Smart cars share revealing info about drivers

By Jim Bronskill


OTTAWA _ The family car is learning more about who’s behind the wheel everything from where a driver likes to shop to how hard they brake as automakers roll out new tech-savvy features.

With cars collecting and even sharing more personal data, Canada’s privacy watchdog is quietly trying to ensure manufacturers, retailers and insurance companies avoid bumps on the virtual highway.

On-board navigation systems can tell where a vehicle is and where it has been. Electronic components stream data to computers that gauge driver behavior and the car’s roadworthiness. Vehicles recognize drivers and adjust settings for them. Infotainment systems allow voice and data communications.

“With connectivity, cars are becoming highly efficient data harvesting machines,” says a 2015 study by the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association.

Customer data generated by the connected car is now seen as a major new source of revenue for marketers and advertisers, the study found. Some insurance companies are offering coverage that sets premiums based on driving patterns.

When tracked, combined or linked with other available data, the information can reveal intensely private details of a person’s life, making it vulnerable to abuse by thieves, stalkers and others with malicious intent, the study says.

It argues automakers have failed to comply with their obligations under Canadian privacy law when it comes to giving customers adequate information and choice about how their data is collected and used.

The study recommends creation of data-protection regulations for the connected car and insurance industries, as well as involvement of privacy experts in the design stage of wired-vehicle research projects.

The federal privacy commissioner’s office, which financially supported the B.C. study, is “actively following” the issues and has held discussions with industry players and provincial regulators, said Valerie Lawton, a spokeswoman for the commissioner.

The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association, which represents the country’s largest car-makers, initiated a meeting with the federal commissioner’s office last June, say notes disclosed under the Access to Information Act.

Federal privacy officials saw it as an opportunity to get a better sense of the information collected by intelligent cars, what might be coming, and whether manufacturers were fully aware of their obligations, the notes indicate.

Legal and regulatory requirements are considered whenever car-makers look at introducing new technologies with privacy implications, said Mark Nantais, manufacturers association president.

“We’re fully compliant and intend to be fully compliant with the laws that are applicable,” he said in an interview.

As for insurance-related data, that’s a relationship between the driver and their insurance company that goes beyond the automaker, Nantais said.

The internal notes from the privacy commissioner paint a futuristic scenario involving in-car advertising for instance, a near-empty gas-tank sensor could project an advisory on the windshield offering the driver a discount at a nearby filling station.

Nantais, however, played down the notion wired cars produce a bounty of valuable information.

“Is it myth or reality that the data actually exists? That’s a valid question,” he said. “Some people think that everything under the sun is available, and I don’t think that’s the case.”

As vehicles become increasingly reliant on technology, security will be paramount, Nantais added.

“We want to make sure that those vehicles cannot be hacked and that they remain safe,” he said. “And there’s a lot of work going on in the industry relative to cyber security of vehicles, primarily from a safety perspective.”


Uber could be coming to B.C. after all


VICTORIA — The B.C. government is softening its criticism of popular ride-sharing business Uber, saying it’s only a matter of time before the service launches here, and admitting it could safely coexist with the existing taxi industry.

“I believe it’s a matter of when, not if, ridesharing will be prevalent in B.C., and I do believe the two industries can coexist side-by-side, thrive and grow,” Transportation Minister Todd Stone said Wednesday. “I think there’s a growing recognition (of) the issues of convenience, of choice, of competition, which British Columbians are increasingly expecting.”

The comments mark a shift in tone from Stone, who in 2014 reacted to rumours of Uber’s launch in Vancouver with threat of fines against the company and a promise to deploy undercover officers to catch any unlicensed drivers.

Stone had warned of “significant consequences” to Uber and its drivers if they tried to operate without the same licensing rules, inspection regime and safety checks that taxi drivers face from B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Branch.

“Safety is our No. 1 concern and we’re going to make darn sure that any company wishes to provide a taxi-like service in British Columbia that they meet the same requirements as all existing companies have to,” Stone said in 2014.

On Wednesday he said the government has since “had lots of good discussion with ridesharing companies like Uber.”

Uber has been pushing government to craft regulations that would allow its drivers to obtain special licences and be considered different from traditional taxis.

“We are ready to work quickly with Premier Clark and Minister Stone to introduce a new regulatory framework that embraces ridesharing in the upcoming spring session,” said Uber official Susie Heath.

