Well that’s what State Farm the giant insurer wants to know about you and is willing to trade you a few pence for letting them spy on your driving habits. Is it worth it, to let big brother ghost ride shot gun with you? While that’s what they are offering as if you Joe driver simply let them plug this little black box into your car, you will be part of the in crowd.
However is this really a good idea, as what about the liability aspect of this whole scheme? Scratching your head are you what am I talking about? Well let’s say you’re in a fender bender (we will keep it simple), well that little module knows how fast you were (really) going most likely 30 in a 25 mph zone, along if you attempted to brake or not and a host of other data which can be used against you in a law suit (read as court). The interesting thing here is all of this data has been around since 1996 when most major auto manufactures started installing readable ECU’s (Engine Control Units), the black box computer of modern day which makes all the magic happen in your car.
While too long of a thought to wax about here in detail, since this time I’ve wondered who owns the data as typically software (which runs the ECU) is not owned, but instead “licensed” therefore you don’t own it so in fact there is the potential that the auto company could reposes the “soul” of your car. This as mentioned could fill a book with legal discussions, however here the point is access to the data was only via physical “access” to your car which involved a whole bunch of property rights issues which you can read as being a costly nightmare.
However with State Farm’s little device your now sending this data to the cloud, and guess what? If it was the lack of property rights issues now, you win and can see the liability issues brewing as you might remember something we’ve waxed about in prior posts. This has been the fact as privacy was once protected only by its high costs, however with this no longer being the case. The social as well as legal landscapes will be forced to change and rapidly at that.
As let me pose this question to you the reader saying that driver Bob Evens is constantly violating the speed limit in a substantial manor as well as demonstrating other hazardous driving habits. In the end, Bob is involved in a case vehicular of manslaughter, is State Farm now contributory to the accident because they knew of Bob’s poor habits while behind the wheel in advance and did nothing more them revoke his safe driver discount…
Note: For extended discussion the data in an ECU is stored in a non-volatile RAM device and in the past (not sure about currently) basically in collocation with the operating code in a write-able ROM format (yes for you embedded systems engineers out there know I massacred this a bit, however needed to simplify the logic). As this “format” in essence would (or could) mean that your data was actually a live variable in “their” program, so therefore theirs and not your property.