Motorists, your own car is already coping with you!

Did you know that your car, just like your PC or your smartphone, is a generous provider of digital data (also called data, in other words dematerialized information obtained about you, thanks to you), the value of which is growing… to the point that some experts already believe that the data generated is more profitable than the car itself? “With over 200 sensors installed in each connected vehicle to track speed, location, tire pressure or battery charge, the data generated […] give car manufacturers unprecedented insight into the real performance of their vehicles”, explains the Automotive Platform, which brings together the sector in France. It is difficult to escape it: the natural renewal of the fleet has the consequence of putting millions of connected cars for a few years (according to Statista, there were 800,000 in 2017 and 9 million in 2021).

Against the backdrop of an unprecedented crisis (fall in sales, shortage of components, war in Ukraine, etc.), it will be able to provide services through the ultra-connectivity of the vehicles it produces and therefore, to the almost infinite quantity of data that it will collect and exploit, that the automotive industry foresees, among other things, its safeguard. It’s very nice, but the driver, what does he gain?

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Security, that’s undeniable. On-board electronics have enabled the development of safety-enhancing functions (ABS, ESP anti-skid, blind spot or drowsiness detection, e-Call emergency call system, etc.), to make vehicles more reliable or to facilitate your trips (GPS, etc.).

But that’s the good side of the coin. Because the galloping hyper-connectivity of our cars is also already capable of informing us. Our association remains vigilant because the excesses will not take long to arise, some having already surfaced. I share with you three questions that we have identified as sources of future annoyances (the word is weak) hanging in the face of drivers:

– Since July 2022 for new models, and from 2024 for all new vehicles, manufacturers are required to install a black box on board, responsible for keeping the recording of the 30 seconds preceding an accident and the 30 following it . Reassuring on paper, but which raises big questions. Example: you are driving at 82 km/h, two kilometers per hour faster than the limit. A drunk driver cuts you off. What prevents his insurance from arguing that you were driving too fast and that you are liable, even though his client will have 3 grams of alcohol in his blood?


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– In an article published in February 2021, the radars-auto.com site told how the State, which had acquired a database from a Michelin subsidiary, initially intended for the construction of a “national base of authorized speed limits” (but also an accident analysis tool), had diverted this precious source of information to also allow it to “optimize” the positioning of its radars. Where do accidents most often take place? It would be logical for anyone tempted to associate automated speed control with road safety, but we are obviously far from it. It will be rather, specifies this extremely well informed site, where “the speeds practiced and the traffic are the highest”. What is twisted is that, stemming from the observation of our own comings and goings, this information is ultra reliable…

– In 2019, the CNIL pinned and publicly put the Ministry of the Interior on notice on section radars, accused of keeping the data for too long. Indeed, these radars do not verbalize an instantaneous speeding but an average speed on a section. They therefore photograph all road traffic entering and leaving the section. However, the CNIL then underlined, “the license plate numbers of vehicles that have not committed an offense are kept for more than 13 months for the complete numbers, and more than 4 years for the truncated numbers of two characters, well beyond the expected twenty-four hour deadline”, a deadline that the government had accepted in 2013 when the same CNIL deemed the initial latency of seven days already too long. Up to four years, instead of 24 hours…

This is no longer science fiction

These three examples of excesses are symptomatic of the risks of coping that we incur at the wheel of connected cars, even if the Data Act (European regulation on the exchange and sharing of data expected in 2024) aims to strictly regulate access to our data. But in the field, the border between real risks and fantasized fears remains tenuous. For the moment, insurers cannot access our data reflecting our behavior at the wheel to “adjust” their car premium (Ordinance No. 2021-442 of April 14, 2021 already gives them access to data from connected vehicles involved in accidents out of the way, remind The Argus of Insurancein order to “determine the compensation necessary for the application of the insurance contract concerned”).

Until when ? For the moment, our Linky meter does not overcharge you when you “refuel” by plugging in your electric car at home. Until when ? For the moment, the police cannot follow you in the pants and punish the slightest misconduct from a distance. Until when ? So many questions that are no longer so completely science fiction… Maître Jean-Baptiste Le Dall, a lawyer specializing in road law, reminds us that “following the dieselgate affair in 2015, there was talk of the authorities being able to prompting to read vehicle data directly from each vehicle’s diagnostic (OBD) socket Initially the text was extremely large, leading to fears that agents would arrive, plug in and could detect a whole bunch of information. OBD does not necessarily make it possible today to retrieve very specific information on a precise place and date, but why not, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. We could be heading towards this kind of thing”.

Reread 1984, by George Orwell. His Big Brother is already observing us, including behind the wheel.

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Motorists, your own car is already coping with you!