Connected cars are overhauling the driving experience — but what data are they collecting and sharing … and why?

The truth is, automobiles have been data-collecting since the 1970s, when on-board diagnostics first came into use. Fast-forward to today and the average car has 150 subsystems and up to 10 million lines of code that monitor tire pressure, gas mileage, and engine performance, to name only a few. A luxury sedan can have as many as 100 million lines of code — about 14 times that of a Boeing 787.

But these systems aren’t just collecting data about your car — they’re also capturing information about you, the driver. And as cars become even more connected, the amount of data captured is slated to soar.

Esurance recently asked everyday drivers how much they knew (or didn’t know) about cars and data. Check out the video to see if you know what’s myth and what’s reality.

Here are 4 things about car data-collection that you might not know (but probably should).

1. Your car captures info about you, the driver

Got a car built after 2014? Well, there’s a good chance it’s gathering info about how hard you brake and how often you floor it — as well as the things like tire pressure and overall mechanical performance.

So why do cars collect information like this?

For one, it helps carmakers improve vehicle functions and catch defects. In the event of a defect in a fleet of cars, one over-the-air software update could remedy the problem, making the need for a massive recall a bygone practice. But secondarily, vehicle datasets are often used to provide cars with self-driving capabilities.

In 2016, for instance, Tesla offered an optional package to customers that came with in-car sensors and cameras to support collision-warning systems. But that’s not all those cameras and sensors were doing. They were also learning about unique behind-the-wheel behaviors. After a year of collecting data, Tesla sent out a software update, providing those cars with auto-steering, braking, and lane-changing.

Currently, data’s the main ingredient behind self-driving technology. And it’s predicted that self-driving cars will reduce auto collisions by more than 90 percent!

For this reason, data is becoming increasingly precious cargo — even more so than the machinery that houses it. (Related: take our interactive quiz to see if you know as much as the average person when it comes to your car data.)

2. Car data could become more valuable than cars themselves

In fact, some experts predict that, as an alternative to legal tender, drivers could shell out some data to buy, say, a new app for their cars. And if you’re worried that this is too much data being collected, fret not.

3. Privacy laws are already in place (and more are likely coming)

Under the Driver Privacy Act of 2015, companies have to first get customer permission to use their data. Some customers may unwittingly sign off on the dispersal of their info when they buy a car. But, provided you read the fine print, the decision is legally up to you whether or not your data can be used by third parties.

Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission held a workshop in June of 2017 to address privacy and security practices among manufacturers. The most pressing items they discussed were consumer privacy concerns, calling for greater transparency about how data is captured and used.

4. Cybersecurity is paramount to car makers

Laws around data security are being prioritized as parameters for self-driving systems get teased out by lawmakers and manufacturers.

There’s too much at stake for manufacturers not to prioritize cybersecurity and data protection. If people don’t trust it, they won’t use it.

How to stay informed

In these “connected” times, we happily fork over sensitive info about ourselves on a daily basis. Apps like Waze save us the headache of sitting in traffic. And Facebook lets us tell hundreds or thousands of friends (but do you really know all those people?) that we just checked in at a restaurant in Johannesburg — at what time, with whom, and all the longitude-latitude coordinates to boot.

That said, as more companies (car companies included) become more interested in data, knowledge is still the best first step toward protecting yourself. From social media to smart homes to connected cars, it’s always a good idea to take your time to read the terms and conditions. And if you’re on the market for a new car, ask questions about the kind of data it might be recording and with whom that info is being shared. To learn more, check out the Esurance report on car data and how it’s being shared.

Smart technology | Car tech


about Evan

From writing content for life coaches to working on indie film press releases, Evan’s motley repertoire has been considerable in the last couple of years. Now he employs his varied aptitude as a content writer for Esurance. He’s also a self-proclaimed polyglot in training with a proclivity for dog-eared books.