mySPIN – Bosch’s smartphone integration solution.

mySPIN – Bosch’s smartphone integration solution.

Connectivity between the vehicle, passengers and outside world has become a key priority for new car buyers. While the typical considerations of fuel consumption, performance and cabin comfort are still uppermost, staying connected while driving is moving up their list of priorities. This research snapshot takes a closer look at the driving forces, how the connected car could develop and the variety of solutions offered by a rising tide of tech companies eager to serve this blossoming market.

Stay connected

A recent study by McKinsey and Co, Connected Car: Automotive Value Chain Unbound, found that 28 percent of new car buyers prioritise car connectivity over other features, such as fuel efficiency and 13 percent would not buy a car that's not connected to the internet.

Another survey carried out for telecom firm Telefónica, found that 80 percent of consumers expect the connected car of the future to provide the same connected experience they are used to at home, at work and on the move via their mobile phone.

Given such an appetite from motorists for connectivity, its availability is no longer a preserve of the luxury classes. The new Opel/Vauxhall Astra comes fitted with OnStar, GM's personal connectivity and service assistant, making a 4G LTE mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. Up to seven devices, from smartphones to tablets, can be connected simultaneously.

Visions of car connectivity

In terms of how things could shape up, Hyundai Motor recently outlined its connected car road-map, introducing four main service fields as part of its 'hyper-connected intelligent cars' concept. The mid- to long- term development focus includes: smart remote maintenance service, autonomous driving, smart traffic, and connectivity mobility hub, all of which will benefit from continued R&D investment in the fields of in-vehicle networks, cloud and big data analytics and connected car security technologies.

Arun Srinivasan, head of Bosch's UK automotive division told us that he expects the connected car will become the "third living space – next to home and office" adding that it will be able to see around corners, be aware of possible dangerous spots, traffic jams, construction sites, and accidents.  He explained to just-auto: "Connected cars will also be able to park themselves using automated valet parking, while driving controls will become even more intuitive with technology such as the haptic touchscreen and haptic accelerator pedal."

With car connectivity comes a dark side. While you are driving, a hacker could put your life in danger by taking over the car's steering, brakes and transmission from a remote location. Help is at hand from a number of tech companies, including TowerSec, Magna International, Arxan Technologies and Tech Mahindra.

Cyber security solutions

Cyber security has emerged as a growing concern in the automotive industry as connectivity systems proliferate. "[Cyber security] is a major concern, fuelled in part by some of the more 'frightening' stories the media carries about hacking into cars," said TowerSec's vice president of automotive cyber security, Saar Dickman. "These early hacks, which are merely 'research work' at this point, have clearly demonstrated the potential and feasibility of compromising safety-critical systems by taking remote control over the vehicle, and OEMs are clearly concerned about that. Consumers are beginning to recognise these risks.  McKinsey released data that suggests some really high numbers of car buyers are worried. Something like 43 per cent in the U.S. are afraid of people hacking into their car and manipulating it whilst the car is connected to the Internet. So car makers and suppliers need something that is reliable and provides ongoing protection." Originally founded in Israel, now headquartered in Michigan and owned by Harman, TowerSec's cybersecurity solutions protect vehicles from outside intrusion.

Magna International has also been developing solutions that address consumer concerns around cyber security. "One of the key points as we address cyber security, is I don't think it is possible to say we can completely stop hacking," Swamy Kotagiri, chief technology officer, Magna International told just-auto. "The intent here is to be able to monitor, track and minimise the offence so that if a system is being attacked and you know that one system has been attacked and here is the loophole, and if you are able to stop, monitor that, figure out the solution and transmit that to the rest of the fleet so the rest of the fleet is safe, that is the answer. You cannot build a firewall and say, here are all the known things so I'm going to stop all of this, because the bad guys are not sitting there idly either, they're trying to come up with other ways to hack. So it's not a passive firewall system, I think it's an active monitoring and prevention system."

For its part, US-based Arxan Technologies specialises in application security. Its solutions are used to protect a number of applications across a range of industries, including automotive. With an increasing number of cars fitted with wireless connectivity, Matt Clemens, security solutions architect at Arxan Technologies explained to just-auto what a driver can do to stay safe. "Many exploits arise from outdated software, so drivers should check with their manufacturer or the app developer to ensure their software is kept up-to-date. Drivers should also avoid 'jailbreaking' software – taking it outside the normal restrictions to use unauthorised apps – as this exposes it to more threats, and also voids the warranty. Security-conscious drivers can also check with manufacturers and developers to see if pre-installed and third party apps have been equipped with application self-protection security controls, which are a series of security measures that can be implemented to make them significantly harder to hack."

Given there are so many different approaches open to hackers, Clemens says there is no silver bullet approach that can ensure complete security. "However, cryptographic protection is probably one of the most reliable methods. If the car's software and any associated applications have critical data encrypted, it is much more difficult for an attacker to tamper with the car's systems. Equally important is to make sure cryptographic keys are not susceptible to discovery during run-time. Protection against this can be achieved by using a robust white box cryptographic solution."

Meanwhile, FCA in the US let it be known last month that it is the first full-line automaker to offer "bug bounty" financial reward for discovery of potential vehicle cyber security vulnerabilities.  "There are a lot of people that like to tinker with their vehicles or tinker with IT systems," said Titus Melnyk, senior manager - security architecture, FCA US LLC.  "We want to encourage independent security researchers to reach out to us and share what they've found so that we can fix potential vulnerabilities before they're an issue for our consumers."

Supplier opportunities

A decade or so ago, IT in cars was seen as more of an enabler but nowadays viewed as a core element, linking the home and personal devices. This presents opportunities for companies like Tech Mahindra. Forming part of India's Mahindra Group, Tech Mahindra is an IT service provider with an interest in developing driverless technologies. Karthikeyan Natarajan, global head of engineering and R&D at Tech Mahindra, told just-auto: "India has traditionally been the software services destination for the world. The connectivity we are seeing today that is disrupting even the automotive segment is a big opportunity for Indian IT."

Given the growth in connectivity, automakers are facing similar challenges to that which the consumer electronics industry have faced over the past decade. Yet the auto industry does not have the flexibility of beta testing. Hence, in terms of the development of connectivity-enabling software, Natarajan believes that these are two industries with distinctly different approaches to product development and launches. He concluded: "The CE industry is much faster with frequent refreshes and launches. The cycle for an automobile maker is much slower with more regulatory challenges and functional safety needs. It will be interesting to see how this will evolve. The industry may start needing software and engineering System Integrators, Tier 0.5s, who have the expertise to bring together diverse embedded systems, software and devices."

More: Connected vehicle technologies - forecasts to 2031