With well over 6 million CCTV cameras in the UK, we Brits are accustomed to being watched. This is even more obvious when you’re a British driver, with recent news telling us authorities will use cameras to detect drivers using cycle lanes and mobile phones. Now, in-car technology is being developed that takes driver surveillance to a whole new level.
With in-car cameras, lasers, and radar to detect who you are and what you and your passengers are doing, car manufacturers can soon track your habits and behaviours—but does this potential for safer driving mean a dangerous lack of privacy?
The road ahead
Connected cars are nothing new. In 1996, General Motors launched the first connected car with ‘OnStar’ in some of their Cadillac models, designed to get emergency help to a car in an accident. The Cadillac CT6 already uses cameras to check the driver’s eyes for lack of attention and drowsiness and many other carmakers are following along with some of their models possessing similar functions. But what else can drivers expect to see soon?
BMW has developed what they call ‘Natural interaction’—gaze recognition along with improved gesture and voice recognition—for their iNEXT model, available from 2021. BMW says the gaze recognition allows motorists not just to control the car interior with their eyes, but the high-definition camera in the dashboard can tell what the driver is looking at outside, too. The manufacturer says drivers can look at a restaurant as they drive past and find out the opening hours, what’s on the menu, and even book a table.
And thanks to improvements in vertical-cavity-surface-emitting lasers (VCSEL), cameras might soon have the same technology as Apple’s FaceID software to display a variety of data of who is inside the car.
Cameras don’t work at their best in cramped areas, such as cars, because of objects—like seats—blocking the camera’s view. This is where radar works better.
Firms such as Texas Instruments are using millimetre-wave radar technology, which takes very detailed measurements because it uses such small wavelengths. Developers are working on various applications, including the ability to differentiate between males, females, and even dogs within a car.
Radar technology could detect the direction passengers face in self-driving cars—where occupants may face in various directions—so airbags and other passive safety systems can configure themselves in a crash. Careys has built two radar systems; with one measuring biometrics and health—such as respiration and heart rate—and another that counts the number of passengers and their positioning.
Vayyar and Brose are working together to get cars to detect obstructions outside the car by limiting how far the door can open. This will not only prevent drivers from having their cars dented by hitting walls, poles, etc. but will also protect cyclists from ‘dooring’.
In a heartbeat
Earlier this year, Google got the approval of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use millimetre-wave radar to work at higher power levels for their Project Soli. A microchip emits the radar and allows users to press a virtual button or turn a virtual dial by identifying fine finger gestures, which the chip then translates into commands resembling touches on a screen.
The FCC said the decision to provide a waiver for the project “will serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology,”.
B-Secur says everyone has a unique electrocardiograph (ECG) signature that technology can use to assess our condition while driving and even unlock our vehicles. The company is working on biometric technology that will place medical-grade ECG sensors inside car steering wheels to monitor the motorist’s health via their cardiac rhythm.
Dr Andrew Mitchell, Consultant Cardiologist, and advisor on the board for B-Secur said:
“Your car will only unlock for you, it will know when you’re alert and when you’re sleepy; your doctor or nurse will know with certainty who they are administering the medicine to; the insurance company will know for [sic] certainty who was driving the car at the time of the accident. The applications are limitless.”
‘No such thing as 100% safe’
No doubt these advances in automotive technology will provide many benefits to drivers and other road users, but they come with concerns; one of which is privacy.
Consider the information your connected car will collect: It will have access to your personal information, location, calendar; shopping and driving habits; whether you speed, forget to use your seat belt, the state of your health, your email content—and much more.
Sharing so many of your personal details has the potential of leaving you vulnerable to unwanted advertisers and hackers—or perhaps you might receive a fixed penalty notice or parking fine without a police officer or traffic warden in sight!
Yet, most of us own a smartphone these days, which means giving up a measure of privacy (think of Google Maps needing to know our location to work at its best) and the same applies to connected cars. When we enable and use certain car functions, we decide that the value we derive from the car’s software outweighs our privacy concerns.
Managing Director and Vice President of ABI Research, Dominique Bonte, said:
“Everything that hits the Internet is not 100% safe. There are cyber-attacks all the time.”
“There’s no such thing as a 100% safe network. So as soon as something gets connected, there’s a risk that someone could get hands on that data.”
But privacy is not the only concern; there could be fatal consequences if, for example, a hacker can download malicious software to the computer responsible for automatic braking. Only when these ‘cars of the future’ are part of day-to-day life will we understand the full repercussions of their use—both positive and negative.
Even today, Volvo released a set of new features for all cars from 2021 to improve the safety of drivers. One of these is an in-car monitoring system, and we’ve attached the video below for you to watch.
How do you feel about your car tracking and monitoring you? Do you already use any of the technology mentioned? Tell us your views in the comments.
