Salvage Yard Privacy Tattletales by Scrapped AI Self-Driving Cars

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By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider

My latest rental car that I picked-up at the Chicago O’Hare airport was a treasure trove of information about prior renters. I could readily see data that had been imported into the car’s infotainment system that had come from at least six different smartphones. Lots of favored playlists of people that I didn’t know, but I now knew their taste in music.

Even scarier for those prior renters was that many of their contacts had also gotten transferred into the on-board systems of the car. Plus, via the built-in GPS tracking, I could see the specific locations and dates/times of where many of these prior travelers had gone while using the rental car. If I had been a nefarious person, it would have been possible to use all of this info in rather untoward ways. In my case, I was just curious to see what others had opted to leave behind.

When you get out of a rental car and drop it off at the airport or other destination, sometimes people leave behind quite a curious set of physical odds and ends.

The lost-and-found at a car rental office will typically have tons of sunglasses, which are a popular leave-behind, and likewise kids’ toys are another common leftover. In my own forgetfulness, I had one time left a charger cord and figured it was worth going back to the car rental agency to see if they had retrieved it from the car that I had rented.

The car rental clerk, upon listening to my pleading to find my charger cord, took me to their oversized bin of leftovers, which had a plethora of forgotten items, including surprisingly that there were numerous sets of keys. Keys upon keys, on key chains, on key rings, on carabiners, you name it. Obviously leaving behind your keys is a frequently forgotten item too (one wonders, don’t people miss those keys, and don’t they then surmise that they must have left their keys in that rental car they checked-in?).

Anyway, the quite helpful clerk let me rummage around in the bin (security lapse?). There were a lot of charger cords. I could not prove for sure which one was mine, since there were many that looked just like mine. In the end, I retrieved one that was the same as mine and went on my merry way. The lesson of seeing the full-to-the-brim bin was to always double-check and then triple-check my rental cars before I turn them in.

Digital Artifacts Leftover in Cars

In a modern world, we leave behind not just physical artifacts but also digital artifacts.

It is easy to pair your smartphone to the infotainment and GPS systems of a rental car. Apparently, a lot of people don’t add together two-plus-two and realize that what goes in won’t necessarily come out. When you pair your smartphone, depending upon the nature of the settings, you might be allowing the car’s on-board systems to slurp-up all kinds of info out of your handy cellphone.

I suppose that there are some people that are unaware of the transfer of data that occurs. They live in their own non-digital world or are just part of the unwashed of the digital realm. For some of them, the smartphone and Bluetooth are already somewhat magical, I suppose.

There are likely other people that know that it happens, yet perhaps assume that it will miraculously be erased for them. Perhaps it’s like the Mission Impossible movies and the inputted data will sizzle and disappear after it is done with your travel journey. This transferred data will self-destruct in ten seconds, good luck, Jim.

Certainly, the rental car agency could include as part of their rental car clean-up checklist the step of them resetting and blanking out the on-board systems that might have collected your private info. This added step would be nice for the renting public. You would never need to worry about it again, assuming that the rental agency actually did the erasure properly, and consistently, and without making any errors or omissions.

Admittedly, it would be an extra step for the rental firm, and if you are cost conscious as a rental agency, you might say that the cost of the labor to do this reset operation is going to be significant. I know it might seem trivial as an action and not seemingly labor intensive if the reset is setup as a one-click operation, but when you multiply doing this for the thousand and thousands of rental cars in a fleet, the labor becomes mind boggling. If it also added “wasted” time to turning around a rental car, this is another downside factor and means that your fleet of cars cannot be as efficiently put back onto the road to earn more rents.

FCC Provides a Warning About Digital Artifacts Leftovers

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has tried to forewarn people about the Bluetooth pairing dangers, including saying this: “If you connect your mobile phone to a rental car, the phone’s data may get shared with the car.  Be sure to unpair your phone from the car and clear any personal data from the car before you return it. Take the same steps when selling a car that has Bluetooth” (this is stated at the FCC’s web site, https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/how-protect-yourself-online).

Note that the FCC warning also mentions the notion of erasing your data when you sell your own personal car.

I’m betting that many people neglect to do so. I know this for a fact because I bought a “previously owned” (let’s say it more plainly, “used”) car, and it had all sorts of data from the previous owner. What makes this more insidious is that the data covered a multi-year period of time. In the case of a rental car, presumably it would likely have less data, though it also depends upon how much has been retrieved from your smartphone.

