What If Your Autonomous Car Keeps Routing You to Krispy Kreme?

We live in an internet world in which all of our online activity is tracked. Purchase preferences are gauged by browser history, and companies know more about us than ever before. So, how will data transparency trends combine with the pending shifts to driverless cars? It could get very interesting.


Let’s paint a picture of a self driving car experience: your child’s soccer game is being held at a field that you’ve never been at and you don’t know the area well at all. Of course, no panic here because your car knows where it’s going. Let’s say you get hungry on your way home and an ad appears on your car’s windshield for Krispy Kreme donuts, and it indicates that the store is coming up on your right. Since the thought of melting sugar in your mouth seems appealing, you allow your car to reroute to Krispy Kreme with the push of a button or a voice command. And now you’re eating donuts.

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“How did my car know I like donuts?” you might ask yourself. While there are many possible answers to this question (perhaps your car has noticed you are a sucker for impulsive snacks via your check-ins on Facebook or Yelp, or perhaps Krispy Kreme targeted you on its own based on your demographic profile and location), the more interesting question is – is this OK? Moreover, is it OK for your car to suggest a trip to the gym, or to keep you teenager from coming anywhere but home?

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Many auto makers such as Mercedes, GM, Nissan and Volvo have already developed their own prototypes of the self driving car. As excited as we are for all these new features, we hope refusing human orders will not be a problem for these robots. Without question, the internet and data tracking have opened consumer data to companies and governments all over the world. But the truth is, as a society we are just beginning to realize how to use the internet. As computing becomes more integrated into more traditional everyday processes and hardware, such as cars, it will be fascinating to experience the changes, and to observe how consumers, businesses and governments answer the ethical questions that surface.


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