Why I Signed and Why You Should, Too

Monday, June 15, 2020

By Clay Millican, world champion top fuel dragster driver

My relationship with cars may run deeper than the average person’s. From my first car at 16, to the dragster I now race professionally, the amount of time, care and hard work put into my vehicles by me and the professionals I trust has been something special. 

So you can imagine the shock and frustration upon learning that I am not in control of my own car data — and neither are you.

In drag racing, there’s a lot of science behind what we do. Beyond the driver’s talent and skills, our dragsters generate tons of valuable data that our teams analyze to determine how to get cleaner, faster and better on the track. We look at it all – exhaust gas temperatures, fuel pressure, how fast the front wheel is turning, G-force levels, ignition timing – and any data related to these factors could be the difference in my next win or loss. 

Now, the data generated by the car I drive to the grocery store may not give me a competitive edge in an NHRA Championship race, but it can make a difference in my everyday life, and in yours too.

The vast amount of data generated by your car is personal to you. Just like my crew chief studies my data, whoever has access to your car data will analyze it, too. They’ll know the places you visit, how fast you get there and can even tell who you talked to on the way. That’s why you want personal data in trusted hands, and that’s why it should be your choice as to whom you share it with. 

One of the consequences of not controlling your own car data is that it may end up costing you, and your local mechanic, more money. 

When the data your car produces is sent straight to the auto manufacturer who made your car, they can influence and direct where you take your car to be serviced and repaired. The options they give you can be more expensive than your local independent auto shop or doing the work yourself. Or they could charge your mechanic to access the data necessary to work on your car, and that charge might get passed on to you.

Worse, if auto manufacturers control where you can get your car repaired it creates an unfair playing field in the repair and service industry that puts the local independent shops and businesses at an extreme disadvantage. I’ve been going to the same mechanic since I got my first car at 16. I trust that he gives me the best service at a fair price, and has built a business that I can fully support. I know that without access to my car data, he may not be able to do his job – and that’s why so much is at stake. 

When we talk about independent repair and service shops, we’re talking about essential businesses. We’re in tough times. These businesses play a critical role in our communities and throughout our country. The millions of people who work in this industry are providing important services to the people who still have to be on the road every day. And the independent auto industry is still providing necessary tools and equipment to those who need it. 

In my hometown of Drummonds, Tennessee, we depend on each other to uplift our community and I know across the country thousands of other towns do the same. Supporting these essential businesses is part of our duty to our community and the people who are a part of it. Both the independent shops and their workers are essential, and we need them to keep our communities and our country moving forward. 

Learning about car data and who has access to and control of it is only the first step. Once you realize you deserve to control your car data you have to also let your friends, neighbors, coworkers and family members know. Because the less people know, the harder it is to make a change. That’s why I’ve been loud in voicing my support for car data access and control – but it doesn’t stop there. 

The second step in the fight for car data access and control is to sign the petition to demand Congress to fight for the same thing. Lawmakers need to know it’s the average citizen and the average independent aftermarket business who will lose the most if auto manufacturers maintain exclusive access to and control of car data. By signing the petition, we can make it known that this is an issue we care about and it’s crucial they take action on our behalf. 

And we need you, and everybody you know to add their signature to the list of thousands of people who are in this fight together. To support your rights as a consumer as well as essential businesses and employees, it’s time to demand access and control. It’s your car, it’s your data, and it should be your choice.  

To advocate for consumers and the independent automotive repair shops that service their cars, AAPEX 2020 will spotlight the Your Car. Your Data. Your Choice.™ national consumer education campaign at this year’s event. Watch for more details on the AAPEX website.