I’m sure there are a lot of people though that when selling a car are more likely to think about their smartphone data that’s on-board the car. I would guess that it is something that you would be inclined to consider. A rental car is maybe less likely to be on your mind in terms of having paired your smartphone to it. For a car that you owned, you would be much more cognizant about having used the car’s on-board systems, it would seem.

Here’s an added twist for you, what about when your car gets wrecked and it is hauled off to a salvage yard.

Would you be thinking about the data that you’ve left in your wrecked car?

Probably not.

What Happens to a Wrecked Car

If you are car has gotten so wrecked that it cannot be repaired, the odds are that you are mentally and physically done with that car. The car is probably disfigured. It looks horrible. Nobody wants to try and deal with their now contorted and bruised car. It is like losing a loved one, in a sense, since we often grow fond of our cars. I am not saying it’s the same as a person or a pet, and merely trying to point out that many times we get emotionally attached to our cars.

I did so. One of my first cars was a nifty sports car. I had wanted that car for many years and saved up to buy it. I was pretty happy the day I bought it. Several years later, the car got stolen. I was devastated at first. My prized car was gone. I got angry. How dare thieves steal my car! I wanted revenge. I hoped the police would find the car thieves and, well, let’s just say that street justice seemed to be a fine way to deal with them, if you know what I mean.

I was told by the police that the odds were pretty high that the car was stolen by a local gang. The gang would joyride the car until they had enough of the fun or until the car itself was no longer able to run. Apparently, there was a rash of gang initiation rights that involved stealing a car, and my kind of sports car fit the profile of what was needed to get into a gang. Who knew?

After a few days of being despondent and hoping to get my car back, I gradually changed my mind about the matter. I didn’t want the car anymore. It had become soiled by the intrusion of the gang, if indeed that’s what had occurred. The car would never be the same, even if the gang somehow decided to park it someplace and walk away from it. My emotional attachment to the car became detached.

Amazingly, about ten days after the car had been stolen, I got a call from the police department, my car had been discovered. I went right away to go see it. The police had it at the official police impound. When my eyes saw the wreck that was left of my car, I knew at that moment that I probably should not have come to see it. It looked lifeless. Plus, the gang had driven it until a tire blew, and they kept driving on the rim, and ultimately rammed it into another car. The poor thing was a mangled and nearly unrecognizable variant of my prized sports car.

The gang had apparently zestfully stripped everything out of the interior once they had decided to abandon it. I mean everything was gone. There wasn’t much of anything inside leftover, not even the flooring mats and carpets. This sucker was picked clean. Imagine a skeleton of a car, prior to the auto maker putting the guts into it.

Believe it or not, I had never paired my smartphone to the car. I know this seems nuts, but it was just one of those get-around-to-it kinds of things that I had not done. Fortunately, there wasn’t any personal info in the car, other than the car registration had been in the glovebox, which was now gone, along with everything else that had been taken.

In discussing the car with the insurance company, they advised that the cost to repair the car would be excessive and recommended that the car be considered totaled. I quickly agreed. As mentioned, I was over the car by now. And, upon seeing it as a now picked over corpse, I could not imagine ever driving it again, in spite of whatever astounding repairs and fix-up that possibly could be undertaken.

That’s the last I ever saw of my sports car.

When I gently and hesitantly asked the insurance agent what would happen to the carcass (I’m wasn’t exactly sure that I wanted to know), he explained that it would be hauled off to a salvage yard. Some people call them junkyards, others refer to them as scrapyards. A rose by any other name. In the end, my car would be dismantled.

Any usable parts would be potentially resold onto the used parts market, or in some cases the scrapyard hangs onto the parts or to the carcass and allows prospective used-parts buyers to come and pick over the skeletons. There seems to be a thriving market of people needing to fix up cars and wanting to find the original parts that fit to the same brand and model of car that they own. Often these are car collectors.

My insurance agent explained that the cost of buying a new part from an auto maker is likely going to be a lot pricier than getting a used part that was once on a no-longer operating car. Some scrapyards remove the reusable parts and place them into a salvage warehouse, nearly arranged. More often, the scrapyards just pile up the “deceased” cars and allow car part seekers to roam around and find whatever they think they need.

