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January 5, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 12:17pm

Is a lack of auto standards putting the brakes on smart M2M car adoption?

Analysis: With CES dubbed as one of the biggest smart car shows of the moment, the industry is under pressure to get standards right.

By Joao Lima

The car industry is ahead of many other verticals in the IoT space, and this year’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES) proves it.

However, this space is still faced with challenges that range from security to interoperability and regular upgrades. Industry standards are being pushed through, trying to keep up with the fast pace set by ever new innovative products.

Conversely, despite everyone knowing that it is important to partner and discuss these issues, the creation of standards that fit all is under debate amongst the big M2M auto players.

Nick Black, CEO of Apadmi, said that the industry has been slow at implementing regulations to address vehicles’ vulnerability to hackers. "Many smart cars are being sold without the proper privacy protection from cyber attacks or hacking. This lack of standards within the industry is certainly a concern for many," he told CBR.

Tom Blackie, VP of VNC Automotive, also spoke to CBR saying that creating a standard is relatively easy, "the harder part is getting sufficient agreement amongst a large enough number of companies to make it fit all the differing and sometime contradictory needs".

Linking mobile devices to the car is the natural evolution for automakers. Two of the biggest standards around include MirrorLink and SmartDeviceLink, as well as solutions from Google and Apple.

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Blackie said that the MirrorLink standard, created by the Car Connectivity Consortium, is totally agnostic and works on any hardware or OS. "Wide adoption of devices and applications means consumers have choice, and most importantly being an open standard means it is future proof."

However, Nick Black pointed out issues with MirrorLink. He said: "It seems to have had a lot of connectivity problems overall, meaning that cars manufacturers are making the switch to Google and Apple."

Nonetheless, Volkswagen revealed at CES that it has entered into a partnership with RealVNC to strengthen its MirroLink penetration in its cars.

The open-source SmartDeviceLink, was developed by Ford and launched in 2013. It is a standard that also connects mobile apps with in-car interfaces.

At CES, Toyota has announced it will adopt Ford’s SmartDeviceLink, avoiding tapping into Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto. Ford also revealed that QNX Software Systems and UIEvolution will also adopt its standard. The manufacturer said that PSA Peugeot Citroën, Honda, Subaru and Mazda should follow soon.

When it comes to security, this is paramount, both for mitigating hacking of a vehicle, but also very importantly from a driver distraction and safety perspective.

Speaking to CBR, Alan Stevens, Chief Scientist for transportation at TRL, said: "Further work is needed into cyber security standards for V2V and V2I communication; in particular the establishment of a trust domain based on Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) that enables messages between entities to be authenticated.

"Until a unified standard is agreed, we can expect cyber hacking of vehicles to continue to erode trust in connected and automated vehicles."

Blackie said: "Security is paramount, both for mitigating hacking of a vehicle, but also very importantly from a driver distraction and safety perspective. It is really important that any standard is well designed to address these needs from the outset. It absolutely must provide mechanisms to control what can be accessed and which Apps and type of content can be displayed on the vehicle.

"And very importantly it is the auto manufacturers that want and need this control. After all it’s their brands that will suffer the bad press if the technology contributes to accidents and causes deaths."

From a legal perspective, the tight regulations under which auto manufacturers act, are set to become tighter.

Caroline Coates, Head of Automotive at legal firm DWF, told CBR: "The challenges that a manufacturer faces now when developing new performance systems or body shapes for a vehicle will remain – that they will require type approval and must ensure conformance with internationally agreed standards if their vehicles are to be sold in multiple countries.

"At present, those international standards are still being developed."

Cars dominate CES 2016

As standards become ever more critical, the car industry is racing at full speed to go out to the market with new products, and this is dominating this year’s CES agenda.

Further to its standard announcement, Ford is also tripling its fleet of Autonomous Vehicles used for research and testing. In collaboration with done-maker DJI, it has also announced a $100,000 challenge to develop drone-to-vehicle technology for the United Nations Development Program.

Ford is also looking to connect customers’ smart devices like Amazon Echo and Wink to its vehicles to allow consumers to control lights, thermostats, security systems and other features of their homes from their car, and to stop, start, lock, unlock and check their vehicle’s fuel range from the comforts of their couch.

NVIDIA has also unveiled a supercomputer aimed at smart cars. The NVIDIA DRIVE PX 2 engine enables cars to utilize deep learning – a form of artificial intelligence – to recognize objects in their environment, anticipate potential threats and navigate safely.

Volvo Cars will be the first to use the product to power a fleet of 100 Volvo XC90 SUVs, followed by BMW, Daimler, Ford and Audi.

Toyota announced a next-generation connected vehicle framework anchored by the installation of a Data Communication Module (DCM) in more of its vehicles, beginning with the roll-out of 2017 models in the USA.

Chinese start-up Faraday Future also unveiled a smart vehicle with driverless capabilities. The FFZero1 is an electric car, which head designer Richard Kim described as an "extreme testbed" for the "future of mobility".

Stevens said: "To ensure the smart car industry thrives, we need to encourage a greater dialogue between vehicle manufacturers, the technology and communications industry and national infrastructure operators – all of which work towards very different technology timescales."


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