Data protection - a road-block for driverless cars?

25 May 2016
  • Autonomous vehicles should improve road safety and efficiency, but their development may be hindered by new European data protection rules
  • Only 15% of people feel in control of personal data they provide online and 80% don't read privacy notices

Autonomous and connected vehicle manufacturers will need to get their head around new European data protection rules if driverless cars are to become a reality, a new report has warned.

Published by international law firm Gowling WLG exactly two years before Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, "Are you data driven?" explores the latest issues in data protection and driverless vehicles and what they mean for consumers, featuring input from leading experts across the automotive industry.

Carried out on behalf of the UK Autodrive self-driving vehicles project, the report examines how data protection regulation developments will affect innovations in the development of driverless vehicles. This comes at an important time for the UK automotive industry as the country strives to become a global hub for the development of autonomous and connected vehicle technologies. The testing of driverless vehicles in the urban environment is due to start later this year.

Data protection presents challenges and opportunities that need to be explored and discussed as autonomous technologies become more of a feature on our highways. With only 15% of people feeling in control of their online personal data, and 80% of people not reading privacy notices, this white paper questions whether the industry is being helped or hindered by data protection regulation? And how will the General Data Protection Regulation influence the sector's progress?

Stuart Young, head of automotive at Gowling WLG, summarises the situation: "Vehicle manufacturers are going to have start thinking like social media providers - like the Google and Facebooks of this world. They will need to employ all the tools they use, like privacy notices and location-based consents, and be very aware that data protection compliance should not be taken lightly."

"Are you data driven?" is the first in a series of UK Autodrive white papers which will cover many of the most interesting elements affecting the dynamic developments around autonomous and connected vehicles, including liability, moral algorithms (ethical software coding), infrastructure and connectivity.

UK Autodrive is the largest of three UK consortia launched to support the introduction of self-driving vehicles into the UK. UK Autodrive brings together leading technology and automotive businesses, forward-thinking local authorities and academic institutions to deliver a major three-year UK trial of autonomous and connected vehicle technologies. UK Autodrive is being supported by Innovate UK, the UK's innovation agency.

Gowling WLG is a Global 100 legal practice, with over 1,500 legal professionals across 18 cities in the UK, Canada, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Led by Stuart Young, the firm's award-winning automotive sector team brings together technical excellence in regulatory, corporate, employment, dispute resolution, real estate, commercial and competition. It is the only law firm playing a significant role in the UK Autodrive consortium.

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Dawn Beddard Senior Corporate Communications Manager Birmingham