Federal government is currently crafting a mandate that would require all new vehicles to “talk” to each other continuously. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to submit their proposed “connected car” rule by the end of this year.
Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology has been developed by top automakers over the past decade and is ready for commercialization. It uses a combination of Wi-Fi, GPS data, and sensor data collected by the vehicle to transmit a signal on speed and position 10 times a second.
Like so many technologies, V2V is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it has great potential to reduce car crashes, which claim 37,000 lives a year in the U.S. It also means that your driving data will be broadcast openly, making it easy for interested parties to intercept this information.
“V2V ups privacy concerns because it essentially broadcasts a vehicle’s location and speed, as well as some information about where a vehicle has been previously, to anyone within range. And while Department of Transportation officials told the GAO that “V2V communication security system would contain multiple technical, physical, and organizational controls to minimize privacy risks—including the risk of vehicle tracking by individuals and government or commercial entities,” regulating who can use V2V data and for what would fall outside the Department of Transportation’s span of control. It would essentially require legislation by Congress.”
Considering the mass surveillance being carried out by the National Security Agency and other agencies, it is highly unlikely that authorities would ignore this potent source of information. Local governments could use the data to track those they consider “bad actors.”
“Vehicle owners need to know that companies or local governments won’t be able to use the data from V2V to track cars like website users, and that is going to be a hard sell in this post-Snowden world.”
The surveillance state would not be the only potential threat to connected drivers. Hackers have already demonstrated the ability to tamper with braking, speed, steering, and dashboard displays in the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape.
Not to mention, the government database containing personal information on every government employee was just compromised by hackers; not some, but every single federal employee was compromised. They can’t even protect their own data, still think they can protect yours?
The prospect of connected cars brings many exciting possibilities. They are the first crucial step toward vehicles that can drive themselves. They will link to your apps and smart devices, tailoring the driving experience for you and helping to plan your day. They will reduce crashes and cut down on congestion by talking to sensors in the road system.
However, a central authority mandating its use on a certain date will stifle the full potential. V2V technology should grow on a voluntary basis through free market mechanisms. This way, measures to protect the individual from government surveillance and hackers can grow organically through consumer demand.