Biometrics will radically alter driving experience
The media has focused much attention on electric and autonomous vehicles as the automotive industry steers toward wider adoption of those technologies.
There is another exciting development happening with automobiles that is just starting to see the light of day: in-car biometrics.
Biometrics is a technology that measures a person’s fingerprints, facial features and other unique characteristics in order to verify one’s identity.
This technology already exists in activity trackers, or wearable devices, that monitor a person’s heart rate, sleeping patterns, body fat percentage and other characteristics; it is now migrating into automobiles.
According to Digital Trends (digitaltrends.com), “a report by Frost & Sullivan’s Intelligent Mobility Team predicts one in three cars will have biometric sensors by 2025.”
The idea of biometrics in automobiles is impressive, and the health, safety, and privacy ramifications of this technology is significant.
On the health side, biometrics will monitor motorists’ physical wellbeing when they are driving; things such as heart rate, blood pressure, drowsiness, increased levels of blood-alcohol content, and warnings about a potential epileptic seizure.
These on-board detections will have life-saving implications for drivers, passengers and the public. Imagine knowing that you are about to suffer a medical emergency and are advised — with a voice command — to slow down, pull over or request immediate help.
Another area where biometrics will have an impact is security. Within a few years, fingerprint sensors, retinal scans and voice/ facial recognition will replace the standard key fob for accessing and starting a vehicle. This technology exists for smartphones — it will soon be available for automobiles.
In 2016, Ford announced it was exploring the potential to link health information to in-vehicle technologies, such as lane-keeping assist and blind-spot information system.
Recently, at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, several automakers and suppliers featured biometric technology in their quest to develop connected and autonomous vehicles.
Chrysler introduced a concept minivan that featured biometric technology that authenticates the driver and delivers customized security and convenience features, such as automatically adjusted seat positions, interior sound settings and mirror angles.
Also in January, Honda announced it is working with an Israeli firm to develop enhanced voice interaction system for smart cars.
On the privacy side, biometric technology needs to be developed with great care. As these technologies gather personal/physical data about individuals and their driving habits, consumers want to know how their information is being stored and used. They need to feel confident that their fingerprints and iris scans do not end up in the wrong hands.
The insurance industry will certainly be impacted with biometrics, as the technology achieves critical mass in automobiles. It’s assumed that motorists using this technology will be more aware of their health and state of mind while behind the wheel, thereby reducing their chances of being involved in an accident.
Nevertheless, questions remain. In the case of auto collisions, or traffic fatalities, will insurance companies be able to access motorists’ biometric data in order to determine their health and state of mind at the time of an accident?
Will vehicles equipped with biometric technology be less of a target for auto theft? If so, how will reduced auto theft affect insurance premiums?
How easy would it be for hackers to access a person’s biometric data and use it for fraud or identify theft?
My opinion is that biometrics in cars seems like a sensible idea in providing added safety and security for drivers. Surrendering your personal information in exchange for a safer car ride is a trade-off that many drivers may be prepared to make.