If you have a newish car, you can already integrate it with your smartphone, answering your cell with a button on your steering wheel and carrying on cellphone conversations through your car’s speakers. You can even buy “apps” for your car. But when your car is your phone and your computer, outside entities are getting their hooks into you. The price of getting information from the web is that the web is getting information on you.
Now Google has announced new initiatives with auto manufacturers, turning cars into Android devices. This will allow Google–along with its client companies and its government snoopers–to collect all kinds of personal information about the drivers. Google will be able to place ads– tailor made just for you and your buying weaknesses–right into your car.
Won’t that be a great advance in automotive technology?
A series of deals announced this week between technology firms such as Google and automakers is bringing services previously aimed at smartphones right into the dash of cars that connect directly to the Web.
The growing alliance between Silicon Valley and Detroit has executives in both places excited over the technological and moneymaking opportunities. But the fast-emerging trend also has raised questions about whether consumers will be able to control the massive trove of personal data that cars are expected to generate in the coming years.
U.S. laws are vague about who can harness all that information. Can law enforcement use the data to prove that a driver was speeding? Will hackers be able to get personal data from Web-connected cars? Can consumers stop Google from tracking them as it seeks to sell targeted ads?
Consumer advocates say so far there aren’t clear answers.
“This goes to the heart of the focus of advertising in 2014, which is to get hyper-local data to target consumers on a much more invasive level,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy advocacy group. He envisions Best Buy or McDonald’s ads being served up to drivers just as they are blocks from the nearest store.
“At what point does someone get a chance to make a decision not to be tracked where you go, and don’t, where you bank and buy things?” he added.
At the International Consumer Electronics Show here [in Las Vegas], Google announced a slew of partnerships with carmakers including Audi, General Motors, Ford, Honda and Hyundai. Those deals will bring the Web giant’s suite of services to cars that connect directly to 4G wireless signals.
In new Audis slated to be at dealerships later this year, drivers will also be able to tell Google to check traffic for the fastest route downtown, make reservations at a favorite restaurant and send calendar invitations to dinner guests — even if they do not have smartphones.
A tablet, running Google’s Android operating system, will pop out of the dashboard. The device can be passed around so passengers can find YouTube clips and order songs and audio books from the Google Play store for the car’s entertainment system.
Prefer Dunkin’ Donuts over Starbucks? Google may be able to decipher that by driving behavior and deliver the appropriate ads to an e-mail account or smartphone.
Audi executives said they view the relationship with Google as crucial to the automaker’s future. Customers listed technology as the second-most important criteria in buying Audi vehicles last year.
The executives added that Google, not the automaker, would control any personal data generated by the car. And, they said, the information would be stored in servers, not the actual vehicles, to safeguard the data in case the car is stolen or sold.