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Just say no to connected cars

Jonny Evans | July 9, 2015
Around 5 percent of new vehicles already include some form of embedded technology inside. But have you thought about the consequences?

auto scrapyard 1

There is a growing chance your next vehicle will be a connected car, augmented with Internet-connected intelligent systems and services.

By 2017, every new car sold in Europe will be required to have an embedded SIM and built-in emergency calling features. "By 2018, most new vehicles will come with integrated apps as standard," said Juniper Research analyst, Anthony Cox. By 2024, Analysys Mason expects 89% of new cars will include embedded connectivity.

While I don't imagine anyone will buy these vehicles for making on-dash Facebook updates or the chance to shop online while driving, many people may want the convenience of always-available, contextual, predictive navigation to get them from Point A to Point B. Many will welcome the potential these vehicles have to cut fuel bills and lower CO2 emissions (4.8 billion hours were wasted by U.S. drivers trapped in traffic congestion in 2010). These reductions are of great significance to combat climate change; each of the over 1 billion cars in use today is estimated to release six tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. We're choking the planet.

But for all the convenience, there are consequences.

Hacked cars

Every connected vehicle will likely have a built-in SIM to take you online. At first these things will be benign, notifying emergency services in the event you face breakdown or accident and picking up over-the-air software upgrades to add features to your vehicle.

However, where there is connectivity, there is a vulnerable endpoint, and these must be protected. Sky news claimed that around half of 89,000 London vehicles broken into or stolen in 2013 were electronically hacked. As cars become more connected, they will become a new golden paradise to hackers. Think beyond car theft --hacked cars driving their occupants into the sea, or a bank manager's family kidnapped by their car and held until the vaults are emptied. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) researchers have already shown how they can take control of cars, forcing them to brake, accelerate or steer. Just because these things haven't happened yet doesn't mean they won't, and all concerned must wake up and put protection in place. The sorry truth today is that big Internet of Things device manufacturers continue to insist on using weak default passwords like 1234. Car consumers must get ready for a whole new set of on-the-road car risks in exchange for a little convenience.

Maintenance bullies

Telematic sensors in connected cars will be able to let you know when a fault is emerging before it becomes a problem. In some cases, these vehicles will book themselves in for servicing or be able to provide the kind of accurate information you need for better repair. There is a consequence for this convenience, of course. As car components become more electronically aware, they are likely to become more expensive, as will car service and repair. You'll know your vehicle may spring a problem, but this doesn't mean you'll have the cash in hand to fix it.


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