Internet in Cars: The Way of the Future or a Hacker's Dream?
The future of vehicles is the Internet, with cars offering connectivity that enhances the driving experience. What seems like a thing of the future is becoming commonplace today, with an increasing number of connected vehicles hitting the market each year. This year, approximately 10 percent of all cars are connected to the Internet. By 2020, it's expected that as many as 22 percent of all cars will be connected cars. This is a significant amount of vehicles, and a number that is expected to continue to rise well into the future.
Connectivity is what customers want. In a recent survey reported in the Telegraph, about half of the 5,000 consumers surveyed said they would consider connectivity as a key feature in their next car purchase. Safety and diagnostics, which can be enhanced with connectivity, were listed by 73 percent of drivers as the most important feature.
In another survey, 78 percent of potential car buyers indicated that safety was the biggest reason they wanted a connected car. An enhanced driving experience came in second with 71 percent of the votes, and real-time vehicle diagnostics came in second with 66 percent. Interestingly, infotainment, which is heavily advertised as a benefit of connected cars, was the last most important feature garnering only 55 percent of the votes.
What does all of this data show? It shows that connectivity in vehicles is going to become a major factor in purchasing decisions in the coming years. Those who may be in the market for a new vehicle should consider connectivity as they shop. The good news is, having a connected vehicle does not have to be costly, after the initial purchase cost. Internet in your car can be as cheap as $10 a month, and bring a long list of potential benefits.
Potential Features of Internet-Connected Cars
With safety being a major concern, car manufacturers are looking at ways to add safety features through connectivity. Some systems can be set up to send automatic crash notifications to owners or emergency contacts, or automatically summon roadside assistance in the event of a crash or flat tire. Vehicle tracking and monitoring can be invaluable, especially for commercial fleet vehicles. Cars may also be equipped with technology to automatically call emergency services in the event of a serious crash.
Taking the applications a step further, connected cars may be able to solve problems with traffic congestion. Cars can send information back to city servers to allow them to analyze traffic flow, predict bottlenecks, and take measures to manage congestion when it occurs. Drivers can receive in-car warnings about potential traffic jams, giving the option to take a different route.
The connected car even makes existing safety devices even safer. Backup cameras, for instance, can now be installed using connectivity to reduce the time and cost of adding these important safety devices. With over 200 people killed each year in backover crashes, this is a vital safety measure to consider.
Dangers and Concerns of Internet-Connected Cars
With all of these potential applications of a connected car, why are they not becoming popular even more quickly? As with all new technology, the connected car is not without its potential problems. This was clearly seen in one recent demonstration involving a connected Jeep.
In July of 2015, a Wired writer went behind the wheel of a Jeep Cherokee and headed out on the road at a safe 70 mph. While he was driving, two demonstrators, who were miles away from the vehicle, successfully hacked into its on-board connected devices. Starting with the climate control, moving to the radio, and then on to the windshield wipers and wiper fluid, the hackers showed they could take control of the vehicle, even while it was driving down the road. By the end of the demonstration, the hackers even took control over the vehicle's steering.
This was all done in a controlled demonstration, but it pointed to a serious concern with connected vehicles. While on-board entertainment and backup cameras are not likely to be the target of a hacker, when connected technology starts to affect the actual systems of the vehicle, safety is at serious risk. If hackers have the potential to take over steering and cut brakes, the safety features connectivity added suddenly become much less valuable.
This is just one example. Hackers have used remote keyless entry systems to gain access to vehicles they wish to rob by hacking into phone network systems designed to allow mobile devices to lock and unlock vehicle doors. These are just some examples of the ways in which connected technology can, and often is, used against vehicle owners.
Driving In The Internet Age
Connected technology has tremendous potential, but like most technology, it is not without its risks. With safety being the number one reason so many vehicle owners are opting for connected cars, it stands to reason that safety risks from hackers would cause some to think twice. The reality is that the connected car is coming, and those who are developing the technology need to take measures to protect the customers who buy it.