Some of us know of a time when the fastest way to inform was telegram or a ‘trunk call’, where information was only delivered to the receiver to a moderate degree. Today information is almost always waiting on our mobile phones to be read or heard.
Similarly, cars today can seamlessly link to our smartphones, play our music, read out texts, provide us real-time traffic alerts, and even offer emergency roadside assistance. The internet has very quickly become inseparable from everything we do even inside our cars. A case in point is where vehicle maintenance has gone from a place we have to go, to just another thing we click.
From an early implementation of the Internet of Things (IoT) in manufacturing with the objective to execute autonomy and reduce production cost, the use cases today are more commercial and for general usage. Different automotive IoT use cases have popped up that are revolutionizing the way people interact with their vehicles. Some examples are fleet management, connected cars, in-vehicle infotainment and telematics, automotive maintenance systems, automated driving.
With connected technologies (IoT in automotive industry), we can control nearly all aspects of our lives from the palms of our hands. Vehicular infrastructure has evolved to adopt and use connected technology becoming a differentiating factor in certain economies. Connectivity features are now in the cars and trucks everyday folks drive.
IoT in the automotive industry enhances our experience multi-fold. We only need to take a long road trip to understand how the introduction of mobile devices has made journeys so much more exciting. With hotspot technology, passengers can now freely browse the web on the go. Car makers also offer a variety of wireless technology-based use cases through mobile apps like vehicle status and health, maintenance schedules, and certain vehicle features that could only be viewed on the instrument cluster earlier. Advanced systems today offer integration with server based speech systems like Amazon’s Alexa, enabling owners to experience the same comfort in a car, as we do in their homes. A more comprehensive future for connected cars goes beyond the driving experience that can also be continuously enhanced during the lifecycle of the same model, without having to upgrade the vehicle to the next generation. Some use cases already available for the consumers are:
- Locking and unlocking
- Identifying seat, climate control, steering wheel settings based on the key to pre-adjust to the driver’s preferences
- Fleet management for commercial vehicles and tracking mechanisms for vehicle aggregator companies – to provide accurate information on time to destination
- Digital wallets integration to your vehicle – paying your bills at the fuel station, and at a service center or even to stream music from your favorite music app
- Tracking stolen cars and in some cases even remotely accessing the vehicles within the legal framework
- Integration with emergency services for specific situations like accidents or breakdown
We are used to our smartphones upgrading its software ever so often. Similarly, vehicle manufacturers have also begun updating vehicle software over the air, without the need to visit a garage or a service center. Connected vehicles give car makers, in certain cases, quick access to vehicles for a variety of reasons like a study, diagnostics, maintenance or even an upgrade. These over-the-air software updates allow a vehicle owner to subscribe for a new feature for its rollout or even have an error fixed.
The advantages of internet-connected cars may not have yet reached its full potential. Autonomous vehicles will need more of the IoT technology – from positioning accuracy within a few inches to integrating traffic information to route guidance to being able to read road signs & assimilate information received via various sensors and the internet, cars today are super computers.
But the road to connected is also paved with many risks:
- Subscription-based pricing – We might come to a point where car owners pay a monthly fee for a new feature or remote assistance. Today the business model across the globe is different to suit local market needs. The connected vehicle changes that ‘local’ paradigm as we become increasingly global.
- Privacy – Data is the basis of all connected technology and this leads to the question of privacy. Imagine a scenario where your vehicle shares data about your favorite coffee shop, restaurant, or even a scenario in which the vehicle registers that you were speeding in certain parts of your journey. Who owns this data? The vehicle owner, the driver, the vehicle manufacturer, or the local authorities of that region?
- And with privacy, car makers need to address security and safety. We already have a few documented instances of vehicles being hacked remotely and then made to function in unsafe ways. This brings cybersecurity into an industry that was always considered secure and safe.
It is imperative to understand that the vehicle does not stand alone. A connected vehicle connects to a back-end cloud network infrastructure that can also be hacked or stolen. In certain organizations, manufacturing itself is based on IoT (Industry 4.0). This implies car makers and vehicle owners are exposed to risks from the production line till the vehicle’s end of life.
Security has never been more important to the automotive industry, and therefore EB is working in tandem with Argus Cyber Security to cover the entire portfolio of end-to-end security solutions and assure that software updates are completed in a safe and secure manner. This allows to fend off external attacks against individual vehicles or the entire vehicle fleet. More specifically: Security breaches are detected reliably and are quickly fixed via over-the-air updates.
IoT in vehicles provide a list of conveniences that enhance the ownership experience of a passenger or commercial vehicle. Ultimately it depends on the car maker on the amount of security that the vehicle can offer and the risk appetite of the end buyer. The paradox is the same as the smart phone industry faces– do we use an open-source platform that may be vulnerable to risks but can provide more luxury at a lower price OR do we realize that what is probably fun today (e.g.: hacking a car to prove a point) can also become a serious threat in the future (e.g.: IoT-enabled car that is remotely controlled for a crime)? The technology is available, the larger question is: Do we trust it to be safe, secure, private, and enjoyable?
About the Author
Satish Sundaresan, Managing Director – Elektrobit India Pvt. Ltd heads Elektrobit Indian subsidiary based in Bengaluru and this centre is responsible as a R&D location and a sales site for India. Satish also heads a global product group focusing on future products in validation for automated driving.
Satish has been instrumental in setting up the legal entity and establishing a robust management team and driving site vision and thereby deriving the desired results for the company. As one of the few milestones in this journey Satish is listed as Top 100 Great People Manager by Great Manager Institute in Forbes India Issue – April 2019. He was also awarded as “Great Manager” in “Senior Leaders” category for 2017 People Business in partnership with the Times of India and Economic Times with ET NOW.
Prior to Elektrobit, Satish managed large global programs, whilst leading India based R&D centre’s across automotive electronics and IT operations. Satish’s experience spans across Mercedes-Benz R&D India (a Daimler AG company), Infosys Technologies Limited and Robert Bosch, all in Automotive Electronics. Satish has also worked several years in Germany, USA, Australia and has exposure to being part of various multi-location/ cultural/ complex automotive electronics projects execution & product development.