He also explained that the unusable elements could be turned into scrap that can be sold at bulk prices, especially scrap metal. The front windshield was smashed, but the other windows were still intact, and so those could be removed and potentially sold as-is. My front bumper was ripped off the car entirely and the headlights were pretty much goners too. Meanwhile, the taillights seemed to still be workable, along with the mirrors, the exhaust system, and so on.

I decided that perhaps my sports car would make a better life for someone else, doing so by my “donating” them to the salvage yard. Well, okay, I didn’t actually donate the car, I instead got a check from the insurance company that covered the insured value. I just say in my own mind that I donated it, similar to providing donated organs for science. I’d like to imagine that my banged up, destroyed, tainted sports car had become a helpful source of parts that would make others happy.

The insurance agent told me that likely 75% of the average wrecked car can be put to some other use. I really had no idea what would happen to a wrecked car and the idea that it is “recycled” in this manner seemed generally impressive. Better than it all just sitting in a big heap and rotting away for years upon years.

Have you ever had a car that was scrapped?

According to statistics by the federal government, there are about 15 million cars per year in the United States that end-up in a scrapyard. There are an estimated 250 million cars in the United States. Thus, as you can see, only about 6% of the cars in-hand seem to go to scrapyards each year. I apparently am one of the “lucky” few to have it happen to their car. At least I wasn’t in the car during a car accident that ultimately might have wrecked the car and gotten it to go to the wrecking year. Having a gang steal it was an “easier” way to have it end-up at a salvage yard.

The Case of AI Self-Driving Cars

What does this have to do with AI self-driving cars?

At the Cybernetic AI Self-Driving Car Institute, we are developing AI software for self-driving cars. One aspect that few of the auto makers or tech firms are considering is what will happen to the data that’s on-board an AI self-driving car once the self-driving car ends-up in a salvage yard.

Allow me to elaborate.

I’d like to first clarify and introduce the notion that there are varying levels of AI self-driving cars. The topmost level is considered Level 5. A Level 5 self-driving car is one that is being driven by the AI and there is no human driver involved. For the design of Level 5 self-driving cars, the auto makers are even removing the gas pedal, brake pedal, and steering wheel, since those are contraptions used by human drivers. The Level 5 self-driving car is not being driven by a human and nor is there an expectation that a human driver will be present in the self-driving car. It’s all on the shoulders of the AI to drive the car.

For self-driving cars less than a Level 5, there must be a human driver present in the car. The human driver is currently considered the responsible party for the acts of the car. The AI and the human driver are co-sharing the driving task. In spite of this co-sharing, the human is supposed to remain fully immersed into the driving task and be ready at all times to perform the driving task. I’ve repeatedly warned about the dangers of this co-sharing arrangement and predicted it will produce many untoward results.

For my overall framework about AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/framework-ai-self-driving-driverless-cars-big-picture/

For the levels of self-driving cars, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/richter-scale-levels-self-driving-cars/

For why AI Level 5 self-driving cars are like a moonshot, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/self-driving-car-mother-ai-projects-moonshot/

For the dangers of co-sharing the driving task, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/human-back-up-drivers-for-ai-self-driving-cars/

Let’s focus herein on the true Level 5 self-driving car. Much of the comments apply to the less than Level 5 self-driving cars too, but the fully autonomous AI self-driving car will receive the most attention in this discussion.

Here’s the usual steps involved in the AI driving task:

  •         Sensor data collection and interpretation
  •         Sensor fusion
  •         Virtual world model updating
  •         AI action planning
  •         Car controls command issuance

Another key aspect of AI self-driving cars is that they will be driving on our roadways in the midst of human driven cars too. There are some pundits of AI self-driving cars that continually refer to a utopian world in which there are only AI self-driving cars on the public roads. Currently there are about 250+ million conventional cars in the United States alone, and those cars are not going to magically disappear or become true Level 5 AI self-driving cars overnight.

Indeed, the use of human driven cars will last for many years, likely many decades, and the advent of AI self-driving cars will occur while there are still human driven cars on the roads. This is a crucial point since this means that the AI of self-driving cars needs to be able to contend with not just other AI self-driving cars, but also contend with human driven cars. It is easy to envision a simplistic and rather unrealistic world in which all AI self-driving cars are politely interacting with each other and being civil about roadway interactions. That’s not what is going to be happening for the foreseeable future. AI self-driving cars and human driven cars will need to be able to cope with each other.

