Introduction

Norton Rose Fulbright’s fourth annual Autonomous Vehicle (AV) White Paper addresses the planned and actual use of biometrics – the measurement of unique human physiological and behavioral characteristics – in today’s (and tomorrow’s) vehicles. To be sure, the use of biometrics has been incorporated into a multitude of technologies that are used on a daily basis to facilitate the identification or authentication of individuals. Such technologies have long included the use of fingerprint and facial recognition to unlock laptops and cellphones and for identification at border crossings, and voice recognition to verify identity for financial transactions. Now the technology is being pushed to include hand gesture recognition (e.g. swipe gestures), gait recognition, and facial and hand thermograms, all of which may be used by companies for marketing and by governments to conduct surveillance.

The automotive industry is increasingly incorporating biometric technologies for both security and convenience into their vehicles, especially for the next generation of AVs. With this rapid embrace of biometrics comes significant concerns relating to protecting the privacy of individuals. Only a few states have passed laws regulating the collection and security of biometric data. Uniformity of regulations, however, is lacking. These biometric innovations also have been developed at great cost to companies both inside and outside of the rapidly changing car industry. Although each developer believes that their particular technologies should be embraced by its marketplace, the field continues to evolve, and customer preferences are still very much undefined. Companies, therefore, have sought and continue to seek to protect their innovations through the panoply of intellectual property rights, most specifically patent rights, that will allow them to preclude unauthorized users from taking their hard-earned market share.

This White Paper explores the legal issues raised by the increased use of biometrics in cars and how to manage the risk that they raise for vehicle developers, manufacturers, and operators. As a starting point, the basic contours of the different biometric technologies are discussed. With that understanding in hand, this White Paper explores the laws of eight countries and their impact on biometric use. The countries discussed include:

  • United States
  • Australia
  • China
  • France
  • Germany
  • Indonesia
  • South Korea
  • Turkey