In the American imagination, car keys and a driver’s license have long represented freedom, autonomy and privacy. But modern cars, which have hundreds of sensors, cameras and internet connectivity, are now potential spying machines acting in ways drivers do not completely understand.

That has lawmakers and regulators concerned.

On Tuesday, Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts sent a letter to Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission, urging the agency to investigate automakers for sharing drivers’ location information with the police. The senators, both Democrats, say this sharing can “seriously threaten Americans’ privacy” by revealing their visits to protests, health clinics, places of worship, support groups or other sensitive places.

“As far-right politicians escalate their war on women, I’m especially concerned about cars revealing people who cross state lines to obtain an abortion,” Senator Wyden said in a statement.

Government attention to the car industry is intensifying, experts say, because of the increased technological sophistication of modern cars.

Investigators for the Government Accountability Office recently went car shopping, undercover, to see whether salespeople were overselling autonomous driving abilities. In a March report, the agency concluded that consumers don’t fully understand crash avoidance technologies and driver support systems, the improper use of which “can compromise their safety benefits and even pose a risk on the road.”

The Federal Communications Commission and California lawmakers want to prevent mobile car apps from being used for stalking and harassment. The F.C.C. has proposed regulating automakers under the Safe Connections Act — aimed, originally, at phone carriers — while California is likely to pass a law that would accomplish the same thing, requiring car companies to cut off abusers’ remote access to victims’ cars.


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