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Privacy & Data in the Age of the Connected Car

In recent articles by both CNET & Automotive News, it’s reported that U.S. regulators are looking to institute mandatory vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications designed to prevent collisions and increase driver safety.

Similar technology exists today in systems like OnStar that transmit vehicle data which is recorded and reported to the service as well as to the selling dealer on an opt-in basis. Regulators want to mandate all vehicles be equipped with this V2V technology, which they claim, “will prevent 70-80% of all crashes involving unimpaired drivers,” according to Automotive News. OEMs have already committed to integrating this technology into all vehicles by 2015.


While it’s certainly beneficial for dealerships to receive vehicle maintenance information from their consumers, people are raising concerns over privacy issues that exist. Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) work similar to a Wi-Fi network. We’ve all been exposed to data breaches and this concern is not unfounded. While regulators claim that connected vehicles present less of a threat of privacy invasion than cell phones do, many vehicles are now equipped with Bluetooth and cellphone integrations. Vehicles can store and read an individual’s music library as well as their contacts. This allows a consumer to operate their phone hands-free via built in controls or voice activation. It’s simple to see the inherent danger presented by connecting all vehicles together.

If someone can drive by your house and invade your computer through an unsecured network or hacking, what’s to stop someone from hacking into your vehicle? DSRC technology, just like Wi-Fi, has a limited range. But all it would take is someone driving down the freeway in a group of cars to potentially penetrate nearby vehicles information, which could also expose cellphone data.  Some lawmakers even expressed concern when, in a May hearing, a US Senator asked whether “wireless communication could potentially allow ‘some 14-year old in Indonesian’ to shut your car down.”


V2V technology does present some interesting opportunities to dealership service departments, however...

If dealerships are allowed to also access this information similar to OnStar, it could assist a dealer in more accurately diagnosing any vehicle service issues that may exist which, in turn, could lead to an increase in service recommendations. As OEMs increasingly create & integrate more technology into vehicles, accurate diagnosis of vehicles will also increase. Of course, none of this will ever replace a trained and certified automotive technician who can spot problems that are just beginning to occur, and recommend preventative service to the customer.


It will probably be years before this technology is effectively integrated into enough vehicles on the road to make it worthwhile and achieve the effectiveness that regulators are predicting. My feeling is that the simple existence of privacy and/or data intrusion could lead to limitations on what service facilities can access vehicular data. Manufacturers would more than likely prefer (and lobby) for access to be limited to franchise dealers. which could lead to increased service revenue for dealerships. Independent automotive repair shops may find themselves in a situation whereby consumer trust starts leaning more towards dealerships; as consumers realize that their vehicles will be more accurately diagnosed with a combination of vehicular data and certified dealership service personnel.


There’s no doubt that independent automotive repair shops will lobby for equal access to DSRC information. But who will consumers trust more – the guy changing oil at Jiffy Lube or a franchise dealer?


How do you think connected vehicles will transform the automotive service industry?

Views: 552

Tags: Automotive, CNET, News, cars, communications, connected, dealership, fixed, legislation, ops, More…privacy, service


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Comment by Alexander Lau on February 14, 2014 at 7:19am

I hope you're right David and I owe you a DEMO of our new inventory product. BTW, thanks for the information on Hyperboria.

Comment by David Addison on February 14, 2014 at 7:08am

In my town of 70K people (Portland, Maine) with a metro of 250K we have the NSA.  They lease ~369 sq feet of data center from my landlord in the same data center as the rest of us internet folks.  Want to take a guess at what they're doing in the Verizon building?

I have confidence in our Supreme Court.  They'll find all this data grabbing unconstitutional. After all the NSA is on our side, right?  I'm more concerned with hackers than our government.

Comment by Alexander Lau on February 14, 2014 at 6:57am

I get the point of the article and you always bring up good points, IMO, Richard. Vehicle hacking would be a seriously breach of privacy, for many reasons, as you've alluded to in your article.


On a side note, personally, I think the NSA is a piece of sh*t, that's what I think. Call me crass, whatever..., but they'd be in on vehicle data highjacking as well. "You were here, here and here, therefore, we know what you're up to... etc., etc. Screw that crap.

I like the idea behind a bill the State of Maryland might execute. I'm sure I just made this article much more interesting to the NSA. Ha ha!

Maryland bill would cut water, electricity to NSA headquarters

Comment by David Addison on February 13, 2014 at 10:37am

Efforts are already well underway to secure smart homes (from the fridge to door locks and smart lights). The smart connected automobile is just a cog in what will be an ever connected world – the Internet of Things (IoT).  Today, Google announced that the Android system is in the early stages of becoming an operating system for many more things than just smart phones and tablet computers.  Count on the automobile of the future having an OS.  Ha, Tesla will probably do it first.

There was a botnet ring of 100,000 LINUX running internet-things (not computers) in December 2013.  The industry will quickly get a security handle on “thingbots”.  The security and privacy issues will be resolved quickly--in less than several years.

The AllSeen Alliance's software (the group encourages interoperability among connected devices regardless of their manufacturer) is based on AllJoyn which is smartphone chip maker Qualcomm’s open-source IoS software.  The auto industry will likely join with such a coalition as your car becomes a data hub and Internet hotspot.  Hell, the Internet is even changing as a result of security issues.  CJDNS and Hyperboria are decentralizing the Internet.  We’re putting our own Hyperboria node online in our technology lab.  Very exciting stuff.

I certainly don’t want my cloud service to know every single time I open the fridge or flush my toilet.  And I don't want them to know where my car has been and how many times I walk in and out of my front door.  I'm not a security nut.  I let Google track my every move and I don't really care because I'm a law abiding citizen. One thing the AllSeen Alliance’s AllJoyn software can do is enable smart devices to communicate just with other devices in the home such that a car, group of light bulbs or a door lock.  We’ll see something similar in the auto industry.  The notion is to limit data from getting to the Internet or beyond.

We need to embrace this new technology as it seeps into every crevice of our lives.  I'm excited about my vehicle becoming an extension of my entertainment system and the Internet.  Moreover, lives will be saved.  The applications are boundless and many will strike big pay dirt.  Riches are made and lost during times of change. Bring it on!

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