“In terms of regulations, as we saw from court rulings last year in both Ontario and Alberta, ridesharing is a new business model that is distinct from taxi,” she said.

Uber has said it would prefer new licensing regulations for what’s called a transportation network company, which would set requirements for fees, insurance, driver checks, GPS tracking and other ways Uber would be different from traditional taxis.

Stone wouldn’t commit Wednesday, only saying that existing rules and licences remain in place for now.

“Any significant changes to existing regulatory environment would only be made after extensive discussions with existing stakeholders, namely, the taxi industry,” he said.

The impending arrival of Uber has sparked intense public discussion about taxi waiting times, service levels to the suburbs, insurance, safety, and the complex way taxi licenses in the province.

“We are certainly hearing from lots of British Columbians who’d like to see ridesharing come to the province,” said Stone.

Some are perplexed by Stone’s changing tone on Uber.

Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs called it an almost complete reversal.

“A year ago he was laying down the law,” Meggs said. “On what basis is he now saying it’s inevitable? Has he made an arrangement with Uber?”

Stone’s comments come as the governing B.C. Liberal party gauges public support for Uber, as a potential wedge issue in two byelections in Metro Vancouver.

The NDP has pledged to support the existing taxi industry, and in 2014 attempted to pass a bill to hike fines against Uber drivers who might try to operate without a permit.

In a letter to Stone earlier this week, NDP leader John Horgan accused the government of “conducting closed-door negotiations to allow Uber to enter the B.C. market.”

Horgan called on government to refer the issue of ride sharing to an all-party committee of the legislature this spring for a non-partisan debate.

GM’s Dysfunctional Risk Management Comes Home to Roost in Court

 | Huffington Post Business

Monday, January 11 marked the beginning of a ‘bellwether’ trial for General Motors (GM) that will provide a template for future litigation stemming from a faulty ignition switch. Between 2004 and 2013, at least twelve people died in ten separate accidents involving GM Cobalts and Saturn Ions which featured the faulty ignition switch. The switch was easily disabled by knee movements, which turned off the engine en route, disabling power steering and power brakes, thereby making it difficult for drivers to maintain control of their vehicles.

Manufacturing companies frequently encounter technical problems like the faulty ignition switch. In and of itself, this problem should have been a minor issue that was easily correctable. The fact that it was not corrected for years was a consequence of GM’s dysfunctional risk management.

My new book Behavioral Risk Management describes why the major risk management failures to have occurred in the last fifteen years stem from deep seated psychological pitfalls. In the book, I discuss the GM case, describing the psychological issues that led GM to engage in critical don’ts and avoid important do’s in the way the company practiced risk management.

Four of the most important psychological pitfalls are:
1. Downplaying the likelihood of unfavorable events, known as excessive optimism;
2. Overassessing own ability, known as overconfidence;
3. Turning a deaf ear to information that is unfavorable, known as confirmation bias; and
4. Taking an unfavorable risk to avoid having to accept a sure loss, known as aversion to a sure loss.
Personnel at GM exhibited every one of these pitfalls.

A firm with a strong risk management profile establishes protections against psychological pitfalls in the way that it sets standards, engages in planning, structures incentives, and shares information internally. GM failed abysmally on all counts.

Amazingly, in 2004 GM CEO Rick Wagoner test drove a Cobalt and turned off the ignition with his knee while he was driving! Ray DeGiorgio, the engineer who chose the ignition switch design, eventually recognized the problem, but could not convince his colleagues to address it. In desperation, of his own volition, in 2006 he asked parts supplier Delphi to replace the faulty switch with a superior alternative. However, he did not change the part number on the ignition switch and did not share the information with anyone else at GM. That failure to share information hampered GM investigators when they subsequently tried to figure out what was going on.

In July 2014 Michael Millikin, GM’s general counsel, told a Senate hearing that although GM’s legal team had been investigating the faulty switch issue for some time, it was only several months before that they even told him there was an issue. This is a colossal information sharing failure.

A company with effective risk management profile puts in place a risk management edifice that is strong along three dimensions: structure, culture, and behavior. Strong structure entails effective policies, procedures, and systems, with sound risk management practices being rewarded through compensation. Strong culture entails making risk management a valued activity, with clear communication channels for the sharing of information, and bosses who are good risk management role models. Strong risk management behavior means encouraging constructive devil’s advocacy.

