While Mobile World Congress has traditionally been about handheld mobile devices, the definition has now extended to pretty much anything capable of ‘mobility’ – including vehicles. This year on the show floor we are bound to see plenty of initiatives aimed at making cars smarter by connecting them to the world around them. These connected vehicles can talk with each other, and to fixed infrastructure, about their speed, position and direction – and this is fuelling a wave of new, innovative services, like forward hazard warning, automatic traffic sign recognition, remote climate control and emergency call.
Although these intelligent cars are still in their infancy, they make it possible to implement a variety of applications that improve urban mobility and traffic safety. At NXP we have been pioneers in realizing the Connected Car vision, working with partners such as Cisco and Cohda Wireless to enable Car-to-Car (C2C) and Car-to-Infrastructure (C2I) communications. Road trials are ongoing to test car-to-car communication for various use cases, including avoiding accidents. Real time traffic conditions can be analysed by vehicles to choose the fastest route – saving fuel and reducing emissions.
Quite clearly, the benefits of connected cars are substantial but so too are the security challenges: the increasing number of technology and connectivity in cars could potentially make them more vulnerable, giving rise to a new range of threats and hacks. Vehicles have already been successfully hacked through a physical connection into the car. For example, this year Spanish security researchers successfully controlled the steering and brakes from a smartphone by connecting a cheap device to the car’s Controller Area Network (CAN) bus.
This of course requires access to the vehicle, an entirely remote take-over of a car is another issue altogether and a more unlikely possibility. But it is true that automotive connectivity has changed significantly to keep up with the demand for multimedia services in the car, making hacking a much more realistic and attractive prospect. The emergence of driver-less cars makes the importance of combatting this threat even more of a priority.
When opening the car to the outside world, you need to have technology to provide proper encryption for the secure data exchange and privacy protection. To make sure it is as difficult as possible to hack a car, IC manufacturers continuously need to drive advances in this technology.
Beyond that, NXP also opens new ways on which vehicle data travel within the car. OPEN SIG, which has leading industry players including NXP among its promoters, is aiming to establish BroadR-Reach as an open industry de facto standard for car connectivity. As a 100Mbit/s physical layer specification, BroadR-Reach was first ratified in 2012. Its similarity with 100Base-T Ethernet ensures compatibility with standard Ethernet MAC interfaces while flexibility in not mandating the RJ-45 connector, further reduces the cost and weight of the cabling system.
So have the consumer, IT and automotive worlds finally converged? The threat of malicious hackers and software bugs shouldn’t be allowed to deter us from adopting these communications advances. Rather, let’s make sure that the developers recognize these issues and ensure they build in the necessary security features to provide the safe and reliable systems we all want.
Some progress has already been made. I was very pleased to see the recent announcement from the US Department of Transportation to move ahead with V2V technology that has been under trial for more than two years. Through these trials the success of the technology has been proven to reduce not only the number of accidents but also commute time and fuel consumption through improved traffic flow management. Moving forward, technology companies and industry groups like the Intelligent Transportation Systems will continue work together to tackle issues of security and privacy.
Recently two European standards organisations, ETSI and CEN, announced a basic set of standards for connected cars. This ensures that vehicles made by different manufacturers can communicate with each other and with road infrastructure. These new specifications bring us one step closer to the reality of connected cars in Europe.
To learn more about how NXP technology is helping create secure connections for a smarter world, visit us at our stand at Mobile World Congress (Hall 7 Stand 7E30) and arrange a conversation.