For my article about the grand convergence that has led us to this moment in time, see: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/grand-convergence-explains-rise-self-driving-cars/

See my article about the ethical dilemmas facing AI self-driving cars: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/ethically-ambiguous-self-driving-cars/

For potential regulations about AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/assessing-federal-regulations-self-driving-cars-house-bill-passed/

For my predictions about AI self-driving cars for the 2020s, 2030s, and 2040s, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/gen-z-and-the-fate-of-ai-self-driving-cars/

Wrecked AI Self-Driving Cars Are a Data Treasure Trove

Returning to the topic of AI self-driving cars that end-up in a salvage yard, let’s consider why this might happen and what makes it different from a conventional car that is hauled into such a resting place.

First, the big reason that an AI self-driving car differs from a conventional car in terms of the salvage yard is that an AI self-driving car is chock full of sensors and computer processors.

A conventional car is likely to have a limited set of sensors, often not nearly as powerful and full-bodied as those that would be used on a true AI self-driving car. And, the computer processors in a true self-driving car need to be top-of-the-line, superfast to handle the AI running aspects, more so than the processors on a conventional car.

I am not saying that today’s modern conventional cars don’t have some semblance of sensors and processors. Instead, I am pointing out that on a Level 4 or Level 5 self-driving car, the odds are they are a step-up in terms of capabilities, along with often higher costs too, at least when purchased new.

Furthermore, the amount of on-board system memory is likely a lot more than you would have on a conventional car.

This is where the concern really focuses about having your wrecked AI self-driving car towed into a salvage yard. Remember my earlier story about car rentals that are turned-in and the renter has left personal data in the on-board systems? Magnify that kind of leftover info a thousand-fold, and you have the situation we are facing with AI self-driving cars.

An AI self-driving car is likely to have captured video streams that are left intact in the wrecked AI self-driving car. There is a treasure trove of telematic data about the activity of the self-driving car. There could be data that was transmitted back-and-forth via the OTA (Over-The-Air) electronic communications that might have taken place between your self-driving car and the cloud of the auto maker. There could be V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) electronic communications stored in the on-board systems, involving your self-driving car communicating with other self-driving cars.

All of this then is in addition to whatever you might have placed into the self-driving car via your connected smartphone.

Things get even worse.

If your AI self-driving car has a voice activated Natural Language Processing (NLP) system that allows you to give verbal commands to the self-driving car, those might also be stored in the on-board systems. If the self-driving car is a Level 2 or Level 3, in which you co-shared the driving task, the odds are that there might be captured info about your driving and the driving aspects of the AI system.

Tesla Examples Found by Researchers

Let’s consider the Tesla cars.

According to Tesla’s owner manual, here’s the kind of Telematics info that could be kept on-board the car:

“To improve our vehicles and services for you, we may collect certain telematics data regarding the performance, usage, operation, and condition of your Tesla vehicle, including: vehicle identification number; speed information; odometer readings; battery use management information; battery charging history; electrical system functions; software version information; infotainment system data; safety-related data and camera images (including information regarding the vehicle’s SRS systems, braking and acceleration, security, e-brake, and accidents); short video clips of accidents; information regarding the use and operation of Autopilot, Summon, and other features; and other data to assist in identifying issues and analyzing the performance of the vehicle.” (source: https://www.tesla.com/about/legal).

Plus, this kind of data too:

“Data about accidents involving your Tesla vehicle (e.g., air bag deployment and other recent sensor data); data about remote services (e.g., remote lock/unlock, start/stop charge, and honk-the-horn commands); a data report to confirm that your vehicle is online together with information about the current software version and certain telematics data; vehicle connectivity information; data about any issues that could materially impair operation of your vehicle; data about any safety-critical issues; and data about each software and firmware update.”

In case you are thinking that this is merely an abstract problem and would not occur in the real-world, there is a fascinating study that was recently released about a computer security company that bought some wrecked Tesla cars at a salvage yard and examined those cars to see what they could find (for an article and a video of what they found, see: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/29/tesla-model-3-keeps-data-like-crash-videos-location-phone-contacts.html).

The researchers pored into four cars that they obtained, specifically a Tesla Model X, a Tesla Model S, and two of the Tesla Model 3 cars. Of course, they found paired data from smartphones. I’d say that’s pretty much to be expected of any modern-day car, and not especially surprising or unusual. This included nearly a dozen phonebooks of contact info, and various GPS navigation locations.

What’s more interesting is the aspect that for one of the Model 3’s, the researchers extracted the video of the Model 3 of when it had crashed. The car had veered off the road and crashed, which the front cameras recorded. Tying this to the GPS data, the researchers could ascertain the location, Orleans, Massachusetts, occurring on Manequoit Road, and the day and time of the crash. The airbags also deployed. They also tied the crash to the smartphone that was plugged into the car at the time, being able to figure out presumably the person driving the car.

They also looked at the log of the phone use and could see that a phone call from a family member (a contact in the database) had called the driver of the car, moments before the crash occurred.

I think we would all be rather shocked to find out that our private details could be so easily gleaned from our wrecked car. You would normally likely assume that those kinds of details would need to be gotten by a court order or a subpoena of some kind.

Also, you would likely assume that the data would be secured in some manner, making it hard for just anyone to retrieve. According to the researchers, by-and-large the data collected was unencrypted. There was no need to try and crack any difficult ciphers or codes.

I don’t want to seemingly be picking on Tesla, and it should be pointed out that the Tesla licensing does have some warnings about a salvaged Tesla, including this:

“An unsupported or salvaged vehicle is a vehicle that has been declared a total loss, commonly after extensive damage caused by a crash, flooding, fire, or similar hazard, and has been (or qualifies to be) registered and/or titled by its owner as a salvaged vehicle or its equivalent pursuant to local jurisdiction or industry practice. Salvage registration/titling typically can never be removed from the vehicle so that all future persons understand the condition and value of the vehicle. Tesla does not warrant the safety or operability of salvaged vehicles. Repairs performed to bring a salvaged vehicle back into service may not meet Tesla standards or specifications and that is why the vehicle is unsupported. Consequently, any failures, damages, or injuries occurring as a result of such repairs or continued operation of an unsupported vehicle are solely the responsibility of the vehicle owner” (source: https://www.tesla.com/about/legal).

In a manner of speaking, presumably it is the duty of the car owner to cope with the matter of having their own car salvaged and taking any needed steps.

According to the researchers, Tesla apparently reported to them that:

“Tesla already offers options that customers can use to protect personal data stored on their car, including a factory reset option for deleting personal data and restoring customized settings to factory defaults, and a Valet Mode for hiding personal data (among other functions) when giving their keys to a valet. That said, we are committed to finding and improving upon the right balance between technical vehicle needs and the privacy of our customers” (as stated in: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/29/tesla-model-3-keeps-data-like-crash-videos-location-phone-contacts.html).always

You can interpret the response by Tesla as befits your own views about what responsibility the car maker has versus the car owner.

Coping With AI Self-Driving Cars Once Wrecked

As the advent of AI self-driving cars continues to increase, there will be more and more circumstances involving wrecked AI self-driving cars.

Right now, the Teslas, which are considered pretty much a Level 2, those are the most prevalent of any semblance of an AI self-driving car and so it is logical that those would be getting wrecked, in the normal course of being on the roads, and end-up in salvage yards.

With the emergence of Level 3’s, once those become relatively popular, they will ultimately get into wrecks, sorry to say, but it’s a fact, because they are cars, and that’s what happens with cars, and so those too will eventually get piled into scrapyards.

The Level 4 and Level 5 self-driving cars are right now working in experimental modes and prove-of-concept (POC) modes, and are not owned by individuals per se. Instead, they are being crafted by auto makers and tech firms. This means those self-driving cars are lovingly tended by a slew of expert mechanics and AI professionals. If those self-driving cars get into a wreck, it isn’t as though they will just tow the self-driving cars to the nearest salvage yard and junk them there.

Nope. Those babies lead a pampered life, right now.

My point being that the auto makers and tech firms have not had to deal with the end-of-life aspects as yet of self-driving cars. We are still so much at the start of the life-cycle that thinking about the end of the life cycle is nearly unimaginable. AI developers that I talk with are oft to scoff at the end-of-life of their creations, doing so because they are harried and knee deep into just trying to make AI self-driving cars that work, being able to have the AI drive around without hitting anything or anyone.

For my article about reverse engineering of AI self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/reverse-engineering-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

For what happens when an AI self-driving car gets into an accident, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/accidents-happen-self-driving-cars/

For the burned-out AI developer aspects, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/developer-burnout-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

For my article about the egocentric AI developers’ aspects, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/egocentric-design-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

You might be tempted to suggest that at least the on-board data should always be encrypted.

By doing so, it would mean that even if the wrecked self-driving car was given to a salvage yard, it would be arduous or perhaps infeasible for anyone to readily pluck the data out of the car in terms of knowing what the data actually contained (they might be able to grab it, but it would appear to be undecipherable).

Though this is a good idea, it also offers the downside of having to be continually encrypting and potentially decrypting data to make use of it to drive the self-driving car by the AI system.

This means that the on-board computer systems are going to do a lot of added computational work. The data being collected by the sensors would need to be turned from plaintext or plain-data into encrypted data. Would this happen only once the data is stored? That’s data in-rest or in-place. Would it also occur when the data is flowing throughout the on-board system, which is data-in-motion?

There are lots of questions to be considered. Would the added computational effort dilute the on-board computational processors and distract those processors from the “real work” of running the AI to drive the car? Would the time it takes to encrypt and decrypt create a potential delay in having the AI be able to readily make driving decisions, which are real-time and life-or-death kinds of matters?

Some say that maybe have the data encrypted at the end of a driving day, thus only the data that might so happen to be “live” when a wreck occurs would be potentially unencrypted.

For more about the cognition timing aspects, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/cognitive-timing-for-ai-self-driving-cars/

For the backdoor security matters, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/ai-deep-learning-backdoor-security-holes-self-driving-cars-detection-prevention/

For the role of Event Data Recorders, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/event-data-recorders-edr-self-driving-car-need-black-box-relook/

For my article about privacy concerns of AI self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/privacy-ai-self-driving-cars/

Another suggestion is that the self-driving car should have a “wrecked mode” that would automatically kick-in when the self-driving car gets into a crash of some kind. This would either encrypt the data at that juncture, though you need to hope that the processors and systems are working sufficiently that this could actually occur after the crash has happened, or the wrecked mode might erase everything, similar to my Mission Impossible comment earlier (again, this assumes that the AI is still working sufficiently).

One concern about the erasing of data would be whether the data might be needed for purposes of establishing any legal claims about a crash that has occurred. Whether or not our society would allow the auto makers or tech firms to summarily have a feature that would automatically erase everything, well, that’s a pretty big if.

You could say that it is up to the owner of the self-driving car to take proper action with their wrecked car. Thus, if someone is “stupid enough” to handover their wrecked car to a salvage yard, and leave all of their personal data in it, that’s their own act of being a dolt.

Some would have more sympathy toward the owner of a wrecked car. Would the owner understand that it is their responsibility to deal with the data? Would they realize that the data was even being collected? Would they realize that it wasn’t automatically being encrypted for them? Would they understand that it is something they need to take overt action about?

I think we can likely agree that having something in an owner’s manual is not quite the most broadcast way to inform car owners. How many of us actually read the owner’s manual? It is akin to those that download and use an app, which has a 50-page online licensing contract, and for which most people just click yes and agree to the terms. If the app then gives up all their personal data and sells it to the dark web, do we merely say that those people were dolts?

It could be that some might argue that the salvage yards have an obligation to not allow the data from the towed-in self-driving cars to be handed out. Perhaps their should be legislation that requires salvage yards to protect your data and inform you about it. I doubt that many salvage yards will welcome such an added burden onto their shoulders.

You might say that it should be on the shoulders of the auto maker and tech firms that make the AI self-driving cars. That’s again something that has yet to be ascertained in terms of what the range and nature of their duties are. Much of this is still an open market approach and there is little yet in the way of regulatory rules about it.

I would guess that we’ll likely see lawsuits that will also arise due to these matters. Someone that has had a wrecked AI self-driving car that reveals private aspects will launch a lawsuit against the auto maker or tech firm, perhaps at the insurance firm, perhaps at the salvage yard, and maybe at anyone or anything in the life cycle steps after a self-driving car has gotten wrecked.

For my article about responsibilities and AI self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/responsibility-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

For federal regulations about AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/assessing-federal-regulations-self-driving-cars-house-bill-passed/

For whether we are creating a kind of Frankenstein, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/frankenstein-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

For the soon to emerge lawsuits bonanza, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/first-salvo-class-action-lawsuits-defective-self-driving-cars/

Things Will Get Worse In Terms of What’s On-Board

I’ll add more fuel to the fire.

