All-seeing, data-harvesting machines.
BIG BROTHER WHEELS
Cars with internet-connected features are fast becoming “privacy nightmare on wheels”, according to US-based research conducted by the Mozilla Foundation.
The researchers looked at the privacy terms of 25 car brands, which were found to collect a range of customer data, from facial expressions, to sexual activity, to when, where and how people drive.
Cars were “the worst category of products for privacy” they had ever reviewed, they concluded.
They also found terms that allowed this information to be passed on to third parties.
This means your connected car can transmit data about you and your activities, generally via the internet, to various other companies as you go about your life.
Apart from data entered directly into a car’s “infotainment” system, many cars can collect data in the background via cameras, microphones, sensors and connected phones and apps.
Potentially capturing in the process:
- Phone contacts.
- Navigation destinations.
- Voice data.
- Your location and surroundings.
- And even footage of you and your family outside your car.
(Between 2019 and 2022, Tesla employees internally circulated intimate footage collected from people’s private cars for their own amusement, according to reports).
A lot of this data is used, they say, for ‘legitimate purposes’, such as making ‘driving more enjoyable’ and it ‘safer for the driver, passengers and pedestrians’.
But the reality is that it can be supplemented with data collected from other sources to build a profile.
Mozilla points out these combined data can be used “…to develop inferences about a driver’s intelligence, abilities, characteristics, preferences and more”.
The latter is very broad since our TVs, fridges and even our baby monitors can collect data about us.
While cars have been collecting large amounts of information since they became “computers on wheels”, this information has generally been stored in modules in the vehicle.
Accessed only when the car is physically connected to diagnostic equipment.
Now, vehicles are being sold with connected features that can exchange information wirelessly with the vehicle manufacturer, third party service providers, users, infrastructure operators and other vehicles.
Big Brother is Watching, and it’s all part of a much bigger vision of total smart city control.
THE FUTURE OF TRANSPORT
Like most gadgets that have been normalised over the decades, our cars are also spying on us on a daily basis, and it is part of a much larger transformation to the very way we travel.
Cars have always represented a symbol of freedom. You can jump in and drive across the country. It is also a testament to how far we have come as a society from the horse-and-carriage days.
Now, the state is coming for that symbol.
Not only are they set to ban patrol and diesel cars over the coming decade in favour of these “privacy nightmare on wheels”, this type of controversial ‘driver assistance technology’ will also be mandatory.
This includes ‘black-box’ data recorders, which monitor everything from a vehicle’s speed to ‘driver condition’, after a 2019 approval from the EU.
Experts have warned that international ‘standard approvals’ will force Australian companies to import most new model cars with the same surveillance technology installed, a result of increased globalisation and the destruction of our domestic manufacturing industry.
But it doesn’t end with just monitoring you.
They also don’t want you to own, or even drive the cars anymore.
‘Autonomous Vehicles’, or AVs, are tipped to change the way we think of travel in the near future.
If you believe the forecasts from carmakers, bus operators and trucks companies, the first driverless vehicles should be live very soon – and every brand from Mercedes to Ford will have one.
Since Google released its first fleet of AVs in 2010, developments in AV technology have accelerated significantly. Experts estimate that auto-companies will roll out AVs in the market in 2020 and AVs are expected to occupy a quarter of the world market by 2040.
Currently, 15 similar trials are underway in Australia, with RAC’s Intellibus in Perth ahead of the pack.
In operation for three years, it’s one of only a handful worldwide coping with live traffic.
This includes the autonomous mini-bus travelling around Sydney’s Olympic Park, which is one of hundreds undergoing trials across the world.
According to a new report by LEK Consulting, Australia is set reap billions of dollars via the adoption of ‘new mobility’, while private vehicle ownership dries up almost completely.
Economic modelling predicts innovative transport systems led by AVs will generate $62 billion in Australia, and with this change, you will be in the minority if you own a car by 2050.
I spoke about this transformation in my piece for New Dawn Magazine in 2020.
The goal is to have these driveless surveillance pods connect to AI ‘traffic-management’ systems at the heart of smart city infrastructure, like the one that was rolled out in Melbourne last year:
We indeed may be the last generations to enjoy cruising down the east coast in a old-school car.
If we allow it.
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