I bought my first new automobile in years, but decided that buying a used one would be a disaster. I'm impressed by the connected car technology and all of the embedded software-driven applications that transform the vehicle into interactive applications.
When a 19-year-old German student made international headlines with a creepy revelation, he was able to remotely access more than 25 Tesla cars and, if he wanted, could have controlled some of their functions, including unlocking the doors, opening the windows, and even starting keyless driving.
The story had a happy conclusion. David Colombo is a white-hat hacker who uses his expertise to discover security flaws. Thats how he discovered the bugs in a third-party data logging app available to Tesla owners, TeslaMate, that allowed him to send commands to the cars. Colombo alerted TeslaMate and Tesla, and a fix was swiftly issued.
The proliferation of connected cars has increased.
Nevertheless, the incident has served as an unexpected reminder that security vulnerabilities are a clear and present threat to all connected cars that are changing the automotive industry, and that driving should be made a priority.
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The automotive industry's technological downturn is speeding up. In August, President Biden signed an executive order requiring that half of all new automobiles sold in 2030 be zero emissions, including battery, electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel-cell electric vehicles. The administration in February planned to distribute $5 billion to cities to establish electric vehicle chargers along interstate highways.
The New York Times' story, Why This Year Could Be a Watershed Year for Electric Vehicles, reported in February that battery-powered cars are having a breakthrough moment. This rise in the number of electric vehicles sold worldwide, from 2.2 percent in 2019 to 1.9 percent last year, suggests that 2022 will be the year when battery-powered cars will become unstoppable.
The proliferation of software in cars is a major cause.
The number of software code in today's cars had reached around 100 million [subscription required], and many experts anticipate that number to reach 300 million by 2030.
From seat belts to the infotainment system, many modern vehicles now have more than 100 electronic control units embedded throughout. Cloud computing and 5G wireless technology will enable vehicles to keep evolving and connect more to the world around them, such as networks and services in homes, businesses, infrastructure, and other vehicles.
These are fantastic innovations and should lead to a wide variety of societal benefits, including cleaner air, less gasoline consumption, safer roads, and increased economic productivity. However, all of this additional connectivity poses security and privacy concerns that have yet to be addressed.
Cars as information clearinghouses
According to a McKinsey report, the influx of digital innovations is transformating cars into information clearinghouses. However, these changes also expose vehicles to the other side of the digital revolution: hackers and other black-hat intruders are attempting to access critical in-vehicle electronics, potentially compromising critical safety functions and customer privacy.
The present ineffective security and privacy laws and standards is a Wild West that will not last long in perpetuity. Thats why I expect legislators at the federal and state levels to become more aggressive in considering measures to strengthen these systems against intrusions.
Deja vu over again
With the advent of new technologies, weve seen this movie before. In the early days of the internet of things, the tech industry was slow to concentrate on security, and too often shipped devices with weak password protection and other vulnerabilities.
The auto industry cannot make the same error. The stakes are huge: Carmakers must have both a business rationale and a legal and ethical one to ensure that the new generation of automobiles is safe and worthy of consumer trust.
Security researchers on a laptop 10 miles away caused an SUV to lose power, change its radio station, and turn on the windshield wipers by using the vehicle's entertainment system connected to a mobile data network.
The reason why this type of thing continues is a serious concern that needs to be addressed.
The need for security standards should not be limited to autonomous cars, but also for all connected cars.
California passed regulations requiring that autonomous vehicles meet industry standards for cybersecurity in April 2018. It's great, but such thinking must be expanded to the vast range of connected cars.
The United States has demanded technology transparency in other industries, such as the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' regulations governing data transfers using application programming interfaces (APIs). It appears inevitable that further oversight will be forthcoming in automotive technology, not just in the area of security, but also in the area of data privacy.
The industry would be wise to prepare for the future.
Kin Lane is the chief evangelist for Postman, an API-first development platform that has recently exceeded 20 million software developers.