On July 6th, the European Union formally introduced laws that require auto manufacturers to install speed-limiting hardware on new vehicles. While speed governors have been around for years (and are becoming increasingly popular among certain manufacturers) the EU’s new rules actually require technology that takes things a step further by allowing cars to actively detect and then regulate the speed for any given road.
There’s a gaggle of Mazda owners in Seattle, Washington, that have reportedly been stuck listening to National Public Radio (NPR) over the last few weeks. The manufacturer has addressed the problem, saying the local affiliate had broadcast images files with no extension causing an issue on some 2014-2017 Mazda vehicles with older HD radio software. This effectively bricked the infotainment system on some vehicles, locking them into listening to NPR and out of literally everything else.
When people started burning down 5G towers in fear, the practice seemed a little misguided. But if you happen to be the owner of a connected automobile, there’s a chance you’ll be wishing enough of them had been taken down to delay those low-latency spires from becoming the default broadcasting network.
While you were probably aware that 3G cellular networks will be shut down in the U.S. next year so the telecom industry can focus in on 5G, you may not have been hip to the fact that this could totally nullify the connected features inside of your car. Unfortunately, loads of automobiles manufactured the early days of phone pairing and internet integration won’t be able to make the journey into 5G like the new phone or tablet you purchased. Worse yet, there are even some modern vehicles that are about to become a lot less feature rich with companies that have no intention of offering updates.
Starting in 2022, Mercedes-Benz will be launching new services allowing customers to use fingerprint scans to verify purchases from inside their vehicle. While this makes it sound as though the feature will be limited to feeding the meter, fast food, gasoline, and the occasional tech-savvy prostitute, parent company Daimler said it was an important step forward for its MBUX multimedia interface and the general trajectory for luxury vehicles as a whole.
Most of us have synced our phones to a vehicle to play music, unwittingly funneling personal information to the manufacturer in the process. But only an elite few have used their mobile device to digitally summon an automobile out of a garage or remotely tell it to pre-condition interior temperatures to the desired specification. However, that’s likely going to be the future and Apple would very much like to be leading the charge.
The tech giant is reportedly developing a way to better integrate smartphones with cars by accessing systems that are currently unavailable to CarPlay. Apple’s new program, internally known as IronHeart, seeks to collaborate with automakers so that its phones can network with vehicles in new and interesting ways. It’s effectively CarPlay 2.0 and sounds as though it would be giving the company access to just about every item drivers might interface with on a daily basis.
A recent report from The Intercept has confirmed some of our biggest fears about connected vehicles. Apparently, U.S. Customs And Border Protection (CBP) has struck a deal with Swedish mobile forensics and data extraction firm MSAB for hardware that allows the government to not only siphon up vehicle data but also use it as a backdoor to access the information on your phone.
While this shouldn’t be all that surprising in an America that’s seen the Patriot Act pave the way for all sorts of government spying, the arrangement represents another item in a toolbox that’s frequently used against regular citizens. CBP is alleged to have spent $456,073 on a series of vehicle forensic kits manufactured inside the United States by Berla. Internal documents suggest that the system was unique and of great interest to the U.S. government, with a multitude of potential applications pertaining to automotive data. But what surprised us was just how much information carmakers thought their products needed to keep tabs on and how that plays into this.
Hyundai Blue Link, a connected-car service first offered in 2018, can now be used to save on auto insurance. Hyundai’s usage-based insurance (UBI) program and Driving Score promotes safe, efficient driving habits. Through Verisk, a global data analytic firm, Hyundai drivers can opt-in to share their driving quirks. Receiving substantially lower insurance rates is the hope of most drivers.
Volkswagen Group, the largest automotive manufacturer in the world, is reexamining its relationship with high-performance subsidiaries as it continues pouring money into electrification. Burned by a diesel emissions scandal of its own making half a decade ago, VW leadership now views electric cars as the only path forward — especially in regard to its more mainstream brands. While they aren’t getting identical treatments, VW, Audi, Seat, and Skoda are all presumed to be adding EVs to their production lines over the next few years.
Porsche’s long-term strategy also seems heavily dependent on battery power, but the road ahead is much less clear for ultra-premium brands like Lamborghini and Bugatti. With volumes and lineups order of magnitudes smaller than the core brands, Volkswagen would be incurring a gigantic expense to develop upper-echelon performance EVs that might not appeal to their existing fans. The same goes for upscale motorcycle brand Ducati as the two-wheeled world has become divided on electric and gas-powered bikes. Volkswagen’s management board and directors have decided the situation calls for an all-hands meeting in November to decide what should be done and how to remain financially prudent in a period of economic strife.
Frequently on the cutting edges of technology, the automotive industry has been slamming chips into vehicles to facilitate communications ever since General Motors launched OnStar back in 1996. This evolved into cars boasting reliable navigation systems and remote vehicle diagnostics until they literally started becoming mobile internet hot spots.
Now the industry wants to further ingrain connectivity by equipping all vehicles with 5G — opening the road for new features and the ability to harvest your personal data more effectively.
