Autonomous cars: The future is here
According to a study over a third of consumers (37 per cent) globally now think it is likely that driverless cars will be the main form of transport in ten years.
Digitalisation is rapidly transforming the automotive industry. The Internet of Things (IoT) and cutting edge connected-car technology is opening doors to intelligent telematics and is unleashing a new breed of features and services - everything from enhanced in-car services and car-sharing to fully autonomous vehicles. It's a profound paradigm shift, the likes of which haven't been seen in the industry since the introduction of the first motorised vehicles in the early 1900s. The technology has the potential to change the concept of driving forever.
In the Middle East, the UAE is on the forefront of the region with Dubai currently working on the $13.63 billion (Dh50 billion) Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park to test driverless cars in Downtown Dubai and having a Hyperloop connection between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, according to the 'New State of the Future' report. The report further states that 90 per cent of vehicles on the road in the UAE will be electric and self-driving by 2035, and the first Hyperloop will be ready by 2020.
As driverless cars have become a hot topic, Gemalto, the world leader in digital security, conducted its 'New Mobility' study among more than 7,000 consumers across the world, to examine consumer attitudes towards the new mobility ecosystem: connected cars, driverless cars and new ownership models enabled by the sharing economy. The report stated that over a third of consumers (37 per cent) globally now think it is likely that driverless cars will be the main form of transport in ten years. However, more than half of respondents in the study stated that they would not currently trust driverless technology, manufacturers and technology partners in the automotive ecosystem. If these stakeholders want to make driverless cars a reality, they need to develop secure services to win consumers' trust.
Benefits of driverless and connected cars
Consumers are excited about the benefits that can be enabled in the short-term by connecting cars to the Internet. When asked their top three priorities when renting a connected car, the top three results were being easy to drive (a priority for 37 per cent of consumers), saving money (37 per cent) and providing secure Wi-Fi access (32 per cent). Driverless cars also present more advanced features that can be enabled by equipping cars with an automotive grade secure wireless module. This technology can allow cars to communicate with traffic management and road infrastructure systems, receiving real-time data on the latest traffic and road safety information, emergencies, road tolling and where they can park. Among these features, the most exciting for consumers is getting real-time traffic information (anticipated by 66 per cent of consumers). Other features respondents look forward to are receiving live feed on available parking spots (58 per cent), accessing more accurate mapping (59 per cent) and getting real-time information on the driver's performance (40 per cent).
Challenge for manufacturers
Despite the anticipated benefits of driverless technology, consumers still need to be assured of their safety. Right now, more than half (58 per cent) of consumers would not trust a driverless car to complete a journey safely. There are concerns about hackers being able to gain control of the vehicle and cause accidents (a concern for 47 per cent of consumers), as well as data privacy, with only 15 per cent trusting car manufacturers to handle their data collected through connected cars securely.
In the case of connected, and potentially autonomous, cars, the security risks are diverse. They range from stealing usage data to disabling cars, to hijacking single cars or attacking an entire fleet, or even forcing one's car to perform "unexpected" functions. Clearly consumers are aware of and concerned about these potential issues, demonstrating the clear need for car manufacturers to build trust in the new mobility ecosystem. This task is paramount to driving adoption and mission critical to support the overall growth and success of connected cars. The research makes it clear that for connected vehicles and mobility services to deliver on their promises, automotive and mobility players will have to build trust in the ecosystem and reassure drivers. This means they have to partner with the right technology providers to implement robust security measures.
Security by design
To address consumer concerns around security, car manufacturers must adopt a security-by-design approach that has multiple layers - "patching things up" afterwards simply won't do. This starts with securing the connected car, its firmware and software applications through PKI infrastructure, key management services and identity issuance. But it's also critical to secure the data transmitted to and from the car, both at rest and in motion, through high speed data encryption technology. Such an approach would secure access to the car, and protect against data loss, IP theft, fraud and downtime. These are areas in which most traditional automotive manufacturers don't have extensive experience. To achieve this, they will need to insource security, as well as work with experts in this field to ensure their systems are fully protected. In addition, car manufacturers will need to be open and ready to learn from security experts to ensure the implementation of effective, best-in-class security.
Digitalisation and an increasing number of services lead automotive manufacturers to implement solutions that authenticate the user securely. One area which will be important to pay attention to is robust identity verification. For the most part, today's cars are accessed by physical tokens such as keys or hard-to-clone radio devices, much as they have been for decades. But manufacturers are already integrating more modern identification systems on production cars. Using a mobile phone to open and control a car gives access to built-in biometric sensors and the ability to grant other drivers temporary access without giving them a key.
We know that consumers are excited by the potential of innovative security features in the new mobility ecosystem. Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of respondents in our survey would be excited about enhanced protection against thieves, and they are also excited about using biometric technology to unlock cars, with four in 10 respondents (39 per cent) saying that they would be happy to use fingerprint recognition to securely authenticate and access mobility services, for example using Virtual Car Keys to unlock a car. Consumers are also interested in the ability to personalise and enhance car features through software updates (31 per cent).
Security is of course crucial, but so is the user experience. Building complex and time-consuming processes could prevent connected car apps from becoming mainstream. Designing user-friendly and real-time mobility solutions is therefore key to enable car connectivity, authenticate users and bring drivers' preferences on board with personalised and seamless user experiences.
The writer is the senior vice-president, IoT solutions for Cismea Region at Gemalto. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.