I do not want to drive in a world that is utterly connected. Period. I know this runs counter to a massive trend in the auto industry, but I am troubled and even a little scared by the idea that my car should be utterly connected to the road and to the outside world as I drive along – 24/7.
Why? Connectivity is a two-way street, so to speak. If I am taking in information and communicating widely, I am also sharing information and communicating widely. As that unfolds, a lot of people are getting the chance to mine my personal information.
Safety and convenience are the ostensible reasons why auto makers are slowly and steadily turning your car into a rolling tattletale. Concerns about privacy are not being ignored, but they don't seem to be paramount – not in a world that from this seat looks overly paranoid and somewhat lazy; thus safety and convenience are more important to a majority of car buyers, not privacy.
But I wouldn't trade privacy for a car capable of communicating with a far-off parking lot so I can reserve a spot when I pull into place. I don't want the world to know where I'm headed all the time. That doesn't reduce stress, it creates it in me. I do not want to surrender private information about my whereabouts. Period.
I frankly don't need or want in-car computers knowing and communicating my every movement even if it might make the journey as painless as possible. I value privacy. And I hope you do, too.
This is no small matter, either. BMW arguably has the most comprehensive future vision of a driving world without privacy. We have seen it in the 2011 BMW Vision ConnectedDrive concept car. But the Bavarians are not alone.
Today, many car companies are offering or at least working on devices that take them all down the path to the utterly connected car. Toyota has something called Entune, and BlueLink from Hyundai borrows ideas from General Motors' OnStar. There's Sync from Ford and mbrace from Mercedes-Benz. Not all of these are sold in Canada yet, but surely they're coming.
Yes, car manufacturers are developing the infrastructure to enable car-to-car communication that will broadcast all your personal data all over the place. Cloud computing? The auto makers plan to use the cloud as a way to store all your private information – your calendar, your taste in music, your whole life – and make it available for download in your car – where it can possibly be hacked out of it.
Let me introduce you to something BMW is developing. It's a connected-vehicle venture in New York called MyCityWay, and when I first heard about it last summer, it scared the heck out of me.
MyCityWay is about drivers getting real-time information on traffic, parking availability, restaurants and entertainment via a downloadable application. Does that sound good? Then consider that your personal preferences and your vehicle movements will also be tracked in the MyCityWay world.
Just thinking about a world where everyone can track my every movement and every choice – it sends shivers up and down my spine. I fear I'm in the minority on this, however.