This has required deals with tech chip manufacturers like Qualcomm, which requires companies to sign a patent license agreement before actually selling any of its hardware or software. But regulators around the globe worried the practice may be monopolistic, violating antitrust laws. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought a case against the business in 2017. Despite winning that case in 2019, a U.S. appeals court overturned the decision earlier this month, deciding Qualcomm could continue conducting business as usual. Now, tech companies (mainly Qualcomm rivals) and a gaggle of automakers are urging the FTC to seek an appeal following the loss.
Way back in 1999, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set aside frequencies so automobiles could communicate with surrounding infrastructure. Concepts included traffic monitoring, speed mitigation, data analysis, new opportunities for law enforcement, and improved self-driving capabilities. The industry never made much use of it, focusing instead on more independent autonomous vehicles that wouldn’t need help from the surrounding world, and which could simply communicate with each other (and manufacturer data centers) using existing wireless networks.
Annoyed that automakers had barely touched the bandwidth allocated to them, the FCC suggested handing it over to someone else in 2019. In response, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) promised that if the commission voted to uphold the status quo on the 5.9-GHz band, the automotive sector would install 5 million vehicle-to-everything (V2X) radios on vehicles and roadside infrastructure over the next five years.
Adhering to the latest industry trends, Ford has made a deal with insurer Allstate to share customer driving data and plans to issue a loyalty credit card tied into its rewards program. While the latter is in the service of retaining customers (with the help of Visa) in the second quarter of this year, the insurance partnership is technically already active. The Blue Oval is by no means the only automaker involved in such programs.
Like other automakers, Ford has already partnered with insurance companies in regional programs aimed at assessing how customers drive, using the collected information to adjust policies. Originally, this involved devices installed with the customer’s consent that transmitted telemetric data back to home base. Later versions were able to use on-board systems in conjunction with a downloadable app. Now, with connected cars becoming the norm, Allstate says it can just get the information directly from vehicles via manufacturer data centers.
Pretty much anytime automotive data acquisition becomes the topic of discussion, we have to take time to mention customer protections and ask where the line for privacy should be drawn. With social media firms making a mint off the process online and automakers conducting major moves to likewise leverage personal data, it’s practically a nervous tic at this point.
Hoping to get out ahead of some of the potential problems arising from issue, California enacted new consumer protection laws that came into effect at the start of the year.
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) aims to give individuals greater control over the personal data being harvested. Most of this is supposed to be done by allowing consumers to request what kind of information is being collected, ask where it’s going, and the ability request that the subsequent sale or continued acquisition of personal data cease. However, CCPA contains provisions for customers to ask a company to delete all information it has stored on them, as well as rules prohibiting any discrimination related to a person exercising their privacy rights.
Frankly, it all sounds rather good to someone who prattles endlessly about data privacy rights, but it’s also causing problems for the automotive industry.
Toyota and Japanese weather information provider Weathernews Inc. have been running tests aimed at improving the accuracy of rain forecasts by using driving data from connected cars — or, more specifically, their windshield wipers. Based on the assumption that wiper operations correspond with the presence of precipitation, matching the severity to speed settings, the pair feel they can leverage customer information to close info gaps created by low-altitude rain clouds that are difficult to track.
With an official announcement issued earlier this month, both companies are framing this as an effective way to bolster roadway safety and offer new services to its customers. But it also raises the usual round of privacy concerns re: connected vehicles, while potentially offering some interesting and useful features — like localized flood warnings and other traffic advisories.
When an automaker discusses mobility, they’re not really talking about anything specific. The term has been established within the industry as a catch-all phrase for electrification, app-based services, autonomous programs, data acquisition, robotics, and whatever other ideas that don’t fit neatly within a company’s core product line. Providing the best example of the term’s nebulous nature this week was Toyota, which showcased a glut of mobility projects for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games — as well as toying with the idea of handing over vehicle data to the Japanese government.
Let’s start with the concerning aspects before we get into the goofy stuff.
Two decades ago, the Federal Communications Commission decided to allocate a portion of the radio frequency spectrum for Dedicated Short Range Communications ( DSRC). The plan was to utilize that slice of the airwaves for ultra-modern automotive technologies relating to vehicle-to-vehicle and/or vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a whole lot of activity on those channels.
The automotive industry was concerned it might need dedicated frequencies for use in autonomous-vehicle applications or some, yet unknown, technological advancement. But cable companies are annoyed that it’s being “wasted” and have started to antsy. They’ve asked the FCC to revoke carmakers’ exclusive rights to the frequencies and reallocate the majority of the 5.9-GHz band to the Wi-Fi systems that currently carry internet traffic for cable customers.
Hoping to encourage the commission to see things its way, Ford took FCC Chairman Ajit Pai out for a ride in an extra-special F-150 to plead its case. However, I feel like I can already predict whose side he’s going to take on this issue… and it isn’t going to be the automakers’.
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- ToolGuy "We’ll see what happens with Haas." I wonder what happened with Haas?