The Connected Car and Consumer Privacy

The Connected Car and Consumer PrivacyBy: Andrew Fixler, Senior Project Director

On March 21st during the keynote address of the Apple Event, CEO Tim Cook reaffirmed the company’s commitment to privacy. Early in his speech he addressed Apple customers directly, saying, “We believe strongly that we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and protect your privacy.”

Leaving the legal analysis to others, consumer satisfaction is more in our line of work as researchers. In our studies relating to the appeal of new features for vehicle makes and models that will be available in the future, consumer feedback demonstrates a clear demand to enhance connectivity. If phones are our new personal assistants and keepers of our secrets, automobiles are increasingly becoming our mobile offices and logistics coordinators.

Current telematics tools with direct relevance to the automotive industry include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However, to further increase safety and convenience, automotive manufacturers and suppliers are now preparing for a future where all vehicles are connected to each other, along with the infrastructure that surrounds them. Privacy becomes even more complex if future users feel they should control the information that connects to vehicles from car sharing services like ZipCar or Uber.

Knowing that connected cars are here to stay, how should automakers deal with their customers’ need for in-vehicle security, privacy, and encryption? As of now, automakers are actively seeking ways to keep vehicle software safe from hacking. Developing a comprehensive privacy policy may be the next logical step.

Recent news of the collegial agreement between 20 automakers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to make autonomous emergency braking standard by 2022 proves that creating industry guidelines for new technology is possible. This process may be a model for the development of best practices for privacy and connectivity in automobiles, aligning the interests of all stakeholders.


Google/Apple Have Little Impact on Consumer Interest in Autonomous Vehicles


By: Mike Scott, Marketing Director; Sara Beauchaine, Marketing Associate

Would you trust an autonomous vehicle? More importantly, would you purchase an autonomous vehicle today?

Technology giants Google and Apple have strong brands and are among the most recognized companies in the world. Yet even when these brands are attached to questions asked of consumers about autonomous vehicles, our January Omnibus revealed that consumers are not only hesitant about “trusting” autonomous vehicles, but about purchasing them as well.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. There are various stages of progress that will need to occur long before consumers would be comfortable taking a “cat nap” while their self-driving vehicle transports them from point A to point B. At this point, there is a curiosity that consumers have around the topic but not a clear understanding of what defines “autonomous.”

Officially, Apple hasn’t announced that it is in the autonomous vehicle business, but Google has. Our recent Morpace Omnibus found that a total of 31 percent of consumers “somewhat” trust or “completely” trust an autonomous vehicle with Google technology. Another 31 percent don’t trust the technology, leaving the largest percentage–38 percent–undecided.

In addition, only a minority of consumers are willing to purchase an autonomous vehicle at this time. Price could be a factor, but it’s likely that trust plays a role in the answers we received as well. Overall, 58 percent are “unlikely” or “extremely unlikely” to purchase an autonomous vehicle with Google technology, compared to 59 percent for an autonomous vehicle with Apple technology.

Finally, there was little separation between the price consumers are willing to pay for autonomous vehicles powered by Google versus Apple. Eight-in-ten consumers are not willing to pay more than $40,000, which is the base price for some higher-end standard powertrain SUVs in today’s market. The average price most consumers are willing to pay is less than $28,000, with virtually no difference in the median value for Apple versus Google autonomous vehicles.

As it turns out, we may have found one thing that the powerful brands of Google and Apple can’t directly impact—consumers’ perceptions on autonomous vehicles. Discussions and media reports surrounding autonomous vehicles are becoming more prevalent, and it is clear that education needs to be developed before a majority of consumers feel comfortable enough to drive or purchase a “self-driving” vehicle.

There is a long learning curve ahead for consumers before the autonomous technology “war” among the industry giants, not to mention the automotive OEMs, can begin in earnest.


Your Car Might be Watching You in the Near Future

Eye viewing digital information. Conceptual image.

By: Michael Schmall, Vice President; Sara Beauchaine, Marketing Associate

Google, Apple, Tesla, and leading car manufacturers around the world are well on their way to producing autonomous vehicles, with the expectation that some of these cars will be on dealership lots within the next 10 years.

Autonomous qualities are already being incorporated in vehicles, and, for example, can be seen in Tesla’s products as “Autopilot”. This technology utilizes multiple sensors, radar, cameras, and sonar to pick up on road lane lines and other vehicles, allowing the car to essentially drive itself on expressways. This technology requires the driver to—at the very least—keep one finger on the wheel.

With advancements in technology such as “Autopilot” leading the way, a logical question looms on the horizon: Will artificial intelligence eventually come into the equation of manufacturing vehicles to be completely autonomous?

Artificial intelligence has been around for years, and within reach of consumers. It can be seen in Apple’s Siri, GPS units, and many other devices. Automotive companies like Toyota are now investing heavily in artificial intelligence, and technology tinkerers are attempting to bolster autonomous cars’ driving abilities with this technology.

One of these tinkerers is George Hotz. 26-year-old Hotz not only built a self-driving car in his garage by himself, but is also programming it with artificial intelligence—rather than manually coded technology. According to a recent article, Hotz revealed that incorporating artificial intelligence software in self-driving cars will help avoid the common roadblocks currently experienced by other autonomous test vehicles.

Some of the common obstacles currently facing manually coded autonomous technology, like the Google car, include:

  • Human hand signals (such as those from an officer directing traffic)
  • Small animals crossing the road (larger living creatures, such as deer and jaywalkers, are sensed by the car)
  • Bad weather (snow, fog, and splashing ground water interferes with how the car receives and interprets information)
  • Areas with no cell signal (operation ceases without a connection to a cell signal, as critical access to GPS maps is cut off)

Hotz believes that some of these obstacles can be avoided by employing “deep-learning techniques in autonomous technology”.

Artificial intelligence software, like what Hotz is producing, watches the driver’s behavior. It learns as it observes how certain situations are typically handled by the human driver, and then makes its own decisions by mimicking these learned behaviors and actions when operating autonomously.

If artificial intelligence can truly be utilized for autonomous vehicles, we may soon find solutions to some of the issues that need to be resolved before these cars can be introduced to the market. There is a possibility that soon, cars might be watching you, too!