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Australian Professor Claims Privacy Risks with Autonomous Cars is a "Sleeper Issue"

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【Summary】Self-driving cars may be safer and help drivers gain back some time in traffic over human-operated vehicles, but a professor from Australia believes that privacy risks need to be properly explored before the complete rollout of driverless vehicles.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Oct 01, 2017 10:30 AM PT
Australian Professor Claims Privacy Risks with Autonomous Cars is a
author: Vineeth Joel Patel   

Countries are rapidly progressing towards an autonomous future that is expected to be safer and more enjoyable for the majority of drivers. But there are still a lot of things that regulators, automakers, and technology companies haven't researched. One of those issues revolves around the level of privacy surrounding self-driving machines. 

Privacy Cannot Be Overlooked

According to a report by The Guardian, Des Butler, a professor at the Queensland University of Technology, claims that the privacy risks involved with driverless cars is a "sleeper issue" that major parties involved in the development and release of autonomous vehicles haven't explored yet. Understandably, Butler is concerned as Australia is expecting autonomous vehicles to hit the country's roads by 2020, like the majority of other locations. 

"These vehicles will know where you like to frequent, which business, and may very well build a profile of you," said Butler. "People will go into these things not realising just how much data the vehicle will be generating about them and not knowing the extent to which the data can be used." 

To help Australia get in front of any issues that it may have with driverless technology, the federal government awarded $55 million to iMOVE, a cooperative research center that is comprised of various autonomous technology companies and colleges to help increase the production of "intelligent transport systems," reports The Guardian. The funds are specifically aimed at reducing the amount of traffic in urban areas. 

Fatalities, Road Incidents Are A Concern

Ian Christensen, the managing director of iMOVE, claims that the center is interested in "improving the movement of people and freight, in which driverless cars could play an important role." Autonomous vehicles, according to Christensen, will play a large role in reducing the amount of road-related fatalities on the road, which the outlet reports is approximately 1,300 fatalities in the country every year, which is much less than the figures from the U.S. for 2015. And driverless vehicles are also expected to help reduce the cost associated with road incidents that are estimated to cost roughly $30 billion ever year. 

"It is a massive burden on the economy and the prospect for autonomous vehicles to substantially reduce the rate of accidents and trauma, therefore, stands to benefit the economy in a dramatic way," stated Christensen. 

Australia Is Still A Difficult Spot For Autonomy

Automakers and technology companies, though, are struggling to perfect their systems in the land down under. Driverless systems are still having trouble with recognizing kangaroos, which is a problem that specifically affects Australia. And then, there's the question of the security aspect of the machines. The Guardian reports that the country's parliament put out an initial inquiry into some of the social issues behind autonomous vehicles, which recommended that a national task force be made to deal with the "ownership, use and security frameworks applicable to the data generated by automated vehicles." 

The inquiry also recommended that more research needed to be conducted on where data from self-driving cars will go and who will own it, whether that be the actual consumers, government agencies, or manufacturers. 

According to Butler, autonomous vehicle regulation needs to consider who owns the data and how it will be stored. "It is a sleeper issue because the focus on these vehicles in the public eye is on safety, not on the privacy or data production aspect of these vehicles," he said. 

If privacy is an issue with Australia, you can be sure that it'll be a problem in the United States and for many other countries, as well. 

via: The Guardian

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