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Understanding How Connected Vehicles & Fleets Can Protect Data Privacy


Understanding How Connected Vehicles & Fleets Can Protect Data Privacy

Automakers are currently faced with the challenge of developing an engaging in-car experience that surpasses their rivals with a focus on rapid innovation. At its core, this innovation is primarily about connectivity through the use of sophisticated and advanced data and algorithms. 

As cars generate significantly more data every day, and with the advent of high-speed 5G communication, in-vehicle edge computing has become critical to ensure that connected vehicles function at scale to provide quicker and improved performance. As a result, vehicles can harness data from multiple OEMs and sources scattered in the ecosystem, to be utilized by OEMs, Insurers, Fleet Companies and Smart Cities/Municipalities. However, all this connectivity also means that security and data precautions must be taken into account. 

Connected vehicles have a wealth of data yet to be unlocked

Owing to the vast size and breadth of the automotive industry, there are numerous OEMs involved in the manufacturing of connected vehicles as well as a wide variety of models from each OEM. Further, with more than 100 different sensors present inside each vehicle, tracking everything from driver behavior, vehicle performance and component lifecycle, the scope and scale of data sources truly becomes exponential. And while all this data can come in handy for a variety of applications, it can be challenging to keep secure. It could become very difficult to enforce conventional cyber security standards with such a complicated automotive supply chain. 

With each additional connection, embedded or telematics system, and data-collecting sensor, protecting vehicles from cyber threats becomes increasingly challenging. The software and technology industries have had a lot to learn in the past when it comes to implementing stringent security norms. 

Modern cars have great promise in leveraging all this data, and it is possible that more reliable and regulated cyber security protocols may be implemented in the production of vehicles in the near future. 

Some vehicles may be even more susceptible to these threats because they are built with even more data possibilities in mind. In response to a global movement toward decarbonization, ACE mobility (Autonomous, Connected and Electric) has been growing in popularity. While this is good news for the environment, it can raise new issues with data privacy and security. An average ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle today has about 100 million lines of code. With more autonomous and electric vehicles expected on our roads in the future, there will be a steep rise in the number of lines of code for ACE vehicles, and consequently in the scope for security issues.

Electric vehicles are designed with data in mind

Electric vehicles gain from in-vehicle systems that can assess and enhance energy output, battery usage, and charging capabilities, in addition to the safety features that improve each year. Since software controls most safety features, the powertrain, and even the battery functionality, cyber security flaws may be a threat across several aspects of the car. A big open target for cyber predators is the vehicle itself, which is more connected than ever, more dependent on technology than ever, and more anticipated by the world than ever. It also has an internal network of components that are connected to the outside world.

But such vehicles will be more connected than ever, more dependent on technology than ever, and more anticipated by the world than ever. They will also house an internal network of components and sensors that will be connected to the outside world via cloud. They could produce terabytes of data every day, which could be analyzed to identify usage patterns and applied on a larger scale to make cities and infrastructures safer and more effective. 

In this setting, machine learning (ML) also performs exceptionally well. ML-driven solutions give analysts the ability to identify the connections between events over time and across various hosts, users, and networks by giving them a broad understanding of the activity surrounding the assets they oversee. Contextual information can be provided by ML to lower risks and potential costs of a breach. Professionals in the mobility industry need to partner with the right experts who have a thorough understanding of machine learning to become skilled in designing secure smart vehicle solutions.

What’s possible to help prevent incidents

While it is impossible to foresee every cybercriminal attack scenario, it is obvious that data privacy will be a key concern. The lives and privacy of the people it serves must be protected, and policymakers must make sure that the system governing the next generation of transportation does so. There is a heightened need for all nations to adopt data privacy and security norms, that not only lay the foundation for improved data, and in turn vehicle security, but also make way for safer innovations. In fact, once the security of connected vehicles is standardized, doors open for the standardization of many extra features within cars. This makes it much simpler and quicker for exciting innovation to spread throughout the entire industry.

It’s possible that start-ups and smaller businesses won’t always have access to the data and technology needed to support their innovative concepts for next-gen, sustainable automotive solutions. In these circumstances, platforms with adaptable, secure technology to support such players offer opportunities for larger industry players to share data insights. This will shorten and de-risk innovation, enabling both start-ups as well as established players to market great ideas more quickly. The entire automotive industry is accelerating its capabilities as they keep developing and utilizing data platforms, open-source software, and cloud providers.

Vehicles are still machines, even with added intelligence. And any interference could undermine security. A variety of opportunities also become available when the proper systems are in place to protect user data. The potential of smart vehicles can only be fully realized once the security of connected vehicles and the corresponding data has been effectively addressed.

About The Author

 Sumit Chauhan is the co-founder and chief operating officer at CerebrumX, with more than 24 years of experience in automotive, IoT, telecoms and healthcare industries. Sumit has always played the leadership role that allowed him to manage a P&L of close to US $0.5B across various organizations, such as Aricent, Nokia and Harman, enriching their domestic as well as international business verticals. As co-founder of CerebrumX, he has applied his experience in the connected vehicle data domain to deliver the automotive industry with an AI-powered augmented deep learning platform (ADLP). Sumit is also passionate about mentoring and guiding the next generation of entrepreneurs.


electric truck

Challenges Facing the Adoption of Electric Truck Fleets

Innovations in electric truck technology present a major opportunity for business fleets. However, these electric trucks have yet to make much headway in the commercial vehicle market.

