How New Connected Car Standards Could Help Align OEMs and Developers

February 17, 2016  |  By Michael O'Shea  |       

Connected car standards are a topic of discussion among many in the automotive industry, and for good reason. As you're no doubt aware, even more vehicles are being connected not only through embedded modems but also with solutions utilizing the smartphone. Connectivity is being used for a variety of purposes, including autonomous drive units, making it critical to future advances.

Despite past collaborations between OEMs and developers, the two groups will need to innovate further and cooperate at a higher level than ever before on connected car standards. This will be made necessary as interactions between various onboard vehicle components and as autonomous cars become more common.

Perceived Threats

While most industry execs have a high level of understanding on connected car technology, the average consumer does not. Many people still view any vehicle connectivity as a potential threat to not only their privacy but their physical safety.

Quite a few news outlets have featured stories of hackers gaining access to vehicles remotely. While some of these reports are dubious at best, the key takeaway is that some people simply will not trust the technology.

This doesn't mean that these people can't or won't change their minds. Most consumers purchase products and manage their bank accounts online without so much as a second thought. By taking certain measures, the automotive industry can gain the same level of trust as more and more standards are put into place.

Safety in Standardization

Many are rallying around standardization as a way to allay the fears of the public. On the surface this makes sense for a number of reasons:

  • Media Attention: In a number of news reports, the media has emphasized that there are few standards for vehicle connectivity, especially when compared to other industries.

  • Public Trust: Pushing more standards could help gain the public's trust.

  • Provisions Against Hackers: By adopting the right standards, would-be hackers could find it too difficult to gain control of vehicles' features, eliminating a potentially serious threat.
On the other hand, standardizing could actually only help hackers gain access to a wide variety of cars. Instead of having to learn security standards for a variety of OEMs, those who have less-than-pure-intentions can streamline their efforts.

There are two ways to combat this threat of hackers exploiting industry standards:

1. Leverage Industry Best Practices 

Inserting firewalls between systems and using industry leading OTA software is a good place to start. There are many more best practices that OEMs and developers can and should explore.

2. Employ Internet Security Standards 

Banks use SSL encryption, firewalls and dual-factor authentication to block unauthorized access. If these kinds of standards are necessary to protect money, they should also be used to guard against a threat to vehicles and anyone riding in them.

HMI Consistency

When talking about connected car standards it’s easy to forget about HMI. The fact is this is an incredibly important area that deserves substantial attention.

There are two main reasons for consistency in HMI:

1. Ease of Use

Consumers are more likely to jump on board with this technology, not only purchasing vehicles equipped with it but also opting to use it more often, if the HMI is consistent enough.

If the HMI varies greatly between vehicles, drivers could easily become confused or frustrated with the technology and swear it off, driving down adoption rates. In other words, no matter how innovative a technology might be, if users find it too difficult to interface with, they will avoid it.

2. Accident Prevention

With connected cars come many big benefits in crash prevention, while ironically creating some new safety threats at the same time. If the HMI in Level 3 autonomous vehicles isn't consistent when it comes to handovers between autonomous and human piloted modes, serious issues could arise.

Users must know for sure when a vehicle in autonomous mode will cede control back to the driver. This needs to be intuitive and consistent across vehicle brands and models. If a driver isn't aware that the vehicle is about to give full control back, that person could be completely unprepared to operate the car safely. By setting HMI standards across the automotive industry, drivers would enjoy a consistent experience, no matter what brand of vehicle they happen to be driving, much like they have come to (mostly) expect with today’s vehicles.

V2X Standardization

Some believe that V2X is the pathway for standardizing connected cars. The fact is the technology, at least the DSRC aspect of it, is controversial, for some good reasons:

  • Google and Tesla: They have shown that V2X isn't necessary to create autonomous vehicles. Many previously assumed it was a necessary step, but that's no longer the case.

  • Expense: The cost of building infrastructure that can communicate with cars could be too steep for stakeholders.

  • Numbers: The more V2X vehicles on the road, the better the technology works. That means in more rural areas, autonomous cars wouldn't operate as well.
The future of V2X isn’t certain at this point. What is clear, for it to become prevalent and useful, the network will have to be built around standards.

HD Maps

To create autonomous vehicles, OEMs and developers use onboard cameras, lidar, radar and highly accurate positioning sensors. HD maps also play a key role in the tech. With standardization, automakers could share HD maps among each other, benefitting everyone. If each OEM collects and and consumes their own HD map, they will not fully benefit from the situational awareness of the full network of cars on the road at a given point in time, only from vehicles that form part of their own network.

Final Notes

So what can we take from this and how can we move forward the alignment of OEMs and developers? We can start with the following three ways:

1. Anticipate What’s Coming

Federal regulations are almost a given. Stay on top of latest news on pending resolutions, proposed rulemaking, public sentiment and news reports. Disseminate pertinent information to everyone in the organization with a need for such information. That keeps the entire team in the news loop and encourages discussion, creativity and new ideas.

2. Participate

Actively seek out, encourage and participate in standardization initiatives. Resist the urge to make your technology the standard and open up to ideas from others for the betterment of the industry as a whole.

3. Be Proactive

From the top down and bottom up, encourage the use of standard over home grown alternatives. Ensure that the necessary competencies are in house to understand and apply industry best practices and standards.

What are some other reasons that connected car standards could help align OEMs and developers?

Topics: Connected Car - Other

Michael O'Shea

Michael O’Shea is the Founder and CEO of Abalta Technologies. He is responsible for all aspects of executive management of Abalta and a direct participant in many client engagements, particularly in management advisory projects.

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