Cars Will Soon Be Monitoring Their Drivers And Selling The Data They Collect

In case you were wondering, the evolution of the "smart" product (read: a product that invades your privacy and sells the ensuing data) hasn’t skipped the automobile industry. And of course, this means your car will soon be collecting data on you.

A new report by Reuters notes that at CES in Las Vegas this year, start up companies are going to be looking to demonstrate to automakers how their technology gathers data on drivers – all for enhanced safety purposes. Sure.

Some of the coming technologies include vehicles that generate alerts about things like drowsiness and unfastened seatbelts. The software is being pitched as a way to cut back on distracted driving and increase safety. Oh, and of course, it'll eventually help automakers and ride hailing companies make money from the data that is generated inside the vehicle.

Full self driving is still years away in the United States, but in-car sensor technology is going to be a crucial part of this burgeoning technological niche.

Obviously, the more sophisticated the monitoring is inside the car, the more likely the vehicle is going to be able to get a driver to retake control, if necessary, and keep all parties safe. The technologies also include artificial intelligence software and in-car monitoring cameras.

Interior facing cameras are currently only available on a couple of vehicles, including Teslas and select vehicles by Mazda and Subaru, among a few others. The data from cameras is run through image recognition software to try and determine whether or not a driver is paying attention, looking at their cell phone, or perhaps even getting sleepy.

Companies like Israel’s Guardian Optical Technologies and eyeSight Technologies, Silicon Valley’s Eyeris Technologies Inc and Sweden’s Smart Eye AB are among those starting to become the main players in the space. Some of these companies have already signed production deals for beyond 2020.

Modar Alaoui, founder and CEO of Eyeris, recently said:

"There’s no doubt this is a hot area". Guardian Optical CEO Gil Dotan stated: “What automakers want is what either sells cars, or what regulators tell them to do.”

And regulators have embraced things like eye tracking, which is a basic type of technology that allows software to determine whether or not a driver is asleep. European car safety rating program Euro NCAP has even proposed that cars with driver monitoring software should be eligible for higher safety ratings.

But of course, companies are really excited about the revenue possibilities created by the data gathered by this technology. It can create a custom experience for riders and generate higher premiums while allowing partnerships with third parties like retailers.

Mike Ramsey, Gartner’s automotive research director stated: 

“The reason (the camera) is going to sweep across the cabin is not because of distraction ... but because of all the side benefits. I promise you that companies that are trying to monetize data from the connected car are investigating ways to use eye-tracking technology.”

But in an age where the backlash to data gathering by companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google has been an extremely incendiary topic, it is not clear that all drivers are going to embrace this technology.

People like Vayyar CEO Raviv Melamed, for instance, still believe that cars are personal space.

“They think they’re in their own living room, they behave like they’re not outside! It’s obvious no one wants a camera,” he concluded.