How anonymous are you when you drive?

Now technology can pinpoint not only where your car is, but exactly who is driving — a fingerprint of you behind the wheel.

How do they do it?

Watch our report here:


How anonymous are you when you drive? Watch this Archer News Network report.


We looked up Miro Enev, one of the researchers who did a study about this at the University of Washington, along with researchers Alex Takakuwa, Karl Koscher, and Tadayoshi Kohno.

“Everyone has their own unique strategy that ends up being expressed,” Enev said.

It all comes down to your style — how you brake, how you turn the wheel, how you hit the gas.

What is Enev’s style?

“I tend to think that my sort of internal objective of driving is to minimize jerkiness,” he told Archer News. “So, I just try to be as smooth as possible. Slow on the brake pedal and just kind of, you know, steady transitions on the steering wheel. Nothing crazy, I guess!”

You may think well, I do that, too. 

But your style is unique, according to what Enev and his fellow researchers found, so unique that the sensors in your car could give up exactly who’s behind the wheel.

“Every vehicle is recording this info and storing it in what’s known as an ERB, or black box sensor,” Enev said.


Data from Automobile Driver Fingerprinting research. Image credit: Automobile Driver Fingerprinting researchers


First, the researchers had 15 people drive on a closed track.

Then they sent them out on an open track, through Seattle, by the Space Needle, and back.

The results? Enev said they could identify 100% of the drivers just by the way they press the pedals, handle the wheel and more.

“Exposing all this information could be a good thing,” said Enev. “It could also be dangerous.”

This is just the beginning of this kind of research. Enev said it would take more testing to see if everyone in the U.S. has a different style as well.


Image from camera inside test car during open road track drive. Image credit: Automobile Driver Fingerprinting researchers


But your car already has these sensors on board and a way to track them.

What could it mean for you in the future?

If someone tries to steal your car, the car could shut them down.

If you run a red light and try to blame it on your brother, no dice.

Hit-and-run? One-and-done.

But you’re also giving away your anonymity. 

No more bending the rules on speeding, stop signs or rental cars.

The technology could show when you’re using your phone, drinking, or sleepy behind the wheel, because your reactions could change from your normal profile.

Court cases would change as well. Imagine a murderer driving away from the scene of a crime. And let’s hope no one hacks in and changes the murderer’s driving profile to your own.


Researchers say the way you brake is the most telling part of your driving profile. Image credit: Archer News


All this is not happening yet.

But Enev says you may want to think about what you hand over, like an app that helps you find your car or an insurance company bonus program, because your data now could be used against you in the future.

“I just want people to become aware of the fact that, in the digital world, whenever they have a release of information, that information can carry a lot of power,” Enev said. “I want to increase the consciousness that comes with the sharing of data.”

The researchers’ message is not to scare you, but to make you think. What am I giving away and what could someone do with it?

Some countries have laws to prevent companies from using your data in a different way in the future.


Main image credit: Archer News