How GM emerges from its bellwether case remains to be seen. However, what is clear is that GM was weak in all three dimensions. Engineer DeGiorgio found no policies and procedures for how to deal with the faulty ignition switch problem once he discovered it. His bosses were hardly role models for strong risk management. And as a junior GM lawyer discovered in 2012 when the company was trying to figure out what to do, his suggestion of a product recall was not welcome.

All in all, when it comes to GM’s risk management report card, the verdict is guilty. reveals survey findings as CES kicks off

Read more

Three Peel officers have been busted in recent years for colluding with the same tow truck driver and accused fraudster.

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New report will lead to creation of national plan to combat distracted driving


GUELPH, ON, Dec. 16, 2015 /CNW/ – Today, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) and The Co-operators released Distracted Driving in Canada: Making Progress, Taking Action, a report that provides a snapshot of activities underway in Canada to reduce distracted driving. Based on an environmental scan TIRF completed in partnership with Drop It and Drive (D.I.A.D.) earlier this year, it identifies the need for a national action plan to combat the problem and recommends the creation of a National Working Group on Distracted Driving that can work with a diverse set of stakeholders to develop such a strategy. In the months ahead, TIRF will take the lead on creating the working group, with the ongoing support of The Co-operators.

The report contains the results of an environmental scan and compiles statistics, recent initiatives and lessons learned about distracted driving strategies throughout the country, to establish a solid foundation upon which future activities may be planned and coordinated. It examines five main areas of focus: provincial and territorial government approaches to understanding and addressing the issue; enforcement strategies and outcomes; data collection and measurement; education and awareness campaigns; and legislation.

“The rapid pace of activity in response to this issue is unprecedented. Work is being undertaken on multiple fronts, both across jurisdictions and across sectors, to increase knowledge, track outcomes and identify solutions,” said Robyn Robertson, president and CEO of TIRF. “Increased coordination and sharing of these activities can help to maximize the results of our collective efforts.”

The report revealed that a primary emphasis was placed on improving data collection, and raising awareness and educating Canadians about distracted driving. In addition, there was a high level of coordination of activities within individual jurisdictions. Nevertheless, the problem of distracted driving persists. In fact, the research revealed that distracted driving is a significant contributor to crashes that is comparable to impaired driving in several jurisdictions.

The report concluded that distracted driving is widely considered a top priority by provincial and territorial governments across the country, which have implemented a number of measures to begin to address the problem. Researchers, non-profit organizations, industry professionals and media are equally engaged and working to strengthen efforts using complementary approaches. Yet there is a gap in specific mechanisms to facilitate coordination across groups of stakeholders, and efficient exchange of information and outcomes at the national level.

“Because distracted driving is still an emerging issue, and one that falls under provincial jurisdiction, bringing together stakeholders to help develop a strategic plan at a national level will be very valuable work,” said Kathy Bardswick, president and CEO of The Co-operators. “The information in this report will serve as a resource for the National Working Group on Distracted Driving as well as decision-makers across the country who share our concern for road safety.”

TIRF will be working closely with D.I.A.D. in early 2016 to form the National Working Group and engage its members in the development of a national action plan.

Distracted Driving in Canada: Making Progress, Taking Action is based on information collected from a broad cross-section of stakeholders from all three levels of government, police departments, insurance companies, health care institutions, non-governmental, academic and community organizations.

About the Traffic Injury Research Foundation:
The mission of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) is to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries. TIRF is an independent, charitable road safety research institute. Since its inception in 1964, TIRF has become internationally recognized for its accomplishments in identifying the causes of road crashes and developing programs and policies to address them effectively.

About The Co-operators:
The Co-operators Group Limited is a Canadian-owned co-operative with more than $40 billion in assets under administration. Through its group of companies it offers home, auto, life, group, travel, commercial and farm insurance, as well as investment products. The Co-operators is well known for its community involvement and its commitment to sustainability. The Co-operators is listed among the 50 Best Employers in Canada by Aon Hewitt; Corporate Knights’ Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada; and the Top 50 Socially Responsible Corporations in Canada by Sustainalytics and Maclean’s magazine. For more information visit

SOURCE The Co-operators

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