Despite several notable milestones and significant corporate investment, consumers and businesses have been slow to adopt these new EVs. A handful of challenges will likely need to be addressed before electric trucks become widely adopted.

Maintenance and High Prices May Be Discouraging EV Adoption

One of the most significant barriers to EV adoption remains cost. The heavy-duty lithium-ion batteries needed to power a truck’s drivetrain can still be extremely expensive. This drives up the cost of new electric trucks compared to similar, gas-powered vehicles.

Reliability and maintenance may also pose a barrier to adoption for some fleet owners. While electric vehicles can sometimes be more reliable than gas cars due to their electric powertrain, they can also be just as or more expensive than conventional vehicles to maintain.

Lithium-ion batteries tend to have a long lifespan, but they don’t last forever. Replacing one can be a major expense. Battery replacement costs for early EVs, like the Nissan Leaf, can be up to $5,000, which is near the resale value of the car. This is due to the price of a new battery and the labor needed to replace the old one.

While most EV maintenance is similar to conventional vehicles, simple failures can cause more serious problems due to the complexity and uniqueness of electric powertrains. Entire components found in a standard, internal combustion engine-powered truck are missing or replaced by other parts, like DC-DC converters, reducers and battery control modules.

If a business wants to keep fleet maintenance in-house, servicing electric trucks will require either hiring new technicians who are knowledgeable about electric trucks or training existing employees in EV upkeep.

The experimental nature of many modern EVs and the use of proprietary firmware may also mean adopting electric trucks would require fleet owners to develop a much closer relationship with dealers and mechanics.

As new EVs age, they may face problems that are hard for businesses to anticipate right now. The reliability of these new electric vehicles may be proven over the next few years — but, for the moment, potential maintenance woes may convince fleet owners to wait on upgrading.

Limited Charging Stations and Range Anxiety May Discourage Adoption

Like most consumer EVs, commercial electric trucks also face the charging problem. Drivers can’t rely on the existing infrastructure of gas stations and truck stops to keep them fueled. There’s a constantly expanding network of EV charging stations being built around the country. Still, outside of a few major cities, available stations may not be common enough to provide a reliable source of power.

Range anxiety — or the fear that EVs don’t store enough power to get a driver from home base to destination to a charging station — is likely a major barrier to the widespread adoption of EVs. Even in areas where charging stations are widely available, the capacity they offer may not be enough to charge EVs in a timely fashion.

For example, the 2021 Tesla Model Y has a range of up to 326 miles and takes eight to 12 hours to get a full charge from a 220-volt power station. Higher-voltage power stations are available commercially, and it’s possible to fully charge a Model Y in just an hour and a half with a Level 3 or 440-volt charger.

However, most existing EV charging stations offer just 220 volts. This means fleet owners will likely have to invest in home charging stations and carefully schedule drivers so they can always make it back to fleet headquarters for a recharge. Businesses that adopt electric trucks would be significantly limited by the density and location of existing charging stations.

While several major infrastructure projects and new subsidies will help increase the number of high-power charging stations, it will be a while before chargers are as common as gas stations.

Investment in the EV Market May Make Electric Trucks More Appealing

Major automakers seem to have committed to the growing EV market. It’s a good sign that, while adoption may be slow, some of the challenges discouraging fleet owners from buying EVs may be solved soon.

Ford has made an $11 billion investment in the EV market and is set to begin delivering the electric counterparts to its flagship truck, the Ford F-150, in early 2022. Other Ford EVs include the brand’s all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV and the 2021 electric Ford Escape. Notably, the price point for Ford’s new electric F-150 is close to the price of the ICE version of the truck. After tax credits, the base electric model may even be cheaper than the gas-powered F-150.

Ford has also argued that the cost of ownership for the electric truck will be cheaper due to lower maintenance expenses and the price of electricity versus fuel.

General Motors, owner of the Ford brand, has long been an EV pioneer. The company launched one of the first few plug-in electric hybrids on the market, the Chevrolet Volt, in 2011. Affordable, modern EVs like these may convince fleet managers interested in electric trucks but have been cautious about investing in an EV upgrade.

At the very least, the rise of new commercial and consumer electric trucks is a good sign that there will be a robust market for used EVs emerging within the next few years. If these vehicles prove to be reliable, preowned models could provide a stepping stone for fleet owners interested in an electric upgrade but cautious about committing to a fleet of all-new EVs.

What the Future of Vehicle Fleets May Look Like

As investment in the EV market increases, commercial adoption of electric trucks and similar vehicles will also grow.

Current barriers to adoption — the high price of EVs, limited charging infrastructure and concerns around maintenance — are serious but aren’t likely to last forever. Prices are falling, the charging infrastructure is improving and more EVs means more mechanics familiar with repairing these vehicles.

In the near future, fleet owners may begin moving away from conventional vehicles to electric ones, but only once these challenges become easier to manage.