Great Potential and Potential Risks in Automobile Electronics

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    Is Wi-Fi Better than Chocolate? A National Survey Says Yes

    Telecommunications links to automobiles for entertainment, safety, maintenance and even productivity purposes are a quickly growing area.

    This week, General Motors said that it will provide AT&T LTE services to vehicles beginning later in the year. WirelessWeek said that 200MB of data capacity will cost $10 per month, 1GB will run $20, 3GB will be $30 and 5GB will cost $50. OnStar customers will pay $5 for 200MB and $15 for 1GB after a three-month or 3GB trial, whichever comes first. The 2015 Chevrolet Malibu will be the first vehicle in the program.

    Features abound. WTOP highlighted some of the services that will be possible using AT&T’s LTE connectivity in cars. One nice feature is that software updates, which often are the reason for recalls, can be done online. Also, thousands of data points the automobile generates can be used to anticipate and avoid problems. Not to mention, a car’s rearview camera, if properly configured, can remotely scan the area around the vehicle to ensure that it’s safe to venture to it in a parking lot in a remote area.

    An AT&T video accompanying the story illustrates several ways in which cars will interact with the people within. It also seems that the omnipresent voice, which the company is trying to humanize, can quickly grow annoying.

    Nokia is getting into the automobile act as well with its Here Auto platform. NDTV gave an overview of what it is offering:

    Nokia says that any in-car navigator with the Here Auto software can offer voice-guided navigation with or without a data connection, along with 2D, 3D and street-level satellite maps. Of course, you will need internet access to tap into the cloud service for real-time data, which includes information like traffic updates and even the weather, however, previously downloaded maps will work when one in offline.

    The app now works only on Windows Phones but soon will be available for Android and iOS. Auto parts supplier Continental will act as sort of the liaison between Nokia and automakers.

    The use of online and electronic capabilities by definition introduces security concerns as well. An AVG blog post raises a lot of interesting, if not chilling, questions:

    Having all of the in-car services connected to our online world potentially gives manufacturers access to data we may consider to be private, whether that’s our music and navigation data or more personally, our location, family information and potentially other sensitive information. So the physical loss of the car could in fact be coupled with the loss of personal privacy.

    Automobile electronics offer a great deal of advantages. But the risks, many of which involve hacking and security, may be even more serious than stationary systems because they potentially involve the physical safety of the trip. Drivers and the companies for which they work should tread carefully as these systems become more common.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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