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Advancements in Connected Cars: A View From CES

Advancements in Connected Cars: A View From CES

January 14, 2019

CES 2019 focused again this year on connected cars – not just fully autonomous vehicles but also improvements in connectivity that will be used to enhance both safety and the customer experience.  We’ve noted before that deployment of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications have the potential to greatly improve safety.  The presentations at CES also highlighted that greater connectivity will be used to provide customized user experiences, enhanced entertainment options, and seamless integration with other IoT services (like voice assistants and payments).  The amount of data shared will increase immensely as vehicles become more sophisticated; indeed, some observers have projected that fully autonomous vehicles could eventually generate terabytes of data a day.  CES panelists took stock of some of the key trends as connectivity expands:

  • “Ubiquitous connectivity.”  Industry participants are designing seamless experiences for consumers as they move from home to mobile to vehicles, connecting cars to the wider Internet of Things using cloud technology.  Panelists discussed transferring consumer’s preferences across platforms – for example, preferred temperature, or favorite music or podcasts – in addition to personalized services such as voice-activated personal assistants.  Infotainment systems will become more of a focus as cars become more fully autonomous.  Much of the data collected and shared using these features will be data that consumers already share through other devices, but extended to the car.

  • Greater driver awareness.  Vehicles now have the technology to more closely monitor driver characteristics – for example, sensors that monitor distracted driving.  One panelist suggested that, in the case of a potential safety hazard, the computer could determine whether to take certain actions on its own or hand control back to the driver based on its assessment of whether the driver is capable of responding.  Additionally, vehicles can use facial recognition to provide the driver with augmented views or navigation systems. 

  • Continued focus on cybersecurity.  Advancements in connectivity and vehicle capability will make cars attractive targets for hackers.  The security issues are not limited to hackers attempting to take control of the vehicle in some way; instead, hackers might attempt to access sensitive information that could be used for phishing attempts or other kinds of fraud.  Panelists noted that vehicles can pose unique cybersecurity challenges.  For one, the life cycle for vehicle systems is much longer than for other consumer products – just think of how long cars stay on the road relative to how long a consumer keeps a mobile phone.  Connected vehicle systems need to be capable of being updated over time, including to address vulnerabilities that were not known at the time of manufacturing.  Additionally, software patches and updates need to be pushed out on an ongoing basis, just as with PCs and mobile devices.  Industry participants are increasingly looking at collaborative approaches on information-sharing to enhance cybersecurity across the entire industry. 

As cars continue to become more connected – more like personal mobile devices now – privacy and security concerns will remain important.  Just in the last two years, NHTSA and the FTC held a joint workshop on privacy and security issues on connected cars, and the FTC released a staff perspective summarizing potential issues.  Some states have already adopted laws restricting collection and use of certain kinds of biometric data and advocates continue to push for both federal and state action in this area.  Industry stakeholders will want to stay ahead of federal and state efforts on privacy and cybersecurity, as the enhanced capabilities of connected cars will be directly affected by the ongoing legislative and regulatory efforts on data collection and use.  

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