Smart Cars Are Being Used in Abusive Relationships – What Are Automakers Doing About This?

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Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Jessica Rosenworcel has sent an official letter to nine large automakers, asking them for details about connected car systems and plans to support people who have been harassed by domestic abusers, saying: “No survivor of domestic violence and abuse should have to choose between giving up their car and allowing themselves to be stalked and harmed by those who can access its data and connectivity.”

Nowadays, almost all new vehicles have convenience features that use telecommunications for finding cars in parking lots, remotely starting the engine, and even connecting with emergency responders. These features rely on wireless connectivity and location data that in the wrong hands can be used to harm partners in abusive relationships.

According to CTV News, the letter asks the automakers for details about their connected services and whether they have any policies to remove access to connected apps and other features if a request is made by someone who is being abused. Rosenworcel further asks whether the companies can and would remove access even from someone whose name is on the vehicle’s title.

These letters were sent to top executives at companies Stellantis, Tesla, General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, and Nissan.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation (a large trade association) also recently said in a statement that the misuse of connected vehicle technology to stalk or harass people is not acceptable- “The industry is considering how to best broaden federal or state policies and other protections to help prevent these incidents.”

The group also claims that the association has already raised the issue with regulators in the past, while Rosenworcel’s letter to automakers came after a recent story in The New York Times about how connected cars are being weaponized in abusive relationships.