Your Future Self-Driving Car Will Be Watching Your Every Move, Says New Study

Future autonomous car firms may choose to harness personalized customer information through geospatial and navigation technologies resulting in high surveillance.
Loukia Papadopoulos

When we think of self-driving cars we think of the ease of not having to drive. We are transported where we want to go and can spend our time checking our email or even watching our favorite TV shows.


However, self-driving cars come with one caveat and that is increased surveillance. By their very nature, the new autonomous cars would have access to all details about your whereabouts and possibly more.

Harnessing personalized customer information

Will car companies and others choose to harness personalized customer information through geospatial and navigation technologies? If so, your new comfortable ride becomes a very adept method of surveillance according to new research.

"Self-driving cars will represent a new mode for surveillance. Through a self-driving car's global positioning, system, navigational tools, and other data collection mechanisms, companies will be able to gain access to highly contextual data about passengers' habits, routines, movements, and preferences," explained Luis F. Alvarez León, an assistant professor of geography at Dartmouth.

"This trove of personal, locational, and financial data can be leveraged and monetized by companies, by providing a data-stream for companies to target customers through personalized advertising and marketing," he added.

It's not just your locations that will be tracked. As autonomous vehicles enable passengers to spend more time engaging with media in a vehicle, the media you consume could also be tracked.

Digital platforms for media companies

This will also change the very nature of cars transforming "the car into a bundle of services rather than just a product." "Automobile manufacturers may essentially become digital platforms for media companies, search engines, retailers, vendors, and other companies, aiming to offer services to passengers through a car's infotainment system," reveals the study.

Most Popular

The growth of self-driving cars will see a merging of different technologies. "Through autonomous cars, the automotive and technology industries are likely to become more integrated with synergies across geospatial, navigation, artificial intelligence, ride-hailing, automotive and other industries and technologies," said Alvarez Léon.

However, this will make us all ever more vulnerable to tracking. Privacy and security concerns abound when it comes to self-driving cars.

These are further exacerbated by the fact that specific governance mechanisms have yet to be defined by federal regulations. As the age of the autonomous car approaches, shouldn't we be looking into effective legislation to ensure the privacy and safety of citizens?

What do you think? Are self-driving cars a more convenient form of transportation or an impending disaster of invasion of privacy?

The study is published in Surveillance and Society.

message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron