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Ask Slashdot: Will Cars Eventually Need a Do-Not-Track Option? 170

Nerval's Lobster writes "Earlier this month, a very public argument erupted between Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and New York Times reporter John Broder, who claimed in a Feb. 8 column that his electric-powered Model S sedan had ground to a halt on a lonely stretch of Connecticut highway, starved for power. Musk retaliated by publishing the data from Broder's test drive, which suggested the reporter had driven the vehicle at faster speeds than he had claimed in the article (which would have drained the battery at a quicker rate) and failed to fully charge the car at available stations. Musk seems to have let the whole thing drop, but the whole brouhaha raises a point that perhaps deserves further exploration: the rising use of sensors in cars, and whether an automobile company—or any other entity, for that matter—has the right to take data from those sensors and use it for their own ends without the owner's permission. (For his part, Musk has claimed that Tesla only turns on data logging with 'explicit written permission from customers.') What do you think, Slashdot? Do we need the equivalent of a 'Do-Not-Track' option for cars?"
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Ask Slashdot: Will Cars Eventually Need a Do-Not-Track Option?

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  • Who do you trust? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @04:50PM (#42984017) Homepage
    Who do you trust? A reporter for the New York Times, or a corporate CEO? This is a no-brainer, people. One has the exposure of lies and the safety of the people in mind. The other has only corporate profits to think of. Which one do you trust?
  • Re:Bad analogy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gabrill ( 556503 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @04:54PM (#42984071)

    You mistakenly believe that force of law is effective in privacy rights. []

    If you want your car to be invisible to electronic monitoring, you must drive a car with no electronic capability. I suggest one of these []

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @08:42PM (#42986485) Homepage Journal

    Or on private roads/farms. Some vehicles almost never leave a farm, but they rack up miles of use anyway.

    Easily solved. Have a separate license plate with a much lower per-mile fee for farm vehicles that get only incidental on-road use.

    How do you determine miles driven? Mandatory vehicle inspections?

    For states that already have them, sure. For other states, it would be a simple line item on your tax return, and a simple reporting requirement when the vehicle is transferred. Sure, you could lie about it for a while, but eventually you'll have to sell the car or take it to the junkyard, at which point you'll get hit with a colossal tax bill.

    Thus creating a paperwork nightmare for both the consumer and the government.

    First, most people don't regularly drive their cars outside the state and buy gasoline outside the state. So it's a small amount of effort for 99.999% of the driving public (commercial trucking excepted). They just save their gas receipts for the (statistically) one trip that they take during the summer.

    Second, it's a temporary increase in paperwork. Hybrids are not the way of the future. They're a stopgap until we can come up with a better means of storing and delivering power. My solution creates a temporary and small amount of paperwork to avoid a large and permanent loss of privacy.

    Really? You think having people keep track of paper receipts and filing extra paperwork, along with mandatory visual inspection of every vehicle's milage, is simpler and more easily managed than a simple device in every car that is pinged by a radio system to report time/location data logged by a computer? The initial concept in Oregon was that this data would be uploaded every time you stopped to buy gas. All-electric vehicles need to recharge, so having an upload at each recharge is their answer.

    Yes. I think a system whereby owners are required to periodically report mileage on a piece of paper is simpler than a piece of technology that could make significant errors, resulting in very costly tax bills and lawsuits.

    I also think a system in which you are charged a flat fee by the mile, regardless of where you drove, and in which tax revenue is distributed to states and localities based on their population is much, much simpler than any computer-based system, precisely because a computer-based system will invariably lead to a slippery slope in which each community demands greater and greater detail in the data, until eventually it is trying to compute how many times you drove down a particular block of a particular road so that the people who live on that road can get their fair share of the highway dollars.

    Plus the advantage that GPS tracking allows use of the road tax as a social engineering tool, coercing people to drive during off-peak hours or non-main routes.

    This is not an advantage. Getting people to use non-main routes just results in a lot of high-speed traffic on minor roads and an increase in pedestrian accidents. If the roads can't handle peak travel, then you either need wider roads or more major roads, period.

    Besides, you're never going to convince people to drive at off-peak times through something like this. There's no instantaneous feedback. You find out how much you were billed at the end of the month or the end of the year or whatever. It's not like a toll that you have to actively pay, which actually makes you think as you're driving, "Maybe I should travel at a cheaper time in the future". Psychologically speaking, it isn't likely to have any real impact at all other than making people mad about what they will view as a tax on having a 9-to-5 job.

    The only real way to make roads more green is to reduce the number of stops, the amount of time spent idling, and the number of turns/curves. That process really has

  • If it's old enough, it USED to be on a rail line. (Well, probably. Horse drawn delivery happened, but it was slow and expensive.)

    The rail lines used to be a LOT more extensive. In some places they even shared the rails with passenger trolleys. (Need to use the same gauge rails, and need a lot more spur lines, of course. Still, cheaper than roads.)
    Note: Long distance trains never shared the rails with local trolleys. The appropriate guages for the two systems are too different. For fast trains you need a wide gague, but for slow trains narrow gague is good enough, you just can't take curves as fast.

    Then there were the horse cars. These were local cars, usually passenger, that ran on rails but were pulled by a horse rather than a steam engine. Not really reasonable anymore, as engines have gotten a LOT more efficient. But, again, it was a rail transport that reached into a LOT of local areas.

    These things have all been paved over now, and in most places their very memory has been erased. But they used to be common. If roads weren't subsidized, they still would be.

    As for the "last mile problem", its cheaper to emplace and maintain a rail system than an asphalt road system. But rails are a lot less convenient when everyone is driving their own vehicle, and wants to be able to pass whenever they feel like it. It's not really a last mile problem, it's a grandfather problem combined with impatient idiots who can't wait a block to pass. (Spur lines aren't that expensive or difficult, but they do add to the expense, and they lead to a rougher ride, so you want to limit the number of places that they can occur.)

    All that said, if you are going to have efficient rail travel, then you are going to have long trains with a need for constant speed which take a long time to stop. Perhaps a way around this could be found with electric motors in the wheels and automated switching, but nobody has been bothering, because of the grandfather problem: Even if you find a solution, it's nearly twice as expensive for rails and road to share the same space (ok, I exaggerate the price) and you to combine most of the inconveniences of each system. For some reason this isn't popular, and General Motors paid lots of money to ensure that rail would be junked. (This probably wasn't necessary, because impatient idiots are so common that roads would probably have won anyway, but it would have taken longer.)

    P.S.: Some of what I said doesn't apply to older road systems, and has only become possible with electronically controlled switches. Which is another reason that roads originally won. Now, though, the reason is the network effect (also the grandfather effect...that which is already there is favored of something different, so a new competitor needs to be a LOT better).

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.