Advertisers, tech companies and the government want the data automakers collect from their customer’s cars.
Every BMW rolling off the assembly line, for example, collects data on location, speed, acceleration and even the weight of the passengers in the car, and the data is so comprehensive, it could tell advertisers when a car carrying a child is passing by a McDonald’s and it could also tell the government when a driver is speeding.
“There’s plenty of people out there saying: ‘give us all the data you’ve got and we can tell you what we can do with it’,” he told the Financial Times. “And we’re saying: ‘No thank you’.”
But given time, the data will likely be taken through a hack attack, a business deal or government pressure.
For one thing, ever-expanding governments are always looking for more funding, especially as gas tax revenues continue to fall with the price of oil.
If they could ticket a driver for speeding every time it happens according to GPS, governments could increase ticket revenue tenfold while saving money on police.
“We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it,” Ford’s global vice president, Jim Farley, said at a recent trade show. “We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing.”
The government has already forced automakers to put black boxes in new cars.
“Way back in 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated that all new vehicles be equipped with EDR ‘black boxes’ by the 2013 model year,” Darlene Storm of Computer World reported. “Eighty-five percent of U.S. vehicles now have EDR devices that ‘must capture and preserve at least 15 types of crash data, including pre-crash speed, engine throttle, changes in forward velocity and airbag deployment times.'”
But governments yearn for real-time data. Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it wanted new vehicles to have trackable GPS “safety” devices known as vehicle-to-vehicle communications which could easily track drivers.
One government official involved in the proposal admitted hackers could abuse the system to create mass havoc on the road.
“Who has access and how do you secure the data?” David Wise of the Government Accountability Office asked.
Real time data can also be collected through toll tags, which several state governments are already doing.
For example, both the New York City Department of Transportation and Transcom, a traffic management agency, admitted that for nearly 20 years they have been using antennas to connect to E-ZPass toll tags in vehicles traveling not just in New York but neighboring states as well.
“We’re being watched in ways that I think none of us would have imagined,” the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Donna Lieberman, told WBGO.org. “It’s happening without any public scrutiny, without any decision that’s consistent with checks and balances.”