Some telematics will let Big Brother watch you

Feb 4, 2013

Technology – computer application technology, primarily – moves faster than a speeding bullet and looks to be more powerful than a locomotive.

And that’s becoming scary.

Just a few years ago hands-free Bluetooth cell phone use was a big deal, trying to get drivers to keep both hands on the wheel. Then, as instant messaging via texting began to infiltrate the communications world and, later, because accidents caused by distracted texting drivers found states enacting no-texting-while-driving laws, the automotive industry began looking at how to bring a less-distracted means for drivers to communicate – because modern people seem to want to be constantly connected. And because “connected” distractions increased, automakers – and their aftermarket manufacturers – are responding by trying to quickly develop connected products that won’t be so distracting, such as voice-command rather than touch-screen-only units.

Perhaps the biggest advancement is, or soon will be, using smart phones to direct Internet connections in the vehicle. And, thus, using the Internet in your car, whether through phone apps or in-vehicle apps, allows the Internet places you go to collect even more about you.

So, what kind of information might be mined through a personal vehicle that’s any different than sitting in a Starbucks with your iPad?

Here’s a bit of insight from a press release from a major electronics maker touting its latest automotive telematics device introduced at January’s mega Consumer Electronics Show:

Besides the ability to “add a remote start and/or lock/unlock module to the -¦ telematics device. -¦ [it also] allows the consumer to monitor, manage, maintain and control their vehicle’s health.” And that’s nice, isn’t it?

However, the plot thickens…

“[It] also includes driver scoring, and the company plans to announce partnerships with auto insurance carriers for future Usage Based Insurance (UBI) programs this coming year.”

What?

This means a connected vehicle will tell on you. So, your insurance carrier would receive a report that, maybe, says you’ve been driving 63 mph too many times in that 55-mph zone you travel along daily. Or you didn’t come to a complete stop too many mornings at the stop sign at the end of your neighborhood. Or that perhaps your habit of changing lanes too frequently on the Interstate during rush hour might constitute, in the eyes of your insurance company’s actuary, aggressive, distracted, weaving, under-the-influence or meth-crazed driving, when you’re just maneuvering around vehicles inching along during your rush-hour commute. This, just to decide how much insurance to charge you.

In other words: Corporate Big Brother will be watching you. And this is a bundled in-vehicle “service” the consumer/driver will pay for monthly.

I hope the aftermarket won’t subscribe to such snoop services.

Sirius radio, yes. Nav, yes. Safety assistance, yes. But invading my privacy? Gleaning personal information and studying perceived habits without my permission? No.

Not in my car.