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Sunday, August 30, 2015
Hackers wanna take over your car. Police wanna stop it remotely. Allstate wants to make money off it.
A patent issued in August to Allstate mentions using sensors and cameras to record “potential sources of driver distraction within the vehicle (e.g. pets, phone usage, unsecured objects in vehicle).” It also mentions gathering information on the number and types of passengers — whether adults, children or teenagers.
And the insurer isn’t just interested in the motoring habits of its own policyholders.
Underscoring companies’ interest in collecting and analyzing information on you, also known as big data, the patent also envisions gathering information on nearby cars so it can compare its policyholder’s habits to other motorists in the area. The patent, called “traffic-based driving analysis,” is for a server that will receive driving behavior data from sensors, cameras and other devices.
“So my car spies on me and on other drivers near me?” Bob Hunter, insurance director for the Consumer Federation of America and a former Texas insurance commissioner, said after reviewing the patent. “Even if I give permission for this intrusive technology, my car spies on unsuspecting passengers and even on unsuspecting pedestrians or cars passing by?”
Hunter wondered about the “liability for that intrusiveness” as well as the potential to pick up such sensitive data as ATM PINs. It’s “the invasion of the spy car,” he said.
Allstate said it filed the new patent a few years ago. Company spokeswoman Laura Strykowski said the “technology would provide drivers with broader information about traffic conditions and external factors that could better equip them to drive safe.”
It’s at least the second patent in recent months that the insurer has been issued related to connected cars. In June, Allstate received a patent for a driving-behavior database it said might be useful for health insurers, lenders, credit-rating agencies, marketers and potential employers. That patent also said the invention has the potential to evaluate such physiological data as heart rate, blood pressure and electrocardiogram signals that could be recorded from steering-wheel sensors.