Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

The future of travel: The dark side of connected cars

By Andrew Keen, for CNN
May 17, 2013 -- Updated 0419 GMT (1219 HKT)
  • Despite the benefits of the connected car, the issue of privacy is a concern
  • One dilemma is whether drivers should be punished for speeding, when speed information can be transmitted
  • Driverless cars will make is possible to text while driving, but texting habits will likely not remain private either

Editor's note: CNN contributor Andrew Keen organized and hosted an invitation-only Silicon Valley event called FutureCast. A group of entrepreneurs, investors, technologists and writers discussed the impact of the digital revolution on transportation. All this week CNN Business Traveller will bring you highlights from the debate. AT&T and Ericsson hosted the conference at the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto.

(CNN) -- Most of the conversation at FutureCast focused upon the benefits of the connected car. But for all the unquestionable upsides of networked transportation, there was one issue that darkened the horizon for some of the event's participants. That issue was privacy.

"I'm not sure I'm going to get inside one of those things," I myself remarked at FutureCast about driverless cars, "because -- just like Google Glass -- they are going to know where I am all of the time."

I certainly wasn't alone in my concern about the fate of personal data in the age of the intelligent car.

Are we falling out of love with cars?
How self driving car changes everything
The future of transportation: Global View

"As for privacy, I do care about privacy," said Michael Fertik, the co-founder and CEO of "I'm always nervous when data are collected without our real actual knowledge and sold and shared with people who we can't identify for purposes we will never know."

Are we falling out of love with cars?

Geoff Hollingworth, Head of Business Innovation at Ericsson, was more specific in his concern. "So all these cars are connected. They all know how fast they are going. They all know the speed zones they are running in," he said. "Should the car issue a ticket? Should it tell the police to issue a ticket if you are breaking the speed limit?"

Hollingworth's assumptions are very real. After all, as General Motors' Greg Ross acknowledged, "We are about to add connectivity in all our cars. High-speed connectivity."

Read more: Transportation confronts its "Kodak moment"

In this brave new world of transparent data, the dilemma about where to draw the line between respecting the privacy of individual drivers and punishing law breakers is complex. Hollingworth described this world as a "strange place" because we've never before "had the ability to actually validate the people who are always obeying or breaking the law."

"Hands up here, who texts when they drive?" Hollingworth playfully asked the FutureCast audience.

That kind of question may be redundant when we all drive connected cars. This intelligent automobile will, of course, be able to record exactly how fast we are driving and where are going. And it will also know the frequency of our texts, who we text and who texts us.

Hollingworth's "strange place" is, I fear, a scary place. The car, once that secluded place which guaranteed our privacy, is in danger of becoming a transparent hub of what some people are calling the "Internet of Things."

The dark side of the connected car is its transparency. Do we, I wonder, really want to drive these all-seeing things?

Part of complete coverage on
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1110 GMT (1910 HKT)
Don't surprise Germans and stick to the agenda in Japan. What international road warriors need to know.
November 14, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Eurostar, the high-speed train company connecting London with Brussels and Paris, has just upped its game.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1407 GMT (2207 HKT)
Japan is set to make its mark in the skies with its first new commercial jet for over 50 years, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, aka the MRJ.
October 4, 2014 -- Updated 0516 GMT (1316 HKT)
Think hotels are deliberately blocking your personal Wi-Fi networks so you'll buy theirs?
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1749 GMT (0149 HKT)
How would you like to trim three hours off the current commercial jet flight time between Paris and Washington, D.C.?
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1443 GMT (2243 HKT)
It's been a big week for makeovers in the world of aviation.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
Aviation isn't known as the most eco-friendly industry; running an airline produces an incredible amount of waste. But some are doing something about it.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1514 GMT (2314 HKT)
Airports aren't exactly stress-free zones, but drones, tracking and virtual reality could help make them better places.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 0906 GMT (1706 HKT)
In many ways, airplanes are a retailer's dream come true. They serve a captive -- often bored -- audience with a disposable income.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1835 GMT (0235 HKT)
Takeoff on one of Airbus' new A350WXB test planes is a strangely quiet experience.