New York City Launches Driver Tracking Program

Photo: Mariano Mantel/Flickr Creative Commons

The Department of Transportation, in an attempt to better understand the psychology of New York City drivers, is allowing people to track their own driving habits in exchange for Allstate auto insurance discounts and other “incentive rewards valued at $25,” according to the website for newly launched program Drive Smart. The DOT is partnering with several technology companies for the project, which was launched last month in beta form, to provide apps available on Android and different iOS platforms that draw data from a car’s diagnostic port. 

That data, compiled from the car’s diagnostic port, will tabulate different maneuvers that drivers make around the city, like hard turns, speed, time of day, heavy break pumps and geographic location through a GPS function. The idea is to glean an understanding of what makes New York City motorists such pugnacious drivers, and also to forge a better understanding of how to counter gridlock during times of heavier traffic.

Although the program exists to ostensibly improve things like traffic flow and the DOT’s understanding of driving habits, privacy advocates complain about Drive Smart’s surveillance-like dimensions, which they see as an infringement on a driver’s privacy on behalf of different service providers.

Speaking with CBS New York, security expert Manny Gomez decried Drive Smart as a program susceptible to hacking. “Anything is hackable as we’ve already seen. Sony was hacked; the US government was hacked, so clearly the City of New York could be hacked and this information could easily become public,” he said.

Gomez also made clear his anxieties over whether or not the data could be used against people surreptitiously on behalf of the DOT.

The possibility of outside hacking attempts aside, the DOT intends to examine all collected data “stripped of any personally identifiable information and specific origin and destination points to help the agency better understand how New York City’s street network is used and how it can be improved,” according to Drive Smart’s website.

Drive Smart will continue until August 2016. The DOT  is currently on the hunt for 400 members to test-drive the program.

Follow Sam Blum on Twitter @Blumnessmonster

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