Humans are not perfect, and computers, radar, lasers and cameras will find your every fault and send you a fixed penalty notice. That is definitely going to make the roads safer. Just like hammering in a nail when someone is watching you- how many times do you miss the nail and hit the wood compared to not being watched? I perceive that we will all be driving perfectly at the speed limit, studying our speedometers more than the road to avoid a penalty, and then miss a street sign which will then cause us to receive a penalty notice. Motorists will be the equivalent of “smartphone zombies”- focussed on one thing and bumping into the scenery. I would worry about pedestrians in this scenario. Much better, fix black boxes in all our cars all GPS linked and then as soon as we exceed the speed limit or go over a white line trying to avoid something in the road and we will be sent a penalty notice, so best we all go and buy tiny engined small cars that don’t go fast to avoid penalties, and anyway with all these notices half the country will be over 12 points in the first month. I cant wait…
As you say nothing is 100% safe but, there are enough safety features that can save lives. I’m all for it, bring it on.
Buy a classic car and go off grid that will annoy the powers that be as they wont be able to find you
Not sure whether I have read this right, maybe something wrong with my eyesight! “The manufacturer says drivers can look at a restaurant as they drive past and find out the opening hours, what’s on the menu, and even book a table”.
I hate it! Big brother really will be watching you.Give me an old car with minimal, or better still no electronic controls any day. I want to be in control of the car, not have the car being in control of me!
1984 is becoming a reality…
Anything that reduces the horrendous toll of deaths and serious injuries on our roads is to be welcomed. I’m sure that the aviation industry would very quickly sharpen up its act if there was the equivalent of an air crash killing a couple of hundred people every five weeks or so in the UK, so perhaps its long overdue that much stricter control of driving is introduced.
Pity they don’t put in dashcams instead of cluttering screen with owner installed versions
I think that is way over the top. Cars are getting ever more expensive, and I cannot see too many wanting to pay extra for the priviledge of getting a speeding ticket in one of those moments of error that all drivers make when they drift up tpo 33 or 34. I think a far better idea is a simpler system, one which knows and monitors the road’s speed limit all the time, and tells you if you start to drift over. The database already exists, within existing SatNavs, and in mobile smart phones for those who have realised they no longer need a separate SatNav.
my privacy is more important. especially when passing data to insurance MAFIA is mentioned!
It is amazing how they make it sound that this will benefit the costumer and yet they roll along doing what they want and we pay for it when we buy the vehicle and yet they profile more by selling the information onto other companies that will end up knowing more about you than your own mother and then start sending you loads of spam or pentaly notices I personal don’t need it or want it I’m happy driving my car the way I like too (within the law) I’m a adult not a child and once we allow this to keep happening you might aswell get a push chair, a dummy and a nanny to push you around all day.
Wake you folks they are not doing it for us they doing it for themselves don’t lose the fun of driving independently and take back control of your vehicle. This is not a good thing at all I see my car as my home and would you allow people to come in your house or property and watch you 24 hours a day ????
As for your last sentence – It’s coming soon.
correction that tech is already here and has been since google and amazon put out their little watch dogs for our homes. [alexa google home] even your dam phones with siri for gods sake.
Yes, and idiots in their masses are embracing it with open arms. That why they are taking it to the next level.
Where are these kinds of comments on all the usual articles about self-driving cars? I usually feel like I’m the only one, amidst the idiotic predictable responses like “ooh, won’t it be convenient… we’ll all be much safer”.
Well 1800 people killed on the roads of the UK last year – it has to be said that human drivers aren’t working out that well.
37.5M cars on the road. 1710 killed last year. From UK GOV source. All time high number of cars, all time low number of deaths. We also have amongst the lowest casualty road death rate in the world.
So I have to disagree in the UK. Places like Russia though… just watch a dashcam clip show.
Well that’s because there are more vehicles on our roads, so more idiots who should not have passed their test. More vehicles more deaths. Tech or no tech, would you really trust an autonomous car with your life, or anyone else’s for that matter? I dam well would not
All very well cars dumbing everyone down because car mnufacturers assume drivers have an IQ that of the pet dog, but what I want to know is when are they going to equipe cars with automatic arse wipeing technology, when everything goes wrong and the ‘driver’ s***s him or her self?
Thank heaven I have cars in my garage that let me do the driving devoid of all useless distraction aid such as teling me what gear I should be in, it is cold – ice warning, et al, useless and obvious and gimicky information simply to ramp up the cost and at the same time build in obsolete life spans of 7 years if you are lucky.
It is time the social housing majority who rely on old bangers start a movement against these unnecessary high tech c**p mobiles, as they will have to increase their thieving and hijacking abilities if they waant to remain mobile.
