US Government Considering Increased Use of Vehicle Data Sharing

New cars may soon have communication technology installed as a standard feature. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is considering the new requirement, called “vehicle-to-vehicle” (V2V) communications, which would allow tracking of location, speed and other information such as number of passengers.

The NHTSA says that sharing the information could alert drivers of hazards and could be used as a safety feature, but the concern is that it could also be used to violate drivers’ privacy.

The goal of the NHTSA is to ultimately create self-driving vehicles controlled in tandem by internal vehicle electronics and an external database system. They are expected to make a decision about whether or not to move forward on the rule-making process governing this by the end of 2013.

There is concern that information about vehicle location, speed, etc. could be stored by the government and used to track a person’s movements. The Obama administration says it is not considering using it as such. A spokesman for the NHTSA said to CNSNews, “NHTSA has no plans to modify the current V2V system design in a way that would enable the government or private entities to track individual motor vehicles.”

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that the Department of Transportation does want any new system adopted to detect “bad actors” while simultaneously protecting privacy. He defined “bad actors” to mean vehicles with malfunctioning parts or hacked electronics systems. He says that the current version of the V2V system does not link vehicle communications data with driver identity.

Even so, the GAO has found that the public has serious concerns about widespread usage of such a system. Without strict rules regulating data usage regarding a driver’s movements, it’s unlikely the V2V technology will ever be accepted.

Civil liberties advocates have recently raised concerns about event data recorders that are now in almost every car. The EDRs can store speed, seatbelt use and other information 5-10 seconds before a crash. Data from the devices has already been used by law enforcement to contradict court testimony.

Khaliah Barnes of the Electronic Privacy Information Center was asked about the data recorded and who accesses it. She spoke to CBS news: “There’s not so much privacy concerns as actual threats to privacy. These machines collect lots of data, and right now there are no federal laws that safeguard this information. And so what happens is there is an increasing market for this information. Law enforcement wants to see this information, insurance companies, as well as private citizens involved in litigation.”

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