By Steve Owen and Lars Reger, NXP Semiconductors

The car as we know it is evolving. It is transforming from a single mode of transportation to a personalized mobile information hub – fully connected to the outside world. These connected cars will be a core element in creating an autonomous driving experience, especially with the rise of new wireless technologies such as Vehicle to X (V2X) communications. V2X are intelligent systems integrated into vehicles, which are capable of collecting and analyzing data from other vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure. This vehicular intelligence is a critical component to enable autonomous driving and to make smart mobility concepts a reality.

In 1982 a black Pontiac Trans Am amazed both children and adults with its ability to drive itself. The car was called KITT and the TV series was, of course the US classic, Knight Rider. What was fiction over 30 years ago is now becoming a reality thanks to the advancements we are seeing in autonomous driving technology, however the concept of a car being able to drive itself is not new. The first driverless car was launched in 1926 on the streets of Milwaukee, USA and was controlled via radio signals from a nearby vehicle. Although similar in concept, today’s autonomous vehicles use a myriad of secure connectivity and sensor technology to create a safe driverless experience.

Autonomous driving will certainly lead to a very different mobility experience for future generations and, as a disruptive innovation, have major implications for society. With an estimated 90 percent of road accidents currently caused by human error, automated driving will make a significant difference to road safety by using technologies that reliably replace the human ‘awareness’ senses of the driver, and give vehicles the ability to recognize and interpret their environment. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, V2X safety functions such as collision-mitigating at intersections, and emergency braking assistants can reduce accident figures by more than 80 percent, saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

The safety elements are clear but connected cars and autonomous driving have other benefits: increased driving efficiency, reduced traffic congestion and a better carbon footprint per vehicle.

Autonomous Driving Possibilities in Asia

Asia is rapidly becoming urbanized. According to recently published figures, it is home to seven of the top ten megacities, and the UN forecasts that today’s urban population of 3.2 billion, will increase to nearly 5 billion by 2030, when three out of five people will live in cities. This exploding population growth will put additional strain on the infrastructure of these megacities leading to congested roads, more traffic noise, and increased pollution; making the big problems of today even worse.

Authorities in many Asian cities have realized that, in the long-term, simply constructing more roads, tunnels or overpasses cannot relieve these major traffic problems. If, however, vehicles can transmit information from their various sensors about location, speed and other data, a dynamic model can be created to help drivers to understand real time current road traffic situations. In areas of heavy traffic alternative routes can be suggested to improve in-city traffic flows; creating better driving efficiencies and reducing pollution by keeping cars moving instead of idling in traffic jams.

Real-time data can also help city departments gain better intelligence about road conditions and take appropriate actions to solve any issues. For example if data is collected from cars regarding ambient temperature it can signify when snowy weather may occur so local authorities can prepare the roads properly. Road defects can also be more easily spotted by analyzing in-car data. If cars are braking and swerving in a particular location or suspension data registers severe vibrations in the road, repair crews can be sent directly to that location. Overall road safety can be improved significantly, especially in critical traffic situations at high speed or in bad weather conditions.

Smart Mobility: Driving Innovation in Asia

For companies looking to create technology and solutions focused on Smart Mobility it makes sense to set up innovation centers in the regions that are forecast to be heavy users, gaining
valuable insights and experiences.

In 2013 NXP announced that it would strengthen its research and design (R&D) capabilities in Asia, locating their second corporate R&D laboratory in Singapore. In April 2015, NXP launched a new innovative Smart Mobility Campus with Nanyang Technology University (NTU) in Singapore. The new campus will become a real-world test bed for Smart Mobility solutions. The campus is designed to accelerate the introduction of intelligent transport systems in Asia and will use its own network of vehicles and road-side units to research a wide range of Smart Mobility, or V2X, technologies designed to improve traffic flow in major cities, avoid road accidents and enhance the driver experience.

As with any other wireless connection or network, V2X communication is exposed to security risks that must be guarded against in order to prevent access from hackers and other potential threats. Before V2X can become a reality, the quality and integrity of data has to be ensured and privacy needs to be protected. Turning a car into a mobile IP address makes the vehicle susceptible to problems encountered elsewhere in the internet world. With the increasing connectivity, achieving maximum security will become a key target for the automotive industry.

There are already examples of security problems with today’s more technically advanced vehicles. There is an increasing number of reported hacks which are taking place through driver’s in-car entertainment system. As today’s cars are completely interconnected, if a malicious file gets into the car system via, for example, a compromised MP3 player in a car, other automotive components can quickly be affected and cause more significant damage.

If the future car is going to be able to safeguard us against traffic incidents then these security issues need to be eliminated through the provision of proper encryption and authentication for secure data exchange. The team at NTU, in partnership with SmartMX security experts at NXP, will also focus on testing and enhancing the V2X communications for maximum reliability and security against cyber threats which is essential for ensuring passengers are safe and driver data is safeguarded.

In summary, we are at the cusp of change with regards to autonomous driving and a truly connected car. NXP, as the leader in providing secure connections for a smarter world, is driving developments forward to ensure that the connected car is a valuable asset in the future. Our expertise in providing secure banking and identification solutions will provide a solid foundation to build the security profile of these connected vehicles. Our connectivity know-how and experience will help forge the intelligent communications needed between the vehicle sensors and their environment; between the car and its passengers. Asia has a pioneering role to play in the development of Smart Mobility, and together we are ready for the future.