Photo via  Visual Content /Flickr.

Photo via Visual Content/Flickr.

Many drivers are unaware that their cars are capturing data and revealing everything from driving patterns to roads traveled to music selections, according to a new insurance-industry report. In fact, 28% of respondents said it was "a myth" that their car data was being collected, even though they did not give permission for it.

The new report from Esurance — "Fact or Fiction: Do you know what data your car is sharing about you?" — explores the topic of data privacy as it relates to new car technology. Through a series of consumer interviews, the company compiled driver beliefs about the subject and uncovered a good deal of confusion. To set the record straight, Esurance invited a panel of car technology experts to address key misunderstandings and concerns.

Privacy issues were a significant area of concern for survey respondents. Presently, there are no specific laws that govern the use of car data, so drivers may be forfeiting their privacy rights when they sign a contract on a new car. 

Those surveyed cited apprehension about their data being sold to third parties, the ability of manufacturers to access any personal devices connected to Bluetooth, and how hard braking or speed data could affect insurance premiums.

The report also explores how data can be used to impact on road safety. While 45% of respondents said they do not believe connected cars will make roads better and safer, experts say it's a fact. After all, connected cars will soon communicate with roadside infrastructure, sending data about issues like potholes, weather and accidents, which will be relayed through in-car alerts.

The report notes that data collected from connected cars is far from trivial and could be worth $1.5 trillion a year by 2030.

Currently, the biggest hurdle in gathering data to improve roads and cars is bandwidth. But new technologies and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) wireless communication in many new cars will allow cars to communicate with each other quickly and reliably. 

Ultimately, the data gathered and shared by connected cars will improve road safety, say experts. Creating smart infrastructure will bring the greatest benefits of connectivity. That includes digital road signs that adapt to changing traffic patterns and a new web of communication between cars on the road. But the first step is building infrastructure to transmit all the data. Later, it can be analyzed and used effectively to improve roads.

Read the full report here.