Nowadays, auto manufacturers seem to be tripping over each other pointing out that they offer Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. And more recent phenomenon are announcements—from companies including Ford and Hyundai—that they are offering Amazon Alexa capabilities. You talk. It listens.
In late January, General Motors said it is releasing a next-generation infotainment software development kit (NGI SDK) to software developers to write apps for GM cars. The NGI SDK includes native Application Program Interfaces (APIs) that allow access to expected things - like oil life and tire pressure and whether lightbulbs are burned out - but unexpected things, as well. Like the presence of passengers in the vehicle.
When your TV set is ratting you out, isn't it likely that your car will?
In making the announcement of the NGI SDK, GM pointed out that it has the largest connected fleet on the road, some 12-million vehicles. The company also noted: "From 2015 to 2016, GM has seen data usage by customers increase nearly 200 percent. Mobile app use for GM vehicles also hit an all-time high in 2016, with more than 225 million interactions."
Is it not plausible that they know more those interactions than simply the number of them? GM's privacy agreement is like most privacy policies, which boils down to: You use it (the device, software, etc.), you potentially give up a portion of your privacy.
While on the subject of apps, coincident with this year's CES, Subaru announced that it has added eight cloud-based apps to the STARLINK multimedia system in the 2017 Impreza. Some are familiar, like Yelp. Some are a bit narrow in focus, like eBird, which was developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for birdwatchers. And one ought to give a bit of pause: RightTrack. According to Subaru,
"RightTrack Test Drive from Liberty Mutual Insurance monitors driving habits and provides customers with tips on driving safer to help lower their insurance rates and improve their safe driving skills."
Or said more simply: You drive. It watches. And let's the folks at Liberty Mutual know how well, and how fast, you've been driving.
And Porsche just announced that it was joined the "Startup Autobahn innovation platform," which sounds like something along the lines of "TechCrunch Disrupt Stuttgart," a means through which up-and-coming tech companies can get funding and have the opportunity to work on "intelligent solutions at the interface between hardware and software," in a workshop, or hacker space, including a variety of equipment like 3D printers and robots.
While it sounds laudable, among the developments Porsche cites as an example of the kind of work that's being funded is a projector that transforms a windshield into advertising space. And isn't it possible that the ads broadcast could have something to do with what it discovers that the driver might be interested in given her interaction with, say, Yelp?
Here's the thing. While it may seem appealing to have all manner of connectivity in cars, there is the other side of that. Without getting all tinfoil hat about this, when your TV set is ratting you out, isn't it likely that your car will?
It drives. And watches. And listens. And collects data the likes of which you might otherwise not have shared.