught my eye. Specifically, why the new 911 doesn't have it:
As part of the agreement an automaker would have to enter with Google, certain pieces of data must be collected and mailed back to Mountain View, California. Stuff like vehicle speed, throttle position, coolant and oil temp, engine revs—basically Google wants a complete OBD2 dump whenever someone activates Android Auto. Not kosher, says Porsche.
Now, let's get a few things straight. First, there's a real chance this statement needs some serious adjustment for accuracy. Second, it's also possible Porsche was talking out of its ass. Carmakers are notorious for this kind of exaggeration and hyperbole when it comes to technology they don't agree with or understand, and it wouldn't be the first time a major auto OEM said something that just wasn't true.
However: we don't have any reason, at this point in time, to think it isn't. Now, what's an "OBD2 dump?" Basically, OBD2 is an interface over which a vehicle's various diagnostic and performance metrics can be monitored in real time. Most cars produced after 1995 have an OBD2 port which you can physically hook into and, using a wide variety of dongles and tools (such as Automatic) available on the market, used for things like analyzing your driving data or to diagnose problems with your vehicle. That's the short version, at least.
Porsche is claiming that Android Auto sends back your OBD2 info - meaning data about your speed, distance traveled, temperatures, throttle position, RPMs, and other stuff - to Google every time Auto is run. This is obviously a concern for privacy advocates, but Porsche claims that it doesn't want Google having access to this data because it's part of the Porsche "secret sauce" for its vehicle experience.
Porsche's reasoning, by the way, is utter hogwash - anyone can dump OBD2 data from any vehicle, and Google, if they had some real desire to understand Porsche's sauce, could just go buy a freaking 911 and hook up an OBD2 adapter to it. This is why I'm skeptical to believe whatever Porsche's trying to sling here, because the moment after that statement we get to this being the exact reason they aren't using Android Auto and why they are using Apple CarPlay. Because Apple doesn't want that data - a narrative that may as well have been plucked from Tim Cook's talking points at various recent Apple events.
We've reached out to Google to clarify what the situation is with Auto and OBD2 data.
As you might have predicted, Google is calling "pretty much bullshit" on this one:
Steering this story straight - we take privacy very seriously and do not collect the data the Motor Trend article claims such as throttle position, oil temp and coolant temp. Users opt in to share information with Android Auto that improves their experience, so the system can be hands-free when in Drive, and provide more accurate navigation through the car’s GPS.
That's the official statement from Google, and while it doesn't provide a complete technical debunk on Porsche's claims, it does support what we know about Auto to date - it uses things like GPS and vehicle speed to improve the navigation experience. Users have to opt in to this stuff, as well.
- Motor Trend