Blog (Tom Piippo): Data access & privacy

Tom Piippo

The big topic lately is data access and privacy.

In the automotive world, we are concerned about the data generated by the modern automobile and currently transmitted back to the manufacturer (or its agents) and who knows where else?

This was all a big concern for me back in the beginning of GM’s OnStar when my customers were getting emails about service recommendations and steering them to their local GM dealer. The issue has gotten much bigger, spread across most, if not ALL carmakers. It seems that the holder of this information has no problem sharing their customers data, driving habits, and GPS locations with whomever is willing to pay the most.

We may be a little late to the post with this issue. Every time we sign on to the internet, every time we open an app on our cell phone we are asked and give permission to our personal data. We are asked to accept ‘cookies’ on the internet, a way of tracking your internet use. You give your cell provider permission to track your GPS location with many of the apps that you use. And we wonder why we are bombarded with Cabela’s ads for fishing gear for weeks following a quick search for a new fly rod. We gave them permission (without realizing the consequences) to do exactly THAT!

A recent article in Car and Driver magazine really opened my eyes as to how entwined this issue really is. The writer was explaining how the current mapping and routing programs (Google, Waze, and Apple Maps to name a few) could route you around construction delays and traffic accidents that happen in real time.

“Web based navigation apps including Google Maps and Apple Maps draw much of their information from users’ smartphone GPS trackers. Google and Waze empower users to report slowdowns, accidents and police sightings. The Dutch firm, aptly called Here, which supplies traffic and mapping information to Garmin and others, collect data from fleet vehicles (which spend an average of 10 hours a day on the road) as well as select premium consumer vehicles with over-the-air transmission capability. Here can tap into the vehicle’s cameras, sensors and ECU network and make traffic interpretations based on finite events like wheel slip and panic stops.
Such information is analyzed at an air-traffic-control-like command center by real human beings, blended with a never-ending stream of road-closure updates from local municipalities, and then applied to a predictive algorithm.” *

With secure gateway modules now blocking much of the “free” information used by insurance company dongles, companies like Progressive now get their information directly from the customer’s smart phone, in even more detail than before! A friend recently showed me how he is saving 15 percent on his insurance despite a few “red marks” on his map.

By enabling the insurance company app, they can monitor his route, his speed, whether he is speeding or not, aggressive braking, aggressive acceleration, texting while driving, hands off or hands on cell phone use while driving, all reported by his cell phone. He showed me on the map, indicated by red marks, where he was speeding (slightly, 48 mph in a 45 zone) it showed where he received a text and where he was when he made a cell phone call.

Cell phones are becoming so integrated with the function of the modern automobile that the fight for data access from the automobile itself may soon be a moot point, as it seems that the info in question is usually ported through the driver’s cell phone which belongs to an industry that we do not monitor.

The data is out there. I think it should be up to us as how it is controlled, bit by bit, byte by byte and not rolled into an all-inclusive center stack entertainment package!

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