How will drivers protect data when cars can pass information from one vehicle to another through Wi-Fi connections? Ford Motor Co. began installing computers in work trucks in mid-2000, and Wi-Fi transmitters in passenger cars in 2010. This month, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgetown University and the National University of Singapore will present a new algorithm that allows Wi-Fi-connected cars to share their Internet connections and pass data from one car to another automatically.
MIT cites a 2011 report from Agence France-Presse that suggests 80% of the cars in North America will have Wi-Fi built-in by 2015. Marketers who think data security won't become an issue better think twice. While researchers seem overjoyed with the prospect of saving consumers money by sharing a 3G connection, marketers need to become aware of potential viruses, corrupt data and even theft of information.
The algorithm aims to aggregate data from hundreds of cars in just a small handful, which then uploads to the Internet, according to the researchers, who will present the findings at the ACM SIGACT-SIGOPS Symposium on Principles of Distributed Computing in Portugal.
Imagine passing data to a stranger's car to upload information to the Internet. Privacy experts should have a field day with this one. In the researchers' plan, one car would pass data to the other car when they come into range of each other. This way only one conveys data to the other, making the selection of transmitter and receiver random.
Machine learning will allow the computers in the cars to identify the ones that learn most. These cars will become the aggregator. "The more people you meet, the more likely it is that people will
feed their data to you,” according to researchers. The shift in probabilities is calculated relative to 1/x — the fraction of the fleet that any one car will meet,"
The smaller the value of x, the smaller the number of cars required to aggregate the data from the rest of the fleet. But for realistic assumptions about urban traffic patterns, about 1,000 cars could see data aggregated by about five.