It seems likely that true Level 5 AI self-driving cars will have cameras pointing inward and be recording the audio and video of whatever happens inside of the self-driving car. Why this kind of intrusion? It can be to help the AI figure out what the human passengers are doing and what they want the AI to do for them.

There’s another equally practical reason, namely for ridesharing purposes. Most would agree that the AI self-driving car of a Level 5 will be used for ridesharing purposes. Even if you own your own Level 5 self-driving car, you will likely let it roam and be a ridesharing vehicle while you are at work or asleep, allowing your self-driving car to make money for you.

By having the cameras that point inward, you can keep track of those pesky ridesharing passengers that might decide to trash the inside of your shiny AI self-driving car. Or, perhaps it could be that someone is having a heart attack and needs urgent help, which the AI might be able to detect by scanning the interior video and then contacting 911 or routing the self-driving car to the nearest hospital.

The overall point is that this kind of private data would also be presumably kept on-board the self-driving car. Once again, it might be accessed once the self-driving car is relegated to a salvage yard, if not otherwise protected or erased.

I’ll scare you about the outward facing cameras too.

As your AI self-driving car goes down the street in your neighborhood, it is capturing video, along with possibility audio, and radar, and LIDAR, and ultrasonic waves, which could be kept on-board the self-driving car. It might be sitting in there, a view of all of your neighbors, their dogs and cats, their comings and goings.

When you park your AI self-driving car in your garage, it might still be recording. This could occur in that the AI self-driving car might be setup to wait for you to ask it to do something, so it is sitting there in a semi-alert fashion. It is akin to Alexa or Siri, listening for a prompting word. Though in theory the listening mode is not recording, you never know how it might really have been established.

Some believe that the AI of the self-driving car will be a kind of therapist, allowing you or your children to interact with it on your daily commute. The AI might try to help you with that problem at work, or difficulties with your spouse. Or, your children might confide that they are failing in their classes and want to run away from home. All of this potentially could be recorded by the AI system.

This AI would use a mixture of NLP, socio-behavioral techniques, and possibly Machine Learning and Deep Learning. Whatever methods or technologies used, it all depends upon having data, including collecting it and keeping it around, in some manner, whether in whole or in a compressed or selected manner.

We really haven’t as yet established what the boundaries are going to be about the recording of such data.

I know some pundits claim that the voluminous data is so voluminous that it would not make any sense for the self-driving car to keep it on-board. The amount of on-board computer memory would be overly costly, use up too much power, and be large and heavy, weighing down the AI self-driving car. They say that this data either won’t be kept, or it will be shunted up to the cloud via the OTA.

We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.

For my article about Machine Learning and AI self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/machine-learning-ultra-brittleness-and-object-orientation-poses-the-case-of-ai-self-driving-cars/

For the use of socio-behavioral techniques and AI, see: https://www.aitrends.com/features/socio-behavioral-computing-for-ai-self-driving-cars/

For the rise of ridesharing and AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/ridesharing-services-and-ai-self-driving-cars-notably-uber-in-or-uber-out/

For my article about the affordability of AI self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/affordability-of-ai-self-driving-cars/

For my article about how IoT plays into this, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/internet-of-things-iot-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

Conclusion

If I was sad when my sports car went to the salvage yard, imagine how I might feel when my true Level 5 AI self-driving car (of the future) ends-up there too. My sports car could not interact with me, and yet I considered it my friend. For the Level 5 self-driving car, presumably it will be a friend, a confidant, a father confessor, a butler, and probably know more about me than any other living human being. Yikes!

In any case, we do need to all start considering what to do about AI self-driving cars and the data they are going to be collecting. The focus herein was what happens to the data when the self-driving car gets junked to a salvage yard.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. While the self-driving car is still fully active, we need to be worrying about the data and how it is being collected and who can access it.

The next time you drive past a scrapyard, look at the pile of cars, and think to yourself about the hidden secrets that will someday be there, embedded into the computer memory of those AI self-driving cars that were unceremoniously dumped there. Perhaps we’ll prevent that data dumpster treasure trove from happening, if we take heed now in the design and development of AI self-driving cars.

Copyright 2019 Dr. Lance Eliot

This content is originally posted on AI Trends.