Impulses for knowledge


Thanks to the internet, traditional print and radio media have become increasingly integrated with telecommunications. This process has profoundly changed our society. Utterly new communication platforms and services, such as social networks and a variety of marketplaces for online business, have come into existence. Additionally, devices receive both IP addresses and telecommunications connections and are therefore not only programmable but also controllable via the internet, making them capable of continually delivering data. Automobiles play a key role in this integration: We are at the start of a decade that will herald the integration of telecommunications and automobile technologies.

The electronic systems built into cars have developed over the past thirty years into networked data processing systems. The usefulness of this networking - especially because of the corresponding increase in traffic safety – is particularly obvious in the case of automobiles. While other means of transport such as trains, airplanes and ships are already networked and have had the possibility of automatic steering for a long time, the automobile has only scratched the surface of its potential in this area. But such changes touch on the very nature of the automobile, which, within the boundaries of our infrastructure, offers non-networked, free mobility. This mobility possesses a strong emotional attractiveness because an individual's freedom of movement is greatly enhanced by the automobile. Free mobility is a basic precondition of freedom and the automobile improves our ability to achieve this fundamental right.

Another fundamental component of freedom is free communication, which is typified by freedom of expression and unregulated individual communication. Freedom of communication is inherently endangered by continuous monitoring as well as censorship. The area between protected individual communication and public discourse is multi-faceted; they exist side by side and must each be specifically protected.

The networking of automobiles will be subject to both of these guaranteed freedoms. Networking will make it possible to monitor mobility in a completely new way. Even if people are already connected to a network and can be located, for example, via their smartphones, more complete information will be delivered by the meta-level traces, which everyone leaves in the internet, of their networked car. And the increase in digital monitoring possibilities will be extensive; it will be possible in the future not only to determine where which car is driving but also to use the car and its sensor technology to collect data about its immediate vicinity. Inevitably, the central point of the debate will become who will have access to this data and what uses it can be put to. The right to use the information must be balanced with the right to freedom of mobility and communication.

Beyond these considerations lies a further problem: In the "internet of things," the devices of every individual can be attacked and controlled remotely. In the case of vehicles, where such an attack could put the driver at risk, special security measures must be taken. For this reason, the decision to connect vehicles to a network cannot be an individual decision any more than the decision to bring the cars into circulation can be. At the same time the producers are developing networked cars, they are also developing safety requirements in information and telecommunication technology. There is a need for legal regulation that takes data use, operational safety of vehicles, control of intelligent traffic systems and legal liability into consideration.

The Ladenburg Discourse "Freedom of Mobility and Freedom of Communication: the Networked Individual between Basic Rights and Complete Regulation" will consider the concrete and relevant laws which guarantee both freedom of communication and freedom of mobility. We will also attempt to estimate and assess the constitutionality of the threats that could arise from the technical growth of data and thereby affect basic freedoms. These assessments form the basis for legislative action and lead naturally to a discussion of what legal boundaries the accessibility of the aforementioned data requires.

The discussion will be lead by legal scholar Professor Alexander Roßmangel of the University of Kassel. Additionally, researchers and experts on automobile development will discuss information and safety technology as well constitutionality, data protection, traffic law and the follow topics:

  • The transparent car – what kind of data is going to be processed by our vehicles?
  • What data do we need for autonomous driving?
  • The automobile in the "internet of things."
  • What individual choice does the customer have regarding supporting services?
  • Safety of data processing in the vehicle and in the traffic control system.
  • Constitutional issues and the need for optimization.
  • Data secure networked cars.
  • Intelligent traffic systems which ensure data protection and their effect on European data security reform.


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Ladenburg Roundtable

In the main offices of the Daimler and Benz Foundation in Ladenburg, academics from a range of disciplines meet with experts from the business world to discuss whether a specific research project deserves funding. A central concern in the evaluation of every project is its social relevance and the resulting benefits for humankind.

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