Navigant Research Blog

Automotive Cyber Security Is Finally Progressing

— February 1, 2016

CarsharingstandortWhen I first joined Navigant Research as an analyst in August 2014, the very first entry I wrote for this blog came on the heels of the annual Black Hat and DEF CON security conferences in Las Vegas. Up to that time, automakers had been conspicuously quiet on the subject of security. Fortunately, in the past 18 months the industry has awoken to the very real problem of automotive cyber security and is taking steps to ensure that increasingly connected and automated vehicles will remain safe.

Over the past several years, security researchers have demonstrated a series of increasingly sophisticated hacks of vehicles. Back in 2010, we were seeing hackers connect to vehicle internal networks by way of wireless tire pressure sensors or from a back seat via a thick bundle of wires connected to a diagnostic port. In the first half of 2015, we saw cars from two different automakers remotely controlled after researchers were able to wirelessly connect to the telematics modules from a safe distance and take control of the brakes, acceleration, and steering.

White Hat Help

In that first blog I wrote, I called on automakers to embrace white hat hackers and security researchers who were trying to invade automotive electronic systems. Today, both Tesla and General Motors (GM) have official responsible disclosure programs where researchers can submit any vulnerabilities they discover. The automakers review those submissions and work to remediate the flaws to help keep customers safe. Tesla launched its program in mid-2015; GM followed suit in January 2016.

Unlike Tesla (and many technology companies including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft), GM is not currently offering any rewards in its program—though it has not ruled out doing so in the future. The GM program is administered through an online portal run by a San Francisco startup called HackerOne. HackerOne provides the disclosure portal free of charge and makes money by taking a percentage of any rewards paid out for verified vulnerabilities.

Industry Response

Another important step forward for the industry was the establishment of the Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center (Auto-ISAC). ISACs are now increasingly common in a wide range of industry verticals including utilities, healthcare, financial services, and more. The Auto-ISAC currently includes most major automakers from North America, Europe, Japan, and South Korea; its goal is to provide a platform to share information about cyber security threats and vulnerabilities that put both the general population and auto-industry at risk. The Auto-ISAC began operations in late 2015 and is likely to become a very important tool in the effort to prevent malicious attacks on the transportation ecosystem.

The mobility business is changing. Navigant Research’s Autonomous Vehicles report projects that there will be almost 85 million autonomous-capable vehicles on the world’s roads in the next 20 years and far more vehicles that will have some level of connectivity. Road safety is already a difficult issue to tackle without the problem of malicious attackers intruding from a distance. Fortunately, the industry is now tackling the issue head-on on numerous fronts via improved system architecture, more robust software development processes, and collaboration with anyone willing to step up and help.


Automakers Protect Their Turf by Cannibalizing Themselves

— January 6, 2016

Time may heal all wounds, but for the auto industry, not enough time has elapsed yet to forget the pain caused by the 2008 financial meltdown. With that sales collapse still visible in its rear-view mirror, the industry is wary of another potential collapse due to innovations from Silicon Valley as it takes to heart the warning from the late Steve Jobs: “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.

Jobs was talking to his biographer Walter Isaacson about how the then-new iPad had the potential to steal sales from Apple’s own MacBook laptop computers. With the mobility ecosystem on the precipice of a transformation stemming from a combination of automation, connectivity, car/ride sharing, and electrification, incumbent automakers have recognized the potential for a massive drop in future sales and are positioning themselves to take advantage of the new normal, whatever that might be.

Navigant Research’s Autonomous Vehicles report projects global sales of more than 40 million autonomous light duty vehicles annually by 2030, while carsharing programs are projected to have 23.4 million members around the world by 2024. Along with increasing urbanization, automakers see the combination of these trends potentially decimating sales of personally owned vehicles in mature markets like Europe and North America in the second half of the 2020s and beyond.

