Reader Question: Is My Car Treasonous?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Gregg asks:Thanks for your numerous articles on our cars spying on us and being obnoxious in other ways. America is lucky to have you. I’m getting ready to buy several used cars for business purposes and would like to avoid, in order: 1) Cars that can be controlled remotely 2) Cars that upload my location 3) Cars that insist (no simple override) on braking or swerving without the driver’s control. 4) Cars that upload driving habits. Needless to say, any vehicle that will not go above the posted speed limit are not real cars and we need not utter their names. If you provided a table of which models and year of model, offends in each of those categories. I and others will shout your name in glory from the mountain tops. Perhaps some readers might help on this.

My reply: Like the story about the frog and the slowly getting-warmer water, the story of cars becoming more and more under the control and supervision of technology, the government and its corporate “partners” is one of incrementalism.

Data recorders (i.e., “black boxes”) date back to the mid-’90s, when GM became the first major car company to install them in its cars. This was also around the time GM began to offer the first “telematics” systems (i.e., OnStar) which enabled remote control over some of the car’s functions, such as opening the doors (and turning off the engine) as well as – in tandem with GPS – vehicle locater capability.

These cars also have microphones built into them.

Today, almost all new cars have “telematics” and most have had at least EDRs since the early 2000s. Any car that has GPS can be tracked – and most cars have come standard with GPS for at least the past 10 years.

The good news is that all of the above is defeatable. Just disable the GPS/antenna. The EDR will still be in the car, but it is under your physical control.

As is the car.

The truly creepy stuff – driver pre-emption tech, such as Lane Keep Assist (with Steering Assist) and Automated Emergency Braking/Brake Assist – began to appear in high-end cars about five or so years ago and is rapidly becoming de facto standard equipment in every new car. I just finished test driving the new Corolla – and it has both. Even creepier, Sign Recognition Assist (notice the also-creepy language; they are merely “assisting” us) is now coming online; it is a crucial element of the Intelligent Speed Assist (i.e., speed limiter) that the EU has mandated all new cars have by 2022.

So, I would counsel avoiding any high-end car made after about 2010; and almost any car, period, made within the past year or so.

My personal “sweet spot” recommend are cars made from the early-90s through the early 2000s, up to about 2010 or so. Ideally around 2005 and earlier. These cars – depending on the make/model- will have some Big Brothery tech, but it won’t be obnoxiously intrusive and most of it can be turned off or otherwise defeated.

But the new stuff is hopeless and best avoided if you prefer not to be parented by your car!

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve heard 370z is pretty much a 2000’s car still in terms of tech, probably one of the last new cars you could buy without all the added crap


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