A sensing probe in every car?

Another immensely large potential fleet of sensor-laden vehicles that might be employed is all the privately owned passenger cars on the roads.

Indeed, the Transportation Department is in long-term talks with car makers about what kinds of data could be collected by sensors placed in new vehicles. 


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“The theory is that there would be a probe device in every car and that the data that would be submitted is anonymous,” said Michael Pina, program manager for communications at the department’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration.  “The devices could actually be able to track bad weather on roads.  But the primary purpose is related to preventing cars from crashing into each other.”

In addition, Pina said, “We could have a real-time sense of traffic situations. You might be able to tell a bicyclist what roads to take because there are fewer cars on those roads. You might be able to tell a person what routes to take so that their travel would be a little bit greener. There are myriad potential uses.”

Reader Comments

Fri, Jul 22, 2011

If you think you have privacy right now, you are dreaming. Let's get to automatic cars as quickly as possible. I want to read the paper on the way to work. We each as individuals have individual rights just like birds in a flock have individual rights.

Mon, Jul 18, 2011

The big problem is that the car owners will likely be expected to buy and maintain the sensor to give data to help a program, paid for by taxpayers, to generate information that a tiny minority will use that will be of only minute benefit, if any, to the rest of us. That is why conservatives, which are many of the Republicans, will not go for this. For many Democrats, they just like having another government program to spend taxpayer money and use it to tell the rest of us how to live.

Mon, Jul 18, 2011 jimc850 VA

Ari:would think people no matter how registered (R, D, I) would have concerns about mandated auto sensors; as 'concerned' points out, it would be much more efficient to embed sensors in or beside roadways unless you want to stick it to the consumer (again)

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 Concerned

While I laud the desire for info and safety, I'm not sure the plan to places sensors in cars is valid. I would think sensors in the roads would provide a more accurate reading of weather patterns, traffic congestion, etc. Many roads already have temperature sensors it shouldn't be that difficult to include the other information as well. I think the only advantage of the car sensors vs. the road sensors is who has to pay for them (local government or vehicle owner).

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 earth

While the supreme court has held that individuals in automobiles have a reduced expectation of privacy, my ice pick holds that a sensor has a reduced expectation of service lifetime. Location information is one of the most sensitive concerns for those being targeted by a governmental agency, and the later was the main concern resulting in the bill of rights. And a lot can be determined by combining otherwise innocuous information, which is precisely what databases do. Anyone who has worked in a secure area should be aware of that. Given the privacy concerns, this should be an “opt in” for privately owned vehicles but public transportation seems a reasonable roving sensor platform. This brings up an interesting concept that I have been spending a bit of time with. That being “living cities” with sensor networks and computational centers that the public could tap into to get information like congestion, weather (which can be very local in areas like the lower part of Florida), potholes, and other maintenance indicating events in the “promote the general welfare” infrastructure. When you think of weather in a city think about more than the inconvenience to yourself, think about increased accident rates, emergency response times, storm water flows …

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