CES 2023: Cars are becoming edge data centers that come with new safety concerns

CES 2023: Cars are becoming edge data centers that come with new safety concerns

Cars are more than just a mode of transportation and an integral part of our lives. With the advancement of technology, cars are now equipped with a variety of features that not only provide comfort and convenience but also add to the safety of drivers and passengers alike. They essentially have become moving edge data centers.

Case in point: At the 2023 CES trade show, Sony Honda Mobility (SHM) unveiled its new brand, Afeela, and a vehicle prototype with software-defined capabilities. The prototype has 45 cameras, sensors, and SoCs from Qualcomm Snapdragon Digital Chassis to provide 800 TOPS maximum computing performance.

“The car is becoming increasingly connected and intelligent, and how we experience our vehicles is changing. The Snapdragon Digital Chassis serves as the foundation for next-generation software-defined vehicles, enabling new mobility experiences and services,” stated Cristiano Amon, the president and CEO, of Qualcomm Incorporated.

Further, SHM is introducing human-machine interface (HMI) and AR navigation features as well as an open community for industry partners, other leading players and creative individuals. In collaboration with Epic Games, they are incorporating entertainment services.

In related news, Smart Eye, a biometrics and facial recognition AI company, and Polestar, an electric vehicle manufacturer, also demonstrated the Polestar 3 driver monitoring system at CES 2023, which includes two premium driver monitoring cameras and software from Smart Eye. This system detects drowsy or disconnected drivers by tracking the driver’s head, eye and eyelid movements and can trigger warning messages or an emergency stop if necessary. At CES, the two companies said they demonstrated how the cameras and AI software work together.

“This technology addresses some of the main reasons behind fatal accidents and can help save lives by prompting the driver to refocus attention on the road – and can initiate preventive action when they don’t, or can’t,” said Thomas Ingenlath, the Polestar CEO.

Companies want to monetize this data

The rise of connected cars has opened up countless opportunities and technologies that claim to reshape the automotive industry. For instance, Stellantis has announced the launch of its new business unit, Mobilisights, which turns data generated from its connected vehicles into marketable products. The aim is to create 20 billion euro in annual revenue from software-related services by the end of the decade through various applications and services such as usage-based insurance and traffic information.

“The vision for Mobilisights is to contribute to a smarter world, leveraging the insights that vehicle data provide to inspire innovative applications and services that can transform and dramatically improve the day-to-day lives of users and businesses,” stated Sanjiv Ghate, the Mobilisights CEO.

What about the security of that data?

Cyber threats and malicious attacks are a growing concern for connected vehicles. For example, cybersecurity researcher Sam Curry recently uncovered major security vulnerabilities in luxury and other cars. These flaws could have enabled hackers to access owners’ data, track the vehicles and even unlock and start them. Affected brands included BMW, Roll Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Porsche, Jaguar, Land Rover, Ford, KIA, Honda, Infiniti, Nissan, Acura, Hyundai, Toyota and Genesis.

The flaws included a flawed single-sign-on (SSO) feature that gave hackers access to internal systems in BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It granted them access to items such as GitHub instances, private chats and servers. In the case of BMW, attackers could have gained access to internal dealer portals and details such as vehicle VINs and sales documents with sensitive owner information.

“To demonstrate the impact of the vulnerability, we simply Googled “BMW dealer portal” and used our account to access the dealer portal used by sales associates working at physical BMW and Rolls Royce dealerships”, explained Sam Curry in his blog. “After logging in, we observed that the demo account we took over was tied to an actual dealership, and we could access all of the functionality that the dealers themselves had access to. This included the ability to query a specific VIN number and retrieve sales documents for the vehicle.”

Meanwhile, Ferrari customers were at risk of having their accounts modified or deleted altogether. With Porsche, flaws in its telematics systems enabled threat actors to pinpoint the location of the cars and even send commands to the vehicles.

In addition, Spireon, a GPS vehicle tracking provider used by more than 15 million vehicles, had a flaw that allowed for unlock and starter disable functions.

Fortunately, all vendors were informed of the findings and fixed the flaws.

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