The future of connectivity: What does your car know about you?

Built-in navigation with turn-by-turn directions, smartphone-connected apps that enable route logging, infotainment, and steering and lane control, are just some of the many new technology features designed for motorists to enjoy.

Convenient? Definitely, but on the flipside these new levels of connectivity mean vehicles are increasingly collecting more and more personal information about their drivers. The question is, are people actually aware of this, or of the type of information being gathered?

Bill Harvey, President and CEO of the Auto Care Association in the United States, says today cars not only know how much we weigh, they can track how much weight we gain. They know how fast we drive, where we live, how many children we have – even financial information. Connect a smartphone to a car, and it knows who we call and who we text. But who owns and, ultimately, controls that data? And what is it being used for?

“And that,” says Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), “is a critical question. Increased connectivity comes with some serious considerations.”

“Due to the increasing complexity of cars and the Internet of Things, as Harvey suggests, data is critical to repair and service. However, when data starts to be controlled, privacy can be infringed upon.”

Deloitte recently undertook a detailed analysis of how the automotive industry is evolving due to vehicle connectivity and what can be expected now and in the future. In the report it recommends that those collecting data address privacy concerns proactively, suggesting a successfully connected vehicle strategy should be one which ensures the security and integrity of any service that uses customer/vehicle data.

Ranft says digitisation of the auto industry is ultimately a good thing. “Today’s connected cars are paving the way for autonomous vehicles and vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and eventually vehicle-to-infrastructure communications making our roads safer. As technology evolves even further to enhance the motorist experience, car owners need to be aware, however, of what they may be signing away in the fine print and will need to take care they remain in control of their data and understand the degree to which their own car collects and processes data,” he says.

“If there are any concerns about privacy infringements, consumers can reach out to MIWA for more information and advice,” concludes Ranft.