For generations Ford worked closely with Firestone, which not only provided the tires installed on new Fords but also developed them to work with specific Ford vehicles. That relationship soured in the late ‘90s, when Ford – and Firestone – got very publicly Johnnie Cochran’d over Ford Explorer SUVs sometimes rolling over while being driven on Firestone Wilderness A/T tires.
To this day, debate rages over whether the rolling over was caused chiefly by subpar Firestone tires, under-inflated subpar Firestone tires, rollover-prone Ford Explorers, or reckless Explorer drivers. It was probably all of these elements to one degree or another, acting in concert.
The proverbial perfect storm.
In any event, Ford is developing a new relationship – with Google – that may make you roll over.
CEO Jim Farley made the announcement recently that Ford will be using Google tech already built into all of its new cars to “provide new revenue opportunities” – which translates as monetize the data streamed by the vehicle.
This can take many forms and includes the obvious – such as how and where the vehicle is driven, which data can be used to keep track of commercially driven vehicles and commercial drivers (so much for the being on your own that used to be one of the perks of being a commercial driver).
And of course, the same can be applied to privately owned vehicles as well, to keep track of how and where they are driven as well. The insurance mafia is very interested in that data since it presents a revenue opportunity to mulct drivers who never file claims or have them filed against them but do sometimes “speed” and commit various technical foul infractions, such as making a right on red or not coming to a complete stop at every stop sign . . . which routinely go unpunished because – up to now – they mostly go unnoticed.
An interaction with an armed government worker being necessary for it to go “on record.”
With the vehicle keeping track of everything the driver does, it’s all on record. Including how far you drive, another potential revenue stream the insurance mafia – and the government mafia – would very much like to wet their beaks in.
As things stand – if you own an analog car – you can drive as often and as far as you like and so long as you don’t file a claim or have one filed against you, neither mafia can dun you just because you’ve been driving a lot or far.
But if they can track your mileage, they can dun you by the mile – and that could be a very forceful revenue stream, indeed.
There are also incidental rivulets of data such as your preferences in food, the places you stopped to shop or visit – and so on – data you provided by tapping the touchscreen and using the apps and even if you didn’t since the car is keeping track of your travels, including your stops.
Which brings up interesting questions about who owns the vehicle – not in the legal title sense (that’s you, the putative owner, who paid for the vehicle) but rather in the meaningful sense – as regards who exercises control over what you do with it.
Which appears to be not you, the putative owner – if Ford (and other car companies) have embedded technology in what you bought and have legal title to but which they have the ability to control, even if you do not consent to this. What you actually have is a sort of license to operate the vehicle under the terms and conditions specified by the functional owner of the vehicle – i.e., the car companies that control the data and so the vehicle and thereby, you.
Bu the real money – and control – will come from Googled electric cars.
For example as via EV charging subscriptions, possibly folded into your monthly EV subscription (which they’re already calling it, to get people used to the idea of never owning their vehicles and possibly anything else, either and instead paying perpetually to have use of them).
Which could also be used to limit your recharging – and thus, your driving. A Googled electric car could be turned off or on at the pleasure of its real owner, whether that’s putatively you or “subscribed service” you.
“Lockdowns” could be so much easier when it’s easier to lock-down people’s cars.
“Connectivity is the biggest game changer,” Farley said recently – and he’s right.
Things will never be the same. They are already not the same.
Every new car Fords sells has a connected modem installed, which means every new car Ford sells is already “connected.” Which means your new Ford car (and it’s not just Ford cars) already isn’t . . . yours, that is. It is the functional property of the company that you’re paying for the conditional opportunity to use it, per the EULA – the end user license agreement.
To be fair, the technology as such – like guns – isn’t intrinsically dangerous. It can provide benefits, as for example remote diagnosis of problems with the vehicle and/or its systems. As via being able to get assistance with a problem remotely, avoiding the hassle of having to take the vehicle in for service.
The problem – the danger – lies in how the tech is used and more finely, whether people will have the freedom to choose not to use it.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with Ford or any other car company offering the tech and people being free to opt-in, if they decide the tech is something they want and something they’re willing to pay for and over which they have control.
It gets sinister when no one can opt out. When we’re all Googled by our cars, whether we putatively own them or not.
. . .
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