German automobiles are known for their reliability and safety, as confirmed again and again by studies such as the ADAC breakdown statistics and the strict Euro NCAP crash test. Numerous safety features such as electronic stability control and airbags have been developed in Germany and become standard equipment internationally. Intelligently connecting vehicles with one another and with the infrastructure offers the possibility of further improvements to general road safety.

Connectivity prevents accidents

Today’s vehicles can already send and receive important information that can save lives. The emergency call assistant automatically reports accidents, giving the exact position of the vehicle. Furthermore, data from sensors indicate the severity of the accident. This can cut the time it takes for the emergency services to arrive at the scene and improve the quality of the rescue. Navigation systems provide early warning of congestion and accidents along the planned route.

In the project entitled “simTD” (Safe and Intelligent Mobility – Test Field Germany), German automotive manufacturers are working with telecommunications providers and numerous research institutes in the world’s largest traffic research project of its type, on a system for connecting vehicles intelligently. From the summer of 2012 simTD will run practical tests on the roads around Frankfurt am Main. The research fleet of 120 vehicles will share information with other vehicles, the infrastructure and traffic management centers in the busy Rhine-Main region under everyday conditions. This intelligent networking could already help reduce congestion in metropolitan areas and minimize the risk of accidents in the near future. This is because even connecting five percent of all vehicles is sufficient to generate reliable traffic data and achieve measurable success.

The future exchange of data between vehicles and various road users, also known as Car-to-X communicationPronounced “car to many,” this denotes the exchange of information between vehicles, other means of transport, the infrastructure, traffic management centers and various Internet applications. In car-to-X communication the car both sends and receives data, while other players also receive and process the information. , will give drivers life-saving information in real time. In a fraction of a second, vehicles in front warn them of obstacles or braking due to hazards. They are told about construction site diversions, approaching emergency vehicles or pedestrians on the roadway. When breakdowns occur, garages connected with the vehicles carry out remote diagnoses and can remedy smaller problems directly. They issue reminders for necessary inspections and arrange appointments for visiting the garage.

In combination with Advanced driver assistance systemsAdvanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are additional electronic systems in motor vehicles supporting the driver in certain driving situations. They often focus on safety aspects or on increased driving convenience. such as the emergency braking assistant and the intersection assistant, connected communication supports the driver in complex traffic situations. If the vehicle is told about a sudden obstacle, it initiates safe braking even before the driver does, and reports this to the other road users. Meanwhile, radar sensors are scanning for obstacles over a range of up to 250 meters in front of the vehicle. This means that vehicles can initiate an emergency braking procedure at speeds of up to 200 km/h.

Protection against hacking

At present vehicles are still closed systems. But Internet access, connections with smartphones and linking navigation systems with Advanced driver assistance systems will expose vehicle systems more and more to external software.

This new openness could increase the risk of cybercrime – which is incompatible with the automotive industry’s pronounced culture of safety and security. In October 2011 there were almost 2,000 active malicious programs just for the Android operating system, the platform for more than half of all smartphones sold; this was a 400 percent rise on the previous year. One doesn’t want to imagine what might happen if a vehicle’s on-board computer was hacked via a connected Smartphone .

Secure gateways and firewalls seal off parts of a connected vehicle that require security protection. Engineers and IT specialists in the research laboratories of the German automotive industry are working on transferring the industry standards to the Consumer electronicsConsumer electronics is a general term covering electronic devices used for entertainment. They include PCs and mobile telephones, along with MP3 players, DVD players and digital cameras. and Business electronicsBusiness electronics refers to electronic devices used in companies, such as printers, large format displays and large format projectors. installed in vehicles.

But here, where connectivity meets security, aviation offers some interesting solutions. Modern airplanes require software for controlling highly complex processes. These programs satisfy the highest safety and security standards and are subject to elaborate certification procedures. PikeOS, for example, is a real-time operating system from Sysgo, which is used by Airbus in long-haul aircraft and military transport planes. It was developed and certified especially for security-critical applications and in 2012 it is to be installed in selected vehicle models as standard. Subordinate operating systems such as Android can then be controlled securely. In the future this will ensure that apps using vehicle data can also be run securely.

Secure data access

Increasing connectivity generates a large amount of information for which data protection legislation is needed, after all it contains – at least indirectly – data about the drivers of vehicles. Where do they spend time, which routes do they take, or how are they involved in an accident, do they observe traffic signs, and which offers do they take up? Is this information accessible only to the rescue services, or also to insurance companies and investigating authorities? Are employers allowed to access user data from company cars? Legal issues concerning data protection have to be clarified and effective technical solutions have to be developed that allow certain groups to access the information while blocking others.