The article mentions safety and privacy but doesn't
mention the opportunity for litigation and blame when recording the
exact speed at the moment of impact.
From ZDNet UK
General Motors will begin
installing new sensors and communications systems into vehicles next
year that could save lives but will surely raise privacy concerns.
AACN is one of the car industry's most high-profile
attempts to use telematics, the emerging field of dashboard-embedded
communication devices, to help emergency dispatchers better understand
the nature of an accident and determine what
equipment or procedures medics might need to administer.
But privacy advocates and attorneys
question whether the powerful system could become an agent for
continual surveillance. Although drivers must agree to have the hardware
installed and must pay $16.95 (£10) per month
for service, privacy advocates worry that the data GM
collects could fall into the hands of third parties that range from
police or government agents to research firms trying to track consumer
Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney
for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, applauded GM for its effort to
reduce car-related casualties. But he also said the technology could
fall victim to "function creep" -- eventually
morphing into a 24-hour surveillance system for
authorities. This represents a very significant opportunity to track
people in their cars. I'd be concerned not only that GM could have to
turn in historical data it has collected under a
court order or subpoena, but also whether eventually cops
could use this technology to tap into a car's signal in real time.
GM executives insist that lawyers
have carefully vetted AACN and they're betting that safety advantages
will trump privacy issues for most consumers. In the 2006 model year, GM
will provide it as a standard feature or
option on all of its models. GM, which provides OnStar
service for Lexus, Acura, Audi and Subaru brands, will also offer AACN
to other manufacturers as an option or standard feature.
The technology hinges on a small
computer embedded in the dashboard between the driver and passenger
seats and called the Sensing Diagnostic Module -- what GM engineers call
the "brains" behind AACN.
SDM receives input from other
sensors throughout the vehicle, including those in side panels, seats
and the engine area. It also records the number of occupants in the car
at any given time, the vehicle's speed and the
region of the vehicle that may have been hit.
In case of an accident, the SDM
crunches an algorithm to determine the severity of impact, using a
standard scale developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration. The SDM then relays that information to
an OnStar adviser, who may then phone an emergency
medical technician, local hospital or 911 dispatcher.
A dispatcher might also warn medics
that one or more occupants were children, who often require
different-sized clamps or paddles in emergency procedures. Most new
vehicles already have so-called suppression sensors in
the seats to determine the weight of the occupants,
chiefly to shield smaller occupants from the full force of an airbag
release. In GM vehicles, people less than 90 pounds are considered to be
children, and passengers more than 90 pounds are
considered as adults.
Although few people doubt GM's
intentions to help save lives, privacy advocates say the technology
could have negative consequences. Lawyers say AACN could spark a number
of interesting legal debates.
For instance, could a crash victim
get the data to prove that he or she was driving within the speed limit
-- but that the person who struck the car was driving too fast? If the
data showed that a person frequently parked
the car outside bars or off licences, then drove away at
extreme speeds or swerved erratically, could that person be accused of
drink-driving -- even if that person wasn't stopped by the police at the
David Sobel, general council for
the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Centre, also had
concerns about the nature of AACN registration. The feature is one of
many services offered by OnStar, including automated
stock quotes, driving directions and concierge services
for ticket buying and restaurant reservations. Sobel said many people
might opt for AACN because of safety perks but not be aware of the
tracking function. Many people are likely to
give consent in case of an accident, but the point is to
make sure that the driver understands what data is being collected, what
triggers the data collection and where it's reported.
GM executives said Wednesday they
have no intention of selling the data collected by OnStar, or using it
for nonemergency purposes. But Lange acknowledged that the data could
leave GM if the company were subpoenaed.
We do not release any information we collect, absent a
direct, written authorization with the owner or some kind of court order
to which we must respondBut privacy and integrity is very important to