Battle for the connected car

Car manufacturers and telecoms operators disagree on the future for connected cars

Automotive giants and telecoms outfits must work together to make way for the connected car but they have opposing views of how it should come about. One of the friction points is cyber security. The IEC is working with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) on standards addressing this issue.

autonomous driving test Carlos Ghosn
Autonomous driving tested by Renault-Nissan Alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn (Photo: Nissan)

The car and the telecoms industries have diverging working cultures, which is in part due to their history. While automotive manufacturers revolutionized the 20th Century, telecoms companies enabled the Internet age. One of the main differences lies in their respective concepts of time. Telecoms products are updated on a monthly basis, while car makers take several years to launch new models. It is hardly surprising, then, that the auto crowd views the  "telco" newcomers with a certain amount of suspicion, especially as the business of cars is so closely intertwined with the notion of safety. Smash your phone and you will lose your contacts, smash your car and you risk losing your life. The stakes are not the same and automotive companies are not altogether convinced that telecoms operators have fully grasped the issue.

Testing, testing…

Several European initiatives are forcing them to bang heads together as, increasingly, the future for vehicles looks automated and self-driving. One of them is UK CITE (connected intelligent transport environment), which has rounded up a wide number of car companies and telecoms operators together with Coventry City Council, Coventry University and Highways England Company. The project aims to create an advanced environment for testing connected and autonomous vehicles and involves equipping up to 40 miles of urban roads and motorways with four different “talking car technologies”. One of the goals of the project is to see how the technologies help reduce traffic congestion while providing entertainment and safety services through better connectivity.

Another similar venture is taking place in France. Named Scoop@F, the pilot project involves 3 000 vehicles running on 2 000 km of roads, in different areas of France, the Ile de France and the East Corridor running from Paris to Strasbourg, as well as in Brittany, Bordeaux and Isère.The second part of Scoop@F is more specifically dedicated to cross border tests with other EU member states (Spain, Portugal and Austria). It aims to develop a hybrid communication solution running on 3G, 4G and ITS G5 networks.

The idea behind the tests is to stimulate the cooperation between automotive manufacturers, telecoms and road operators and exchange on innovation and best practice. Scoop@F aims to validate the EU-backed C-ITS (Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems) platform launched in July 2014, which itself vows to build interoperability at European level for a certain number of services, such as hazardous location notifications, information on fuelling and charging stations for alternate fuel vehicles, etc…

As the Head of Connected Car at Orange Business Services Car, Julien Masson, explained at a joint ITU-UNECE conference on the future of the networked car held during this year’s Geneva Motor Show: “Vehicle to vehicle communications is one of the ways to help autonomous cars to change lanes on highways, which remains a big problem for self-driving technology. Although scalability issues still have to be addressed as well as interoperability problems as soon as you cross the borders.”

A third initiative is called Nordic Way and is a pilot project that seeks to enable vehicles to safely communicate safety hazards through cellular networks on a road corridor through Finland, Norway, Sweden  and Denmark. Like Scoop@f, it is linked with the C-ITS platform. The Finnish Transport Agency is involved as well as a number of telecoms and  car companies.

Two competing views

In the C-ITS platform itself, car manufacturers and telecoms operators have differing views on the implementation of the new systems. Members of the automotive industry tend to back an extended vehicle solution, with external software and hardware add-ons for some of its features, developed and managed by the automotive manufacturers themselves. The interfaces are designed in such a way so as to not jeopardize security and safety and protect data privacy.

Telecoms operators are broadly in favour of an embedded onboard application platform and a server-based solution that will enable a higher volume of data to be used and thereby enable a higher degree of innovation. Car makers claim that this approach is open to hacking and could jeopardize the safety of drivers.

While disagreements between the two sides remain strong, both have agreed that there is a need to develop the missing standards for an advanced physical/electrical and logical interface which includes the minimum level of security including minimum data sets and standardized data protocols enabling IT services.

IEC leads the way on cyber attacks

The issue of safety as related to cyber attacks and hacking has long been addressed by the IEC in a wide variety of fields. For instance through IEC 62645:2014 for the safety of nuclear plants, developed specifically to prevent, detect and react to cyber attacks.

The emerging hacking risks faced by connected and automated cars are being addressed jointly by the IEC and ISO through various Subcommittees (SCs) of their Joint Technical Committee, ISO/IEC JTC 1.

The IEC is also encouraging the adoption of standards, notably in the field of sensor technology, which car manufacturers are already using for autonomous driving. Through IEC TC 47: Semiconductor devices, it produces International Standards for the use and reuse of sensors as well as testing equipment. It also develops Standards in the field of wireless charging for electric and autonomous vehicles, under the supervision of TC 69: Electric road vehicles and industrial trucks.

The IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components (IECEE), which offers global testing and certification based on International Standards, is also doing essential work in providing all these different products and equipment with the right safety, quality, efficiency and overall performance controls.