What Kind Of Data Does My Car Keep?

Posted: Sep 26 2019, 2:50pm CDT | by , Updated: Sep 26 2019, 9:42pm CDT , in Cars & Vehicles

 

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What Kind of Data Does my Car Keep?

Car tech has changed a lot in the decade. Now cars keep a huge amount of our data. Is that a good thing?

Back in the 90s, any car with an integrated carphone was considered high-tech. Not anymore. These days, we expect our automobile interiors to mirror the level of functionality we've come to enjoy from modern smartphones. A car without a decent infotainment is simply not competitive.

Have you ever stopped to think about all of the data you put into your car? The inputs you make to modern navigation, communication and infotainment systems are enough to build an entire dossier around you. How much of that data is actually captured and put to use?

Enough to be Helpful

Have you ever wondered how your music streaming software can anticipate what track you'll enjoy next? How does your navigation system quickly present the best route home as soon as you get on the freeway? The answer is data recorded from your previous inputs. It's also the reason some people argue that you don't want all the privacy you think you do.

In the case of apps like Spotify or Google Maps, the developer is typically the owner of the data. However, as automakers expand the level of connectivity available in modern vehicles, they're moving into the realm of collection themselves.

General Motors, for example, has continuously increased the amount of data consumed by its Onstar assistance program. Onstar uses a telemetry device, similar to the black box from the aviation industry, to sense when you've been in a crash and offer assistance.

However, as sensor technology improves, data recording transitions from the vehicle's on-road dynamics to additional information such as the weight of the passengers in the car and the behavior of the driver's eyes behind the wheel.

Enough to be Profitable

The goal of all this data collection is convenience. The information generated when you drive your car carries value, no differently than when you browse the web with your computer or smartphone. It informs the way that companies design and market products. Plus, brands use data to create hyper-personalized marketing campaigns that target your specific wants and needs.

You create a revenue stream for automakers just by using your car every day. Tesla was recently found to be collecting records of every trip made in new model Tesla vehicles as a means of expanding its mapping software. The company is also keeping recordings made using the car's outboard cameras.

If you happen to be standing near a Tesla and it records you, you might be in Elon Musk's database of videos, something many people would find disturbing.

Enough to Make Things a Little Awkward

The conversation around data rights and privacy is just beginning. Where does this data go and is it used ethically?

Unfortunately for privacy advocates, it appears automakers have an unfair head start on their customers. They've already made strides when it comes to collecting and using data. Unless you'd like to go back to playing mp3s through the tape deck, you better get used to big brother riding along.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/56" rel="author">Scott Huntington</a>
Scott Huntington is a writer and journalist from Harrisburg PA who covered movies, tech, cars, and more. Check out his blog Off The Throttle or follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington.

 

 

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