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4 Impacts of Using a Vehicle's Camera Data

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April 28, 2020—Commercial vehicles may be providing data from the car's camera without the driver even realizing it, a recent Consumer Reports report found.

Tesla, for instance, is using data it collects from private vehicles to improve its partial autonomy software. Carmera, a startup, also collects roadway data from commercial vehicles. These sensors and cameras provide data that is crucial to the development of autonomous vehicles. The data can be used to create highly-detailed maps of infrastructure to help the autonomous cars "see" the world around them.

Data is also being collected and used with insurance companies so they can offer drivers reduced rates based on driving habits. Telematics offers the ability to provide feedback on risky driving behaviors, which could prevent the bad behavior in the future.

There's no doubt about it—data is being collected by a slew of companies including Mobileye, an intel company that has developed a range of software products and the leading supplier of software that enables ADAS. 

Data collection does not come without consequences. Consumers might not even know their vehicle's data is being collected. Now, it's up to you as the repairer to know how data collection can impact your business and privacy for the consumer (See Sidebar: Finding a Car's Camera). 


Finding a Car's Camera

If you're repairing a vehicle and take off a grille, will you dislodge a camera or a sensor? How will a small repair affect the drivability of the car after the repair? As repairers, you want to put the customer back into a vehicle that is as safe as it was when the customer first bought it. That requires you knowing where these cameras are located in cars entering your shop.

A 2018 Edmund's report details where cameras are typically installed in vehicles. Learn more about how back cameras are installed below.

Rear Cameras

Backup cameras are installed in rear trim pieces. They might be hidden in the bumper, near the license plate, in the trunk lid or in the tailgate of an SUV or pickup truck. 

Cameras here are usually aimed at a downward angle and come with a wide-angled lense.


#1: Data Impacts ADAS Capabilities

Camera data and radar sensors on vehicles can raise the IQ of some advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), according to Consumer Reports. HD maps used for autonomous vehicles need to be updated constantly in order for the car to be able to view the world around it. 

Mobileye is creating HD maps in a project called Road Experience Management, or REM. The company says that as few as 10 cars passing down a newly modified road could send back enough data to build an updated map.

#2: Data Impacts Pedestrian Statistics

Cameras can capture how many pedestrians pass through an area. Carmera discovered pedestrian data when it started blurring the faces of bystanders its cameras captured.

The company has admitted to Consumer Reports that it shares some of its car's data to city operators.

#3: Data Impacts a Driver's Privacy

In some cases, REM-equipped cars are designed to protect a consumer's privacy. So, only data from parts of the consumer's drive would be used and data points are stripped of any identifiable information.

Automakers like BMW emphasize that they wouldn't want hours of raw data from vehicles because it would be too large of a file to store. An hour of full-quality video could require over a gigabyte of storage.

Drivers can opt out of harvesting REM data when they activate a car's connected services but it could also mean the customer is missing out on other ADAS features as a result, according to the report. 

#4: Data Impacts Third-Party Control

While city planners can end up with the data, other private corporations, developers and third-party companies can end up with the data from vehicles as well.

It can be difficult to restrict how private companies use the data they collect, including HD maps. That’s due to an absence of regulation, says Justin Brookman, CR’s director of consumer privacy and technology policy.

There's the potential for police to use a consumer's vehicle data to determine a driver's patterns and deanonymize HD map data. That HD map data could be used to make decisions about where and how to police.


Researchers Capture Images with LiDAR Accuracy

In 2019, Cornell researchers discovered a way to use two inexpensive cameras on either side of a windshield to detect an object with near-LiDAR accuracy. According to the report, LiDAR sensors are affixed to cars' roofs and can safely perceive objects like pedestrians to help build 3D maps but also come with setbacks like increasing wind drag for the car. LiDAR sensors use lasers to create 3D point maps of their surroundings, measuring objects’ distance via the speed of light.

Here's how the windshield cameras work: The bird's-eye representation of camera data does not distort images like front cameras have the potential to do. Objects from front cameras can be distorted when processed with objects blurred in the background and shapes distorted. 

These bird's-eye view or stereo cameras, could be used in lower-cost vehicles. 

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