How rude!!! Many hard working, honest people live in social housing. People like you make me sick
All this high tech is making people less clever than the family dog already. lol
Wear a crash helmet / face mask in the car…. I want to see the report that says the camera has detected Kermit the frog driving my car!!!!
Not as daft as it sounds as the majority of deaths in road accidents is down to head injuries.
Bring it on 🙂
Really!!! you will live to regret it, that’s a promise
My car is part of my privacy……speed cameras have done nothing at all to bring down the amount of crashes or deaths on the roads in the UK…. They are simply a way for the police and local counsils to make money from people who’s budgets are already stretched by austerity….. As in no pay rise for how many years…. The car companies will sell your information to who ever…. You will get penalty notice after penalty notice….. So they profit in two ways…. Added premium for the new technology in the car you buy… And by selling the data they collect from you….they will know your every location and conversation…..even your dodgy singing on the m6…. Some ideas are good and safe….. Such as detecting if your paying attention… But why collect the information? Unless is for profit…. The great motorist cash cow being milked so bad my nipples have inverted. I will not own such a car…. If I wanted to be monitored by my insurance company…. I would have a box fitted… But right now… Its my choice….if they roll this c**p out…. At some point my insurance will go up unless I either have a box or one of these life recording motors…..so I say no to big brother in my car…..They can stick it where the sun don’t shine.
As if “they” don’t have enough ways to spy on us already!?
If this means a good reduction in the cost of the scandalous insurance companies and their hikes then so be it and will it also catchout the drivers who are constantly on the mobiles whilst driving
Bad drivers and idiots not taxing or insuring their vehicles is what increases insurance for everyone, its not fair but then what is about insurance companies
There will be a degree of financial coercion to this, because Insurers will charge impossibly high premiums to those who refuse to be tracked, & about a third as much for those who agree to be monitored, – i.e. most people. This then gives the insurers a huge amount of power, because they will then decide whether you’re driving is to their taste, or not, & they will retain the sanction of withdrawing your cover. So, it all depends on whether you think that unseen control is the way to go, not that you’ll actually have much choice.
Just ‘hack’ the black box in the car so it only sends back information that they would want to see.
Smear some oil on the camera or laser lens, just enough so it looks accidental and they can’t get any usable data on you.
If enough of us sabotage these things, they’ll have to give up their attempts to spy on us.
There would be people out there who’ll buy a cheap car for £200 & not bother to insure it. When police seize it, they won’t be worried, they’d just go out & buy another one.
They already do what your saying Clive.
They can do that now already and do, but that increased in popularity when they got rid of the tax disc.
We a suppose to be living in a free and democratic country , I don t think the safety Nazis should be allowed to take our freedom , people died to save our freedom let’s not give it up.
Oh god the ward become so scary
Which hospital is this scary ward in?
I think most of us know Miss Mo meant world, not ward. Helpfulness is better than sarcasm Lecky.
But will drivers be happy to give up their privacy for the benefits of this new technology? I certainly won’t. For every advantage of using new technology there are usually several drawbacks; and with this, apart from the problem of infiltration from hacking third parties, there is the dubious question of how what is recorded will be interpreted and by whom. I will be avoiding this like the plague.
As long as we can disable it no problem
Computer safety features work?
Tell that to the Boeing crash victims
Good point. Pilots were trying to override the computer without success.
There is that point…………….
I will NOT be impressed by this action and will ensure I stay with older cars to circumvent such things —- Grrrr
Big Brother will watching you no more stopping in layby’s etc.
My dogging days will be over.
Nah, you’ll just have a larger audience.
I don’t know if my car tracks me but it shows if i’m in or out of lane if it tracks me all the better.
Dangerous driver aides all guaranteed to reduce your concentration. Lane tracking keeps you in lane until it doesn’t – ask me how I know!! Fine if you were paying attention, not so good if you were pondering the menu at the restaurant you accidentally glanced at 🙂
Time learn how to hack and reprogram all these so called improvements to stop the ongoing privacy invasion, in the mean time buy an and old polluting car.
The idea is terrible & certainly invasive. This is of course a step towards the driverless car but I wouldn’t trust ever more complicated technology to work properly in every situation; however it seems they would trust their technology more than us to drive safely. It is yet another example of adults being treated like children, instead of trusted.
Shoot me now. Who thinks this is a good idea?? Not only are we to be spied on from every angle, but we will be zapped by ‘higher power level radar inside the car (for our own safety). Spending time looking at a passing restaurant and making a reservation using ‘hand gestures’ doesn’t sound very safe to me. I wonder if it will respond to other gestures………………………………
Display to a driver all the details, including menu and opening hours, of a restaurant??
What an appalling distraction!!!
Any manufacturer producing such a device should be banned from marketing it!!!!
