As a sign of the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC” or “Commission”) continuing interest in the “Internet of Things,” the Commission filed a comment in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (“NHTSA”) advance notice of proposed rulemaking (“ANPRM”) related to vehicle-to-vehicle or “V2V” communications.3 The FTC’s comments focused largely on privacy and security concerns implicated by V2V technologies.
NHTSA launched the ANPRM in late summer along with a supporting comprehensive research report on V2V communications technology. The ANPRM is intended to help NHTSA and the Department of Transportation gather input from the public and stakeholders in advance of a notice of proposed rulemaking, scheduled to be delivered in 2016 by the agency. V2V communications systems allow nearby vehicles to engage in a dynamic wireless exchange of anonymous data.
The technology offers the potential for significant safety improvements by allowing vehicles to sense imminent threats arising from the relative positions of other vehicles and road hazards and then issue driver advisories or take preemptive action to avoid and mitigate crashes. The technology is also a building block for “driverless” vehicles.
The Commission’s comments highlighted its previous work on connected vehicles at its Internet of Things workshop held in November 2013, which, in part, examined privacy and security issues relating to connected car technologies. The workshop highlighted three key concerns that arise out of increased vehicle connectivity: (1) concerns over the ability of connected car technology to track consumers’ precise geolocation over time; (2) concerns over information about driving habits being used to price insurance premiums or set prices for other auto-related products without drivers’ knowledge or consent; and (3) concerns regarding the security of connected cars. The FTC’s comments support NHTSA’s efforts to take privacy and security concerns into account as it continues its development of V2V policy.
In a related development, Congress is also looking at vehicle privacy issues. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced legislation (S. 2933) that would prohibit the placement of a GPS tracking device on a vehicle without the vehicle owner’s consent. Following his announcement in October that he was drafting the bill, Senator Schumer introduced the final version on November 17, 2014. The stated purpose of the bill is to prevent the stalking of individuals through the use of GPS devices – particularly domestic violence victims and “other vulnerable populations.” The bill grants certain exceptions to the prohibited use of GPS devices on another individual’s vehicle, including for the purpose of protecting the safety of the vehicle owner. The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.