The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) has seen almost every industry make a move to connected devices: from smart sensors for heating our homes to wearable health monitors, writes Ken Peterman, President of Government Systems, Viasat.
The automobile industry was quick to realise how IoT and associated technologies could improve their customers’ experience and productivity.
In fact, manufacturers aim to ship 125 million passenger cars with embedded connectivity between 2018 and 2022. What’s more, major European economies – such as the UK, France and Germany – are expected to hit nearly 100% connected car penetration by 2020. For consumers, there could be some great benefits of having a connected car – as well as some new risks that need to be overcome.
With the emergence of autonomous vehicles, it will be essential that manufacturers implement new in-car security features and defence systems in order to protect customers’ data and help ensure drivers can travel safely – whether in the city or driving in remote locations. In addition to security, defining how new in-car connectivity is delivered will also be critical to these systems’ success.
Keeping Cars Running Securely
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to turning vehicles into digitally driven computing platforms, is security. Not just physical security which deters car thieves from breaking in, but also securing the digital systems inside the car. As more devices, or in this case vehicles, connect to the internet and cloud-based systems, they will become increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
The emergence of connected and autonomous vehicles represent a potential treasure trove of data for hackers, ranging from location data to the browsing history of occupants using car-based connectivity and Wi-Fi systems. This is why one of the major hurdles for any connected car project is cybersecurity. Any connection must be secured in the most effective way possible and it will be critical for car companies to look beyond standard security features. Implementing cybersecurity and active threat detection monitoring services that integrate data analytics and artificial intelligence will be critical to stopping cyber-attacks—including intrusion into critical systems such as breaking or acceleration features or gaining access to passengers’ personal election device information such as personal passwords or banking information.
Car manufactures clearly understand the importance of security and are already taking a safety first approach when it comes to in-car connectivity. In fact, Viasat partnered with a major car manufacturer last year to develop the first-ever advanced in-car connectivity system with military grade security features that will be rolled out later this year. By focusing first on implementing proven in-car security features and new automotive cyber defence systems, we can accelerate the pace of moving into a new exciting era of connected transportation.
Of course, a secure connection is only of use if people make use of them. From a business perspective, fleet operators could see a huge benefit. Although the moniker ‘connected cars’ is usually used, it applies equally to vehicles such as buses and Heavy Goods Vehicles. Fleet operators can make use of a secure connection in their vehicles to enable next-generation telematics that allows them for example to monitor the vehicle’s behaviour in real-time. These systems can further be tied into traffic and maintenance data to optimise routing. This could save businesses huge amounts of money in fuel and driving time, whilst providing a better service to customers.
All these new technologies embedded into vehicles will drive additional change in the cities that they pass through. With vehicles able to share so much information, everything from traffic lights to roads, lighting and motorways will also become connected, heralding true smart cities. This will have a positive impact on traffic flow, with city planners able to take into account current traffic volumes (potentially based on where vehicles are headed) to modify traffic light phasing – thus minimising congestion. Equally this data can be used to switch off streetlights on motorways when vehicles aren’t within a certain proximity to increase energy savings.
Yet making this a reality will require all vehicles to be connected all the time – a major challenge with traditional mobile connectivity. Most systems currently rely on a single cellular-based connection. Yet connectivity speeds can be slow or even non-existent away from major roads and cities, potentially undermining safety and other systems.
A further challenge when it comes to connecting cars to the internet and cloud-based systems, alongside security that we’ve already discussed, is ensuring they always have a connection. In city centres there is an abundance of cellular and Wi-Fi signals, but this quickly fades to unusably slow or even no connection in outer suburban or rural areas. To combat this reliance on traditional connectivity, manufacturers should consider a system that encompasses hybrid connectivity – a “network of networks” approach.
Using a mix of traditional technologies such as cellular and Wi-Fi, backed by satellite connectivity adds the ability to access connectivity anywhere in the world. This means that in rural areas especially, satellite connectivity keeps systems online and working normally. For this to be successful all these technologies need to work in unison, as well as have access to the same security systems, to ensure connectivity is seamless.
For instance, tall buildings might obscure a satellite signal in a city, but cellular or Wi-Fi would fill in the gap – and vice-versa when the vehicle leaves an urban area. Using such a hybrid model enables the guaranteed download of large amounts of data, such as traffic management and frequently needed automotive software updates. Hybrid connectivity technologies are already being tested successfully in other sectors – now is the time to apply this in the automotive industry as well.
Similarly, the implementation of smart city technologies will require the adoption of a new connectivity model. In most city centres, fibre and cellular connectivity can do the job, but beyond the reaches of suburbia there is a need for solutions such as satellite connectivity that can keep systems connected without the huge infrastructure costs of laying fibre cables.
Ultimately, as we head into this new connected car era, manufacturers should take a hybrid approach in order to keep vehicles securely connected. With so much riding on the successful transfer of data – whether that’s communication between vehicles, or traffic and weather information – stable and secure connectivity will be critical. Moving to a hybrid connectivity model underpins future technological innovations and meets the standard of guaranteed and secure connectivity, ensuring connected cars are able to successfully deliver on their promises to consumers and businesses alike.