Just actually watched the video. Definitely won’t be buying a Volvo
Don’t buy one of these cars. Just wait until the electronics fail and the incompetent driver breaks a mirror. Once it’s written off and in the salvage yard, grab the engine and running gear, stick it in a custom frame with a Q plate, grind off the engine number (don’t know why it’s not there officer), junk the dpf or catalyst, remap the ECU and drive. Alternatively, just buy a pre 2009 car.
I’m happy with the safety aspects but wonder how easy it would be for a burglar the get access and identify when you are far away from home.
In the extreme unlikeliness that I would want to buy any vehicle with this sort of equipment in it as standard it would be torn out/bypassed immediately.
The more technology I see going into new cars the less I want to own one!
This quite frankly is very disturbing. No way do I wish other people to know what I’m doing, never mind unknown people. Also the potential for misuse is terrifying . Big brother really is here now, and I fear we face the end of freedom as we know it. We won’t be able to do anything without somebody else knowing. Pointless lies saying it’s for people’s benefit, I can only see control eventually becoming the norm by those who definitely should NOT be in control God help us..
If advanced technology can do all this why doesn’t it disable mobile phones in cars this would be a great advance in safety
I think motor manufacturers have lost the plot as far as what the public want.
Affordability reliability come before keyless entry and automatic braking every time. MORRIS 1000 anyone.
Christ – and if you were in a Morris 1000 on the roads these days and got into a crash ? Dead.
Automatic braking is a fantastic safety feature. Keyless entry is not.
All these things because many do not know how to drive they need their cars to do everything for them if the car does not do it they are completely lost and do not know what to do but let the car crash Todays drivers are rubbish
More big brother watching us
I shall be sticking with my 2005 Honda Civic for the rest of my life thanks! They will have to kill me to take it off me.
I deliberately run old cars because I have no need of, and no interest in, all the modern electronic gadgets that’s just go wrong with monotonous regularity. To have such a spy on my car that the article talks about its completely and utterly unacceptable. Are we all to become complete robots to The State with absolutely no privacy and no say in what we do or how we do it? Who do people who sanction these developments think they are? We’re not answerable to them : they’re answerable to us, the voters. I would have all such equipment removed or disabled.
I’ll just stick to driving my 45 year old Ford thanks. No electrical stuff to go wrong and I even got an advisory when it had an MOT last year (before the 40 year exemption came in) for having emissions “too clean to test” so therefore I’m doing my bit for the environment!
I’m glad I’m 71 and not 21. What a crock of poo life is becoming! I haven’t even got a satnav and never want one. I drive my car, not some computerised “thing”!
With you all the way on this one Stan, i have never had a mobile phone or indeed do i have sat nav in my car. However in the fullness of time future generations will be drawn into this way of life it is inevitable, its called progress.
Not if you drive classics like I do.
about time. For some time now I have advocated black boxes in cars to monitor driver behaviour. ANYTHING to get stupid speeding drivers off the road
Just get a friend to unsolder one of the wires until you get a loose wire connection to the spy module. Job sorted 😉.
Actually. Thinking about it. I’ve had my every driving move watched for years with a built in recorder and detector. It’s called a Mother-in-law.
The only electronics in my lovely Land Rover DEFENDER are for starting the 2.5 litre Diesel and the various lights.
it is many steps too far. There are already too many cameras and speed trap without the car you drives reporting you as well’
Cars can already be hacked by the cyber terrorists so how long before they can select individual cars to have an ‘accident’? or how long before they decide to stop all traffic in motorways?
So that Volvo will pull over and park if the driver isn’t behaving? F*ck all that quite frankly!
One likely outcome is that drivers will be so focussed in NEVER making the slightest mistake in case the unseen spy police send out that unexpected fine. So drivers will not be watching the road enough to stay safe, but at least they won’t get a fine. Another consequence is that virtually everyone will fall foul of the motoring laws every so often, whether it be drifting an inch into a cycle or bus lane or getting distracted for a moment by the children being noisy in the back and virtually everyone will get fined quite often even though they may never have had an accident or broken the law by speeding. Everyone makes occasional mistakes, Cameras don’t care. The law is the law and you will be fined for every minor insignificant mistake you make. Local councils will see it as a wonderful opportunity to grab more money of the motorist to cover their wasteful spending.
So for me this is a step too far. Don’t forget that while every road death is s tragedy for those involved in the incident you can never be 100% safe and there are always going to be inexperienced chancers out there on the road. That is why some groups of drivers get so heavily penalised by the insurance companies who don’t really want their business unless the premium is extremely high.
With decades of experience, in my old age, I can see this being extremely unpopular with a certain section of our community. Not for criminal reasons, but for the age old reason of infidelity. This new device will be a major boon to divorce lawyers, who will be able to track their clients partners activities. I can see that going down well?