Concerns about data privacy aren’t going away and, in fact, are growing. Many retailers that have adopted in-store tracking technology to enhance shopping experiences and gather information on customer behavior have met with backlash. Increasingly, people are turning to a new crop of apps to safeguard how personal information is used in other apps. We have apps to guard other apps. The world is getting more confused and scary. The Heartbleed bug and other threats have heightened concern about an even more threatening vulnerability of our connected world. So how will drivers feel about increasingly automated vehicles that generate huge masses of data of an exceedingly personal nature? What happens when it is hacked?
Automated vehicles require multiple types of sensors to obtain information about the vehicle, its movement, and the surrounding environment, which includes the roadway, other vehicles, obstacles and infrastructure. All sorts of ambient information may be captured. Perhaps activity outside of your house, or your kids on their way to school, or the licenses of cars in your driveway will be caught on camera.
The massive amount of data collected needs to be crunched, and only some of it will be processed within the vehicle. Other captured data will be sent off-board to the cloud for handling, with results then returned to the vehicle. The amount of data that will be created by automated vehicles is uncertain, but I’ve seen estimates of 1 GB per second. Whatever it is, it will be immense.
What’s collecting data in a driverless vehicle? Lidar, a laser technology that uses reflected light, is identifying everything around the vehicle with great precision. Cameras are taking pictures to detect phases of traffic lights, identify stop signs, and map road lane markings. GPS is tracking the location of the vehicles and helping with navigation. Sonar is detecting objects and measuring their distance, speed and direction. And each vehicle is exchanging positioning, braking, heading and speed data with other vehicles on the road to prevent collisions.
The data generated is both of a critical and personal nature. And data that is moving in and out of the vehicle to be processed elsewhere or to communicate with other vehicles is particularly vulnerable. The consequences are far greater than a violation of privacy or a stolen identity. The operation of vehicles is at risk to be maliciously disrupted to disastrous outcome. This isn’t an issue we can put off until driverless vehicles are closer in reach. Vehicles today are increasingly equipped with safety and entertainment features that capture critical or sensitive data, any of which could present a threat in the wrong hands.