Walls still don’t talk.
But connected cars do, and they have a lot to say.
Sophisticated technologies that promise to produce safer, more fuel-efficient vehicles equipped with consumer-pleasing conveniences are also capable of revealing personal information, such as where a driver’s been, their telephone contact list, how fast they drive and whether they use their seat belts.
Driving after having had one drink too many? You can add that to the list within a few years.
As autonomous and self-driving driving vehicles move closer to real-world, everyday use, the data connected vehicles collect is becoming even more vast and beg the questions:
Currently, that information is in the hands of auto manufacturers, but who else should have access to it? How will consumers’ privacy and personal information be protected, and what’s being done with the data?
There is a need for federal laws that clearly answer those questions, according to a panel discussion, “How the Connected Car Impacts Consumer Choice,” held during policy and media days just prior to the public opening of the Washington Auto Show in April.
The panel was hosted by “Your Car. Your Data. Your Choice,” an education initiative created by the Auto Care Association to engage car owners, policy makers and other stakeholders on car data and implications for consumer choice.
A video of the hour-long discussion is available at yourcaryourdata.org.
The Auto Care Association represents the auto service, maintenance and repair industry, including independent dealers and franchised dealers that service vehicles of brands other than those for which they operate franchises.
By 2022, 90 percent of the new cars and trucks produced will have wireless data transmission technology, and that number rises to 100 percent by 2030, said Bill Hanvey president and CEO of Auto Care Association, during an interview.
The association believes that consumers own their vehicle’s data and should be able to share it with others, such as repair shops, if they want.
A comprehensive privacy bill?
In the video, panelist Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, a consumer advocacy group, said consumers overwhelmingly want access to their data and should own it. But there are no rules, laws or regulations to make sure that happens, she said.
“We’re very supportive” of a privacy bill, said Greenberg.
“We need to get our arms around this and get some legislation that protects us. Whether it’s a multi-faceted, comprehensive privacy bill — but if we don’t get that, we need to a find a vehicle for protecting our data.”
Also on the panel was Joseph Jerome, policy counsel, Privacy & Data Project, Center for Democracy & Technology.
Jerome, in the video, said his organization supports “digital civil rights” and has been pushing for federal privacy legislation since it was formed 25 years ago.
He said recent privacy debates have focused mainly on legislation such as the European Union General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 — both of which impose strict guidelines on how consumers’ private data should be handled in the near future — and consumers who give up privacy to get free services and benefits from apps and websites, but “cars are a manifestation of where privacy rubber meets the road, so to speak.”
Volvo to monitor drunk, distracted driving
Jerome also referenced Volvo Car Group which announced in March that it will begin installing in-vehicle cameras and sensors to monitor and prevent drunk and distracted driving “in the early 2020s” for safety reasons.
Impaired or distracted drivers that don’t heed their vehicle warning system will experience their vehicle slowing down or safely parking or sending a notification to Volvo On Call, the company’s telematics system, Volvo said in a press release.
“I think driver behavior information — how a person is driving the car — is going to be an increasing thing and part of that will also include bio-metric data,” Jerome said.
According to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an advocacy group representing automakers who build 70 percent of all cars and light trucks sold in the U.S., the industry is keenly aware of consumer concerns about privacy and data sharing.
The Automotive Consumer Privacy Protection Principles, developed by the Auto Alliance and the Association of Global Automakers are the result of that concern.
The Principles outline the industry’s efforts to protect consumers’ personal information collected through in-car technologies.
Among other things, automakers pledge to provide vehicle owners and “registered users” clear information and “choices” about collection, use and sharing of “covered” information.
Automakers also vow to respect the context in which data was collected, the data’s impact on owners and registered users and commit to collecting the information only for legitimate business purposes.
Automakers also put cybersecurity measures in place to prevent unauthorized access to software and to protect safety-critical systems.
Twenty automakers pledged to meet or exceed commitments outlined in the principles, which were developed in 2014, “reviewed” in 2018 and will be reviewed every two years, the site said.
Additionally, systems are being developed to allow vehicles to “talk” to each other so one vehicle can alert other vehicles there is a crash ahead. Also under development are “smart intersections” that communicate with vehicles so that traffic lights are synchronized to improve traffic flow and fuel efficiency.
“Ultimately, these technologies and others will culminate at some point in the future in autonomous or self-driving vehicles that can drive themselves for longer and longer periods of time,” the Auto Alliance site said.
Toyota takes consumer privacy ‘very seriously’
In an emailed statement, Toyota Motor North America, which has adopted the principles, said it takes consumer privacy “very seriously” and has a web portal at www.toyota.com/privacyvts “to explain the data we collect, how we use it, who we share it with, how we store it and the choices we give our customers, specifically in the context of connected vehicle services and technologies.
“Upon purchase or lease of a vehicle, customers also have the opportunity to opt-in to various types of connected services through a subscription agreement.”
Still, there are other issues surrounding the data that need to be addressed when it comes to vehicle repair, said panelist Greg Potter, chief technology officer, Equipment and Tool Institute, who was also featured in the video.
Aaron Lowe, Auto Care Association's senior vice president for regulatory and government affairs, who was not on the panel, shared that concern in an interview.
Under the Right to Repair Act passed in 2013 in Massachusetts and then adopted by manufacturers, the industry made available to the independent repair industry the same tools, information and software that they made available to their respective franchised dealers.
That allowed service providers access to a vehicle’s on-board diagnostic port to receive diagnostic information that helped the industry diagnosis and repair vehicles quickly and efficiently.
Potter said the connection is “unsecure” and that manufacturers are putting up “gateways” to regulate what can and cannot be obtained through the connector.
They are choosing to “off-board” repair related data or make it available through a security algorithm or certification, Potter said.
He said if a vehicle repair shop works on 20 different vehicle makes that means “20 hoops you’ve got to go through to access the data even if they make it available to you.”
Lowe said he believes that the repair industry will be excluded from accessing any data that is not required by federal law.
“What we need is legislation that says whether the data is (transmitted) wired or wirelessly, the car owner controls where that data goes and not the manufacturer,” Lowe said.