Industry Takes Note

Based on recent announcements from several incumbent automakers, automakers hope to partner with the technology industry to transform how they make money from personal ownership to on-demand mobility-as-a-service. General Motors (GM) kicked off the 2016 International CES with an announcement that it would invest $500 million in fast-growing ridesharing company Lyft while Audi is leading a Series C investment round in Austin, Texas-based rental firm Silvercar.

The GM-Lyft deal includes plans to develop a network of autonomous vehicles that can be summoned on demand by Lyft customers. In September 2015, GM announced plans for a pilot program with a fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Volts to be used as on-demand shuttles by employees at its Warren, Michigan technical center.

Airport rental startup Silvercar now operates in 12 cities across the United States with a fleet of identical Audi sedans. Like Uber and Lyft, customers get service through a website or smartphone app. A reserved car can be unlocked with a phone and the all-inclusive flat daily rate is also paid automatically through the app.

Like GM, Ford has thousands of employees that move among the dozens of buildings in its product development center and global headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford recently launched a dynamic shuttle service with a fleet of Wi-Fi and power-equipped Transit vans so that employees can stay in contact or work on the move. Rides can be summoned and tracked from a smartphone app, just like Uber or Lyft. While retirees from nearby Ford factories currently drive the vans, Ken Washington, Ford’s vice-president of research and advanced engineering, has not ruled out using autonomous vehicles at some point when the technology is ready.

With increasingly congested cities looking for ways to help people move around while reducing accidents and improving air quality, urban centers may well ban human-driven vehicles at some future date. Each of these investments point to a time when fewer people need or want to own a vehicle but still need a convenient way to get around. With companies like Google, Uber, and potentially Apple hoping to step into the breach, automakers are smart to look at ways to cannibalize their existing business in favor of a whole new way of making money.


Automakers Will Need Self-Braking Vehicles If They Want 5 Stars

— December 14, 2015

In the American automotive industry, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) have been a fact of life since the very first standard covering seat belt assemblies was enacted in 1967. Today, there are dozens of FMVSS rules covering crash avoidance, crashworthiness, and post-crash protection technologies. However, together these only represent a minimum baseline that automakers must meet in order to be allowed to sell a vehicle in the U.S. market. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also gives new cars a rating of up to 5 stars based on how well occupants are protected in a crash above and beyond the legal minimum. The criteria for those ratings are about to get significantly more difficult.

Since 1978, NHTSA’s new car assessment program (NCAP) has involved crash testing vehicles and applying ratings based on how well they protect occupants compared to other vehicles. Since launching the NCAP, NHTSA has periodically made changes (including new and more difficult tests such as side pole impacts and rollover resistance) as all cars have become safer. The goal is to spur automakers to continuously improve vehicle safety.

Until now, the ratings published by NHTSA at the website and on new car window stickers have been based purely on the crash test results, although the listings also highlight avoidance technologies that are available, including lane departure warning, stability control, forward collision alert, and backup cameras.

Automakers Catching On

While automakers used to complain bitterly about NCAP tests that went beyond the legal requirements, over the past decade, 5-star ratings have become an increasingly important marketing tool as customers increasingly look for safety as a component in their buying decisions. Car companies now regularly announce how many 5-star rated vehicles they sell. When the Tesla Model S was first released in 2012, the company proudly announced that it had achieved the best NCAP test results ever. NHTSA is now raising the bar again with new tests, feature requirements, and testing procedures:

  • A new oblique frontal collision test will provide a better simulation of common partial front-end impacts that occur at intersections.
  • New, more sophisticated crash test dummies will provide more accurate and higher fidelity readings of how an impact would affect a human body.
  • Crash avoidance technologies such as forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure and blindspot warning, and improved external lighting will now be factored into the ratings and will be required in order to achieve an overall 5-star rating.
  • Pedestrian and cyclist protection will also be included in the scoring.

