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As connected cars continue to become smarter, protecting drivers' personal information might become more difficult as vehicles are able to absorb more information than ever before.

Ignorance is bliss—but try telling that to the auto industry. According to a connected cars and autonomous vehicles survey published by the 􀃖rm of Foley and Lardner in 2017, more than 70 million connected cars will be driving the roads come 2023.

Connected cars utilize an array of sensors. They know how much gas you’re using, where you stop on the way to work each day or if you’re prone to breaking the speed limit getting there. It’s a treasure trove of information that can be incredibly useful to auto manufacturers looking to develop the next generation of arti􀃖cial intelligence and autonomous vehicles.

But sorting out exactly to whom that data belongs, however, is a task that promises to become more complex as cars become smarter.

“The data is crucial for developing arti􀃖cial intelligence to advance vehicles. But, at the same time, as the consumer, I’m very concerned about the data that’s going to be collected for my particular driving,” said Linda Rhodes, a partner specializing in complex commercial transactions at Mayer Brown.

As a link in the Internet of Things, connected cars would technically fall under the purview of the FTC but aren’t speci􀃖cally addressed by any one regulation. However,the Self Drive Act—which would establish a federal role in ensuring the safety of highly automated vehicles and require manufacturers to establish written cybersecurity plans—passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2017 and is being reviewed by the U.S. Senate. Still, experts say this legislation won’t address the privacy issues raised by smart cars.

“I think that there’s a lot of work to be done before you have speci􀃖c legislation that’s directed at privacy in cars, but you’ve got a lot of guidance and bills and principles and
discussion going on about the importance of data privacy as it relates to connected vehicles,” Rhodes said.

Fortunately, most auto companies are probably not interested in how often you visit the Walmart. Manufacturers are after driver reaction data—how smoothly you merge onto a highway, for example.

“That information may be helpful in terms of the arti􀃖cial intelligence needed to drive the vehicles but it may it may also be unique to the driver in the sense that an insurance company might be interested in that data because how the driver is driving might in􀃗uence how you set insurance rates for a driver,” Rhodes said.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers—an organization that consists of industry mainstays such as BMW, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors—implemented its own set of consumer privacy principles that would prohibit that car companies from sharing information such as vehicle speed or seat belt use.

But the degree of personal information at stake could potentially become more sensitive. Volvo and Ericsson have already announced an intention to begin developing entertainment systems for autonomous cars that would allow users to stream their favorite movies or television series. There also are apps on the market that allow users to pay for their gas via their cars.

All of this has Rhodes predicting an interesting future. “You may be able to hold a conference call in your vehicle once it’s fully autonomous. You [also] may be able to use your vehicle as payment system if you were to download a movie on Netflix.”

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Reprinted with permission from the December 27, 2018 edition of Legaltech News © 2018 ALM Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.