Connected cars accelerate down data-collection highway

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That holiday trip over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house could turn into nice little gift for automakers as they increasingly collect oodles and oodles of data about the driver.

Automakers are collecting valuable pieces of information thanks to the internet connections, cameras and sensors built into most vehicles in recent years. The online access makes it possible for cars to be unlocked remotely if the keys are lost. It’s how safety features can be upgraded wirelessly and maintenance schedules adjusted based on performance.

But these digital peepholes are also offering a windshield-size view of people’s lives. That’s creating the potential for intrusive marketing pitches and government surveillance.

No serious incidents have occurred in the United States, Europe and Japan, but a red flag has already been raised in China, where automakers have been sharing location details of connected cars with the government.

“We are not that far away from when 100 percent of all new cars will come equipped with data modems,” Navigant Research analyst Sam Abuelsamid predicted. “Having the potential to collect more data about people in their cars means there is going to be potential for abuses, too.”

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