There’s a meme going around the blogosphere about how electric vehicle drivers will have to worry about Big Brother. Because many of the upcoming electric vehicles will be connected to wireless networks, have mobile apps and will have their rate of charge managed by the local utility, some believe there will be increased privacy concerns and abuses of that data. Here’s my take: All our cars (not just EVs) will eventually be connected and much more digital, and while there will likely be some unforeseen issues with privacy, we need to start getting used to the idea of the connected car.
As I detailed in this article on The Anxiety of Digital: Cars and Power Grid Up Next, there’s always a collective anxiety that surrounds the emergence of digital and networked technologies, like computerized voting systems, online banking, and more recently the smart grid. Now with the emergence of cheap chips, ubiquitous wireless networks, smart software and mobile computing, we’re entering the age of the always-on connected device, and one example of that is the car.
Vehicles are now “packed with up to 100 million lines of computer code,” and have “at least 30 microprocessor-controlled devices,” pointed out the New York Times earlier this year. GM’s Volt has its own IP address. Many automakers already offer services based on network connections, like location-based navigation (enabled by a GPS system) or GM’s OnStar System which is based on a cellular connection.
Along with the development of this digital connected car tech, the anxiety has been trickling into the public consciousness over the past year. Expect to hear more about big brother tracking us via our cars. Earlier this year, an employee who’d been fired from a car dealership logged into the company’s web-based system and was able to remotely wreak havoc on more than 100 vehicles. Earlier this year, computer scientists at the University of Washington and University of California, San Diego, released a research paper showing just what kind of abuses a sophisticated hacker could do to vehicles that rely heavily on in-car networks and connect to the web via wireless.
I’m not saying privacy and cybersecurity concerns for connected devices — and connected cars — should be taken lightly, but let’s keep some perspective. We’ve been here before. There are endless security tools developed through the creation of the Internet that will be the guides to keeping connected devices secure. The connected car is here; get used to it.
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