Is Europe Taking The Lead In Talking Cars?

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M2M (Machine to Machine) vehicle communication is moving ahead at a breakneck speed, especially in Europe, where the eCall system will become mandatory in 2018. Commonly known as the “internet of everything”, M2M is currently most visible in the automobile. Vehicles can now “talk” to each other as well as talk to other devices such as traffic systems. This is potentially one of the biggest technological leaps in the history of the automotive industry. The possible benefits are far reaching, even at this early stage of development.


Safety

From a safety perspective, many scenarios come to mind. For example, the ability to avoid dangerous situations such as impending collisions with bicyclists or pedestrians that are carrying a mobile device (which sends a warning signal to your car), could save many lives. Notifications could also be sent to the driver if they are approaching an intersection or construction area at an unsafe speed or if the driver several cars in front of them is rapidly braking.

In the event of an accident, there is the European eCall Accident Notification system. eCall will automatically notify first responders that an accident has occurred, the location and type of vehicle and the fuels that were involved. Rescue workers would be able to reach the accident scene more quickly and be better prepared to handle the crash situation. Beginning in 2018, all new European cars will be required to have the eCall Accident Notification system installed.

Convenience, the Environment and Saving Money

M2M vehicles can connect with the public infrastructure as well as other vehicles. For example, drivers could be preemptively  alerted to traffic congestion and take an alternate route. They could also receive information from public transportation including trains, buses and even airlines regarding availability, proximity and scheduling. It’s easy to see how this level of coordination could reduce fuel consumption and pollution, especially in heavily congested urban areas. Greater efficiency could also reduce the need for building more roads, saving public funds that could be used to improve education and other social programs.

New Ideas, New Challenges

As with any new rapidly emerging technology, some challenges are to be expected and may persist for some time. The development of the internet is a prime example.Technologically, 22 years after the advent of the World Wide Web, we are still struggling with providing fast internet access to everyone that wants it and we also have various legal/moral issues like privacy that seem to morph on a daily basis.

M2M in vehicles has some of the same familiar challenges. Connected vehicles will require persistent connections to mobile networks and security is fast becoming a major concern.

Connected cars will need to be able to access a variety of telecom networks, which can vary from country to country and would also include connecting to Wi-Fi and other network standards. Each communication standard also occupies a particular spectrum and each provider is allocated a portion of the available spectrum. While vehicles will only require a small part of most spectrums, they will have to compete with other M2M devices. Many automakers are actively working together to integrate with various telecoms, but issues remain.

Car owners could also find that they are locked into using a particular network via a SIM card installed in their car. Also, many wireless networks require a phone number to connect to the network, and phone numbers are becoming increasingly scarce.

Infrastructure must also be considered as each vehicle will need continuous connection to a network for all of the M2M features to operate properly. Although M2M communications are not data intensive like video, heavily congested areas will need their networks updated to handle the increased vehicle communications. Remote areas will also need more cellular access points added to ensure complete coverage.

Security Becomes Critical

Data security is an expansive topic, but for vehicle communications it can be broadly broken down into two categories:

  • Vehicle System Access and Security

  • 3rd Party Access to The Data

Vehicles with any type of a wireless connection now appear to be vulnerable to malicious activity.The recent hacking of a Chrysler Jeep, sending it into a ditch, points out the seriousness and immediacy of this issue. Chrysler has issued an immediate recall, but as the article points out, virtually every manufacturer should be concerned about the security of their vehicles. As news of these types of events spread, we can expect more attempts by hackers to gain access to either the vehicle, the owner’s Personal Data (PII in the U.S) or both.

This year, BMW raised the issue of who actually “owns” or controls the data from connected vehicles. Gaining access to a car owner’s habits, preferences and behaviors is a marketer’s dream. Each manufacturer will need to decide how much (if any) of this data is shared with third parties. This marketing data could be a rich revenue stream for automakers, but comes at the potential risk of alienating their customers. A delicate balance must be maintained, as well as appropriate consideration for existing and future privacy laws.

What’s really interesting about the data issues is that they parallel many of the retail data integration issues affecting different brands. Many dealers and DSPs are currently working on data security, including Personal Data (PII) as it relates to retail interface integrations and who has access to the data in their respective networks. While hacking into a dealership won’t physically send it flying into a ditch, a data breach could unleash the legal and PR equivalent of a serious accident.

These issues, and many others, are just being realized. And like the separate paths of development of the automobile and the internet, the merging of the two will likely transform in ways that we could never have imagined when they were first introduced.

                   

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