Weekly Brief: Car hackers beware

Weekly Brief: Car hackers beware

In this week’s Brief: Southwest Research Institute, Automotive Consortium for Embedded Security, Telogis, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Frost & Sullivan, Scania, Sprint, Rogers Communications, Towers Watson, Tesla Motors, the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia and Emotiv.

As a sign that automakers are starting to take the danger of cyber attacks seriously, the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) formed last week the Automotive Consortium for Embedded Security (ACES) to investigate leading-edge technologies to safeguard onboard computer systems from outside threats.

The joint industry program aims to conduct research in automotive embedded systems security to protect the safety, reliability, brand image, trade secrets and privacy of client members’ future products. The program is open to OEMs and affiliated businesses, and it will hold an information exchange meeting on Oct. 23. Formal kickoff is set for January or February 2014.

“The automation and connectivity that make automobiles safer, more efficient and more responsive also expose them to higher risk of malicious cyber attacks, which could compromise safety and damage an automaker’s reputation,” says Mark Brooks, a senior research engineer in SwRI’s automation and data systems division. “ACES is looking at emerging research both in new technologies and new protections for embedded security for the automotive world.”

Moving on, fleet management specialist Telogis raised $93 million in outside funding with the help of capital financing firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). The official story is that Telogis will use the money to grow its location-based product and service portfolio, with particular emphasis on the enterprise sector. But rumor has it that Telogis raised the funds in a build-up to an initial public offering some time in 2014.

Sticking on the fleet front, new data suggests that the telematics market for light commercial vehicles (LCVs) in Europe is largely untapped, with just 6.2% of Europe’s 29 million LCVs using telematics systems, according to Frost & Sullivan. The firm’s analysis suggests that catering to the demand for customized telematics solutions will provide the impetus for higher revenues; the study estimates market revenues to go up from €1.1 billion in 2012 to €3.1 billion in 2019.

Fleet management provider Scania, meanwhile, introduced Eco-roll, a new solution called that calculates when a truck should use gravity to roll in neutral. The system uses both GPS and topographic maps to calculate whether cruising in neutral down a hill or using engine braking with the fuel supply switched off is best for the vehicle’s kinetic energy. The end goal is to save fuel and money. Eco-roll will now come standard for long-haulage trucks in regions where topographic data is available.

On the infotainment front, Sprint Velocity is now operational in Canada thanks to a new agreement with wireless network provider Rogers Communications. In Canada, Sprint Velocity will encompass the same suite of connected services that it does in the U.S. – infotainment (news, weather, sports), navigation, climate control, security, emergency services and vehicle diagnostics. The agreement will enable the extension of Sprint Velocity to Canadian drivers as global automakers launch connected vehicles in Canada.

In insurance telematics news, 55% of drivers in the six largest motor insurance markets in Europe are now open to the idea of a usage-based insurance offering, according to new consumer research from Towers Watson.

The research suggests that interest is highest in Italy and Spain, whereroughly 70% of drivers showed strong interest in taking out a telematics policy. If the offer of a telematics policy came with a guarantee that the premium would not increase, 64% of drivers surveyed said they would be interested. Interest generally hovers around the 50% mark in the U.S.

In other news, Elon Musk, Tesla Motors chairman and CEO, took to the Internet to address fresh questions over Lithium-Ion battery safety after a Model S, traveling at a highway speed, struck a large metal object and burst into flames. Writing in a Tesla blog post, Musk said the impact started a fire in the front battery module but was contained by internal firewalls and later quickly put out by water and dry chemical extinguisher. 

“It is important to note that the fire in the battery was contained to a small section near the front by the internal firewalls built into the pack structure,” he wrote. “At no point did fire enter the passenger compartment. Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse.  … The combustion energy of our battery pack is only about 10% of the energy contained in a gasoline tank and is divided into 16 modules with firewalls in between. As a consequence, the effective combustion potential is only about 1% that of the fuel in a comparable gasoline sedan.”

Finally, on the conceptual front, the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia (RAC WA) and Emotiv debuted what they’re calling “the attention-powered car.” The car – a Hyundai i40 – comes with custom-built software that analyzes drivers’ eye movements and blink rates to analyze their state of awareness. If the software senses that the driver’s attention has wandered or his eyes have sunk to half mast, it automatically slows down the car and alerts the driver.

“The impact of inattention is now comparable to the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by speed and drink driving, which are all contributors to Western Australia consistently having the worst fatality rate of any Australian state,” says RAC executive general manager Pat Walker. “Nationally, it is estimated inattention was a factor in 46 percent of fatal crashes.”

No word yet on potential OEM partners or how the technology could be feasibly integrated into street-ready cars.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics Japan/China 2013 on Oct. 8-10 in Tokyo, Telematics Munich 2013 on Nov. 11-12 in Munich, Germany, Telematics for Fleet Management USA 2013 on Nov. 20-21 in Atlanta, Georgia, Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2013 on Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco, Consumer Telematics Show 2014 on Jan. 6, 2014, in Las Vegas.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013The Automotive HMI Report 2013Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.

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