You may use your vehicle to get from point A to point B, but that doesn't mean the car-driver relationship stops there. As cars become more and more high-tech there is a concern about the data they collect, and who has access to it.
Consumer Reports looked at 2018 vehicles and found that 32 out of 44 brands reviewed offer some sort of wireless data connection. There are dozens of data collection points, but one example of information being collected comes with cameras located inside your car — usually cameras face outside of the vehicle, but Tesla Model 3s have an inside facing camera. According to the manual, the camera is not turned on but it could be for future features.
“The manual says the camera is not turned on right now, but it could be used in potential future features,” said Jake Fischer, Consumer Reports Auto expert. “Tesla promises that it will let customers know before they turn the camera on.”
Other vehicles like the 2018 GM Cadillac CT6 with super cruise has an internal camera. That particular camera monitors it’s driver for signs of distraction, but GM says it doesn’t capture or store video.
Cameras and sensors are collecting data in other instances, experts explain that in preparation for self-driving cars automakers are implementing a machine learning-process.
“They’re using your data to map the roads and better understand how vehicles and people are going to react on those roads,” said Fischer.
The legal rules around car data are murky, laws state that crash data belongs to the owner but that doesn’t mean that type of information hasn’t become public. Just last March Tesla released information about a deadly crash noting that while the car’s auto-pilot feature was turned on, it’s driver ignored multiple warnings to take the wheel.
A 2015 law says the crash data belongs to the owner, not the auto company, but that’s just a very small fraction of the data your car is generating. The auto industry has issued voluntary guidelines around privacy practices but Consumers Union, CR’s advocacy arm, would like to see more regulation and greater transparency, with car companies being upfront about what they’re collecting.