Steven Greenhut on Big Brother in Your Car

California mulling regulations that would give government more access to on-board computer data.


via Telstar Logistics/flickr

We can drive without being obsessively concerned about getting pulled over because there (thankfully) aren't enough highway cops to stop us every time the speedometer hits 75 mph. But what if the traffic cop were a computer that always is transmitting data about our driving habits to a government agency? That question, writes Steven Greenhut, is increasingly being asked given technological advancements and a new proposal by the state's air-quality control agency to expand the information your car's computer would be required to collect and potentially transmit to officials. And now the California Air Resources Board is proposing regulations (for a May board hearing) requiring manufacturers to significantly expand the kind of information on-board computer software collects about our driving habits. The software could track miles per gallon, driving distances, how often one stops and starts the car, and how fast one drives. Newer cars already tell us most of this information on those nifty trip computers in the dashboard. The difference, of course, is the regulations would require our cars to also tell government officials the information.