Starting with 2019 model year vehicles, the window stickers will have four different star ratings—occupant protection, pedestrian protection, collision avoidance technology, plus an overall composite rating. As the pace of technological change has accelerated, NHTSA is also asking for the ability to change and update the rating systems without going through the very cumbersome rulemaking process used today. The December 8, 2015 announcement marked the beginning of a 60-day comment period on the new rules.

The accident avoidance technologies that NHTSA is recommending through the new NCAP ratings are building blocks for future automated driving capabilities. Navigant Research’s Autonomous Vehicles report projects that by 2020, more than 5.6 million vehicles with at least level 2 semi-autonomous capability will be on the road in North America, a number expected to grow to almost 45 million by 2025. Spurring adoption of the individual systems now through NCAP will help drive down the component costs, making future systems more affordable and reliable.


A Scenario for Managing the Transition to Autonomous Vehicles

— November 25, 2015

Transportation is all about moving people and things from here to there safely, conveniently, and efficiently. However, as we continue to develop new automation technologies and business models, we now have a plethora of new questions to answer about how we are going to move the transportation ecosystem from here to there. At the recent Automotive Tech.AD conference in Detroit, people from many aspects of the industry came together to discuss the future of mobility. While the horizon is still mired in fog, some interesting ideas did emerge.

As development of autonomous vehicles has intensified over the past several years, the problem of how human- and computer-driven vehicles can safely coexist on the road has been among the most vexing. During the development of the Autonomous Vehicles report, Navigant Research interviewed many of the companies involved in developing this technology. Among incumbent OEMs, the most common strategy has been a gradual progression of deploying more sophisticated automation in new vehicles. This would enable customers to get accustomed to the technology while at the same time allowing OEMs, suppliers, and regulators to validate its reliability and robustness.

However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the need for a hand-off between automation and a human driver when the automation encounters a situation it cannot cope with might be unmanageable. Testing by Audi has shown that transition typically takes 3 to 7 seconds, and in some cases as much as 10 seconds. In an emergency scenario, that is far too long. Companies like Google and Ford are instead focusing on developing fully autonomous vehicles with no human control.

This brings us back to the transition from more than 1 billion vehicles on the road globally to self-driving vehicles. One potential scenario builds on trends that we’re already seeing today in large urban environments. Over the past several decades, cities such as London, Singapore, Stockholm, and Oslo have imposed congestion charges on drivers wishing to access crowded city centers. In other densely populated areas such as Manhattan, an unusually large proportion of the population don’t own cars because the cost of parking is so high. They instead rely on public transport, taxis, and ride-sharing services like Uber.

The Early Years

In the early years of deploying autonomy, the vehicles will likely have limited capability and difficulty dealing with weather and predicting the behavior of human drivers. They will also likely be reliant on highly detailed maps and communication infrastructure. Imagine a scenario where cities like London or Singapore convert traffic congestion zones into autonomous zones.

Rather than tolls, drivers may park their vehicles and take an autonomous pod to their final destination. They could subscribe to any of several services that could be operated by companies like Uber, Google, or Apple or even by incumbent automakers. Pricing for the services could be set by the operators based on factors like availability and amenities in the vehicle. Since these vehicles would be operating in an urban area, they could be restricted to lower speeds for added safety.

As people become comfortable with the technology, the autonomous zones could expand and be added to more cities. Much of the central parking could be redeveloped or replaced by charging facilities for what would likely be electric vehicles (EVs). This would also provide a built-in market for OEMs to absorb the EVs required to meet future emissions and efficiency standards.

This approach could work well for areas with high population density, while outlying and rural areas could continue to use human-driven vehicles with various levels of driver assistance for improved safety. The horizon is still foggy, but the haze is starting to lift.


Blog Articles

Most Recent

By Date


Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles, Finance & Investing, Policy & Regulation, Renewable Energy, Smart Energy Practice, Smart Energy Program, Smart Transportation Program, Smart Utilities Program, Utility Innovations

By Author

{"userID":"","pageName":"Autonomous Vehicles","path":"\/tag\/autonomous-vehicles","date":"2\/12\/2016"}