Connected cars are paving the way for autonomous cars, currently in the headlines. As Philippe De Oliveira, Automotive Business Line Director with OT’s Connected Device Makers business recalls:

“The history of the connected car dates back 20 years. Initially it was only about voice communications; it was not yet “connected cars” as we define them today. Connected cars are now capable of automatically sending data to vehicle manufacturers, as well as receiving data from them via mobile operators’ networks. In the future, autonomous cars will need to be able to communicate in real time with their environment, whether other vehicles or road infrastructures, and respond to the information received.”

Vehicles’ connectivity is reinventing the driver and passenger experience. Emergency calls, preventive maintenance, updating of road maps, onboard Internet – all these changes are profoundly transforming the relationship between vehicle manufacturers and users, at every stage in a vehicle’s life. Connected cars are enabling them to know their users better, including their driving habits and expectations regarding onboard services, and to anticipate their needs. Remote diagnostics, for instance, allow them to detect and prevent any damage at an early stage or intervene rapidly if a breakdown occurs. They can also recover valuable information to improve their vehicles, by monitoring consumption, wear to the various parts over time, etc. Big Data, and this closer relationship with users, is also an opportunity for manufacturers to offer them new services and therefore to generate new revenue streams.

First challenges – secure connectivity and user safety

For users, vehicle connectivity first means greater safety. In the event of an accident or breakdown, the driver can call for assistance manually by pressing a button on the dashboard. And the vehicle itself is also able to automatically make a call to alert the emergency services if an accident is detected. In both cases, the vehicle’s telematics system, equipped with a special SIM card and a GPS chip, will immediately send information about the vehicle’s location, its identity and, where relevant, the type of accident, to help the emergency services to respond.

“For services linked to passenger safety such as emergency calls – and, more generally, whenever there is a question of connectivity in the automobile industry – reliability, safety and flexibility over time are paramount. As a partner of Daimler AG, OT will enable the manufacturer to remotely manage mobile subscriptions on its Mercedes-Benz vehicles, starting with the new Mercedes-Benz E-class from March 2016. DIM® DAKOTA AUTO, the SIM embedded by OT in Daimler AG vehicles, combined with OT’s M-Connect solution, will allow management of connectivity with complete transparency for the user, while offering the level of confidence and security required by mobile operators when it comes to the management of their profiles,” says Philippe De Oliveira.

Constantly updated services and increasingly connected users

Beyond emergency services, connectivity also allows the development of infotainment services in vehicles, no longer related to user safety, but rather to improving the consumer experience. For example, these services allow drivers to benefit from up-to-date maps, real-time traffic information, etc. That is another challenge for connected cars: in addition to offering users a wide range of services, car makers and their partners must keep these automatically updated and in real time. This will see an end to the chore of manually updating the sat-nav’s map software using a memory card. Customers will now have the most up-to-date information available directly from their dashboards, for a user experience matching that of other consumer devices such as smartphones.

In addition, increasing compatibility with services such as Android Auto, Apple Car and car makers’ own offerings now allows drivers to access their smartphone mobile apps and multimedia content directly from their car’s dashboard. Vehicles’ functionality control and tactile screens, designed for fluid and comfortable use while on the road, ensure optimized user experience.

Finally, network connectivity embedded in vehicles, such as 3G and 4G, allows vehicle manufacturers to offer a wireless Internet service to passengers. This turns the car into a mobile wifi hot-spot which everyone onboard can connect to, enjoying a much higher reception quality than that offered by smartphones thanks to the power of the car’s antenna.

Numerous security challenges

Although connected cars offer very interesting prospects for car makers, they also require greater vigilance in terms of security on a number of levels. Since connectivity is managed as an integrated component of the vehicle, manufacturers are responsible for it throughout the vehicle’s lifecycle. In the event the vehicle is hacked, the car maker’s image is at stake.

A vehicle is a complex system, including an increasing number of onboard computers. This internal network of connected systems must be protected from risks of hacking, both individually and as a whole. It is necessary to protect against intrusions into the system via external commands made possible by connectivity, as well as any internal security flaws resulting from the physical replacement of an embedded system with a pirate system…

According to Philippe De Oliveira, “At OT, we believe that in order to be effective, security systems must be embedded within connected objects and equipment – what we refer to as ‘security by design’. We then connect software solutions to the embedded secure element to ensure the end-to-end security between the vehicles and the systems of manufacturers and their partners.”

The role of a company such as OT is to allow manufacturers to incorporate security as a component from the design stage of the car and of its various elements, as well as to offer solutions for keeping software updated securely throughout the life of the vehicles, in compliance with automotive quality standards. These solutions make it possible to verify the identity of data sources, encrypt data to protect its integrity and secure the installation of applications by the manufacturer or third-party partners.

“OT is an industrial company operating in the security field. We offer the automotive market our many years of experience in end-to-end security solutions developed for other markets. We are working closely with vehicle manufacturers, integrators, software providers and mobile operators to respond to this major challenge and allow manufacturers to offer new services with complete security,” says Philippe De Oliveira.

Ever more services

The automotive market is evolving at an increasing pace. The rising trend of car-sharing shows that cars are no longer simply perceived as a commodity, but increasingly as a service. And this change in behavior could even spread to private vehicles. With keyless vehicles, for instance, anyone can provide a digital key to their friends or family members, on their smartphones or connected watches, to grant them secure access. Secure elements, embedded directly in the car’s design, will protect not only the data exchanged between vehicles and the manufacturer’s Cloud, but also short-range communications between vehicles and other connected objects.
Connected vehicles of the future will also incorporate ever more services. The vehicle will turn into a retailing interface (offering services such as updates to the navigation system, rental of video content for passengers, fuel payments from the dashboard, etc.), or into a means of payment in itself (for automated payments for parking, tolls, etc.).

“Today I can pay for a coffee with my mobile, tomorrow I should be able to pay for my fuel with my car!” adds Philippe De Oliveira.

In the mobile payment field, OT also possesses all the technological assets to make these services a reality in tomorrow’s cars.

Autonomous cars, coming soon…

The ultimate evolution in connected cars will be autonomous cars. There is nothing utopian about this, since many companies including Google, Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Uber are conducting tests on a large scale. To achieve this next step, cars will need to be entirely connected, not just to the manufacturer’s Cloud but to its entire environment, to recover secure information in real time. It is only once this is achieved that we will be able to travel in self-driving vehicles in the future!
The vehicles of the future will incorporate new types of V2X communication (V2V – Vehicle to Vehicle; and V2I – Vehicle to Infrastrusture) allowing vehicles to automatically exchange data with each other (e.g. early warning if they are slowing down), as well as with surrounding infrastructure (signs, red lights, street lamps, etc.). Systems designed to make roads smarter will be vital additions to pre-installed information such as maps and information retrieved locally by sensors on the vehicle. Autonomous cars and these new types of communications demand even greater vigilance in relation to the security of data exchanged, since it could have a direct impact on passenger safety. Hackers have already demonstrated their ability to hack into signs. If self-driving vehicles are not protected against malicious data transmitted in this way, then users will be at their mercy – and cities’ entire traffic systems could be paralyzed.