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Expecting Privacy In Our Cars, FTC’s Auto Security Concerns, And Developing Dedicated Wireless Networks For Cars

There’s been a sigh of relief from auto security researchers and tinkers after the Librarian of Congress batted down DMCA rules that would make inspecting and modifying vehicle software illegal. The good news is white hat hackers can still find flaws and tuners can keep tweaking engines, but in a concession to automakers, those modifications can only be done by the owner and doesn’t include telematics or infotainment systems. On step forward, two steps back…

Politico EU takes a look at how data could cure traffic woes, while putting driver’s privacy in jeopardy. The European Commission is outlining rules on how to strike a balance, including a list of proposals that range from the benign to the unenforceable.

The Federal Trade Commission has similar concerns and is butting heads with NHTSA on vehicle-to-vehicle communication requirements, citing concerns about protecting driver’s data.

If you want to nerd out on how all the facets of the connected car will be intertwined, RCRWireless has a report out detailing security, data technologies, liability and insurance, and where the driver fits into it all. Have a cup of coffee handy (and maybe add a shot of your favorite adult beverage).

Finally, both Nokia and Verizon are making different plays in the connected car data game, with Nokia’s Here mapping division – which is about to be sold to Germany’s Big Three – using existing cellular networks to transmit road and traffic information, while Verizon outlines plans for a dedicated 4G LTE network for the Internet of Things.

circa 1945:  A man looks under the hood of his car and tries to figure out how to fix the engine after a breakdown on the side of the road, 1940s. He wears a hat and a suit.  (Photo by Harold M. Lambert/Lambert/Getty Images)

Hack or Wack: 5 Popular Car Hacks Get Busted

If you’ve searched for a quick fix for your car, you’ve probably come across some post promising that you can mend nearly anything with some duct tape, bailing wire, and an unflappable constitution. We’ve always wondered if those hacks really worked, but since MacGyver was unavailable and we’re not about to toss an uncooked egg into our radiator, we found the next best thing: Freddy Hernandez.

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Automatic and USAA Team Up to Keep Teens Safe

For teenagers, cars are a path to freedom. They are also a leading health risk for 14-18 year olds, responsible for more than 130,000 injuries every year. Despite this, only 25% of parents have had a serious conversation about the skills and responsibilities of driving with their teen.

This week is National Teen Safe Driving Week, and to support teen safety, we’ve teamed up with USAA to offer License+ to their members in the U.S. USAA offers License+ on a voluntary basis and at no cost to eligible members with a driver aged 15 to 19 listed on their USAA auto policy. Every member enrolled in the program receives an Automatic connected car adapter that plugs into a vehicle’s on-board diagnostic port. Automatic evaluates driving data in order to score driving habits and improve the teen’s driving skills.

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Porsche, Android Auto, And The Obligation Of Connected Car Transparency

If there’s anything to be learned from the recent media firestorm surrounding Porsche’s decision not to offer Android Auto in its flagship sports car, it’s this: transparency is the only way forward for the connected car.

The controversy erupted after Motor Trend reported on Porsche’s decision to pass on Android Auto after discovering Google wanted access to a range of engine data from the company’s latest 911. Things like vehicle speed (which Apple’s CarPlay uses to determine if certain features are safe to operate) is logical enough, but engine revolutions, throttle position, coolant and oil temperatures were apparently a step too far. At least for Porsche.

Oddly, Porsche’s corporate siblings at Audi, Bentley, Seat, Škoda, and VW are beginning to offer Android Auto integration. Which begs the question: why is one automaker within the massive Volkswagen Group conglomerate not okay with Google’s data collection, while it’s stablemates – along with over 30 other automakers – are completely on board? That’s yet to be answered.

Google sought to clarify what information it gathers in the wake of the story, saying that it does “not collect the data the Motor Trend article claims such as throttle position, oil temp and coolant temp.” A Google spokeswoman goes on to state that users opt-in to share information with Android Auto to “improve their experience,” but doesn’t expand on exactly how it does so, beyond hands-free control and using the vehicle’s antenna for more accurate GPS transmission.

This lack of clarity in its clarification is the exact opposite of what the connected car space needs, both for automakers and its customers.

Transparency about what companies are collecting, what they’re doing with that data, and a means to opt-out shouldn’t just be best practices – it should be assumed.

There can be no ambiguity. Automakers and their tech partners have to disclose clear terms, in plain language, to ensure a nuanced understanding by the public of what their vehicles are doing. Obscuring any of that, even for a moment, will do irreparable damage to a nascent industry that has the potential to offer greater convenience, untold functionality, and save lives in the process. It also happens to have a projected worth at least $40 billion by 2020.

Automakers know what’s at stake. By letting the Trojan Horse of Google (and, to an extent, Apple) into its products, automakers are sacrificing a modicum of control to provide the features both tech companies and their automotive partners are betting consumers want.

But any illusion that the latest infotainment offerings are simply a way to get maps, messaging, and music into cars is naive at best. It’s part of a much larger play by the titans of the tech industry to expand into one of the largest, most influential markets since mobile computing. Automakers need partners with shared goals, and if there’s any question about the validity, security, and privacy of these systems, the potential of the connected car will wither before it even has a chance to bloom.

– Thejo Kote, co-founder and CEO of Automatic

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Automakers Band Together To Combat ‘Hacking’, Feds Draft Bill To Make Access To Car-Puters Illegal, And Better Data Through AI

With “car hacking” still at the forefront of many people’s minds after this summer’s spate of news, both the auto industry and government regulators are looking at ways to combat the (still nascent) threat of malicious individuals accessing a car’s computer.

The two largest automotive trade organizations – the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Association of Global Automakers – are banding together to establish best security practices for the industry. The new group, which represents every major automaker, is an attempt at nipping the issue in the bud before the feds get involved. But…

Too late.

A draft U.S. House bill has been introduced that aims to prohibit “hacking” a vehicle’s computer – or simply accessing it – without “approval”. The fine can be as high $100,000, per infraction.

According to the text of the draft bill, it would be illegal for “any person to access, without authorization, an electronic control unit or critical system of a motor vehicle, or other system containing driving data for such motor vehicle, either wirelessly or through a wired connection.”

How do you define “without authorization”? That’s unclear, although nearly every automaker and supplier maintains that the software running its vehicles is subject to copyright, even if you own the vehicle.

The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee is meeting on Wednesday to consider the draft, although not much will come of it until next year.

“The only thing more terrifying than hackers penetrating cars is the government stepping in to help solve the problem.”

– Analyst Roger Lanctot has a solid read on security through connectivity based on the Ponemon Institute’s recent car security whitepaper.

Dr. Paul Zanelli, the CTO of Transport Systems Catapult in the UK, believes that requesting access to certain kinds of data will be fulfilled by artificial intelligence in the future. Using previous choices about data sharing, AI will know what users are comfortable with  and automatically opt-in.

“I expect my children to grow up with agents in the system that act on their behalf, that learn what they are willing to do with their data and so, over time, they have to be asked less often,” says Zanelli.

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20 Percent: How We Made Our Dumb Cars Smarter With AutoDash

When Automatic moved earlier this year, our lead Android developer Duncan Carroll found himself spending more time in the car. And something was missing.

“I have a dumb car,” laments Duncan. “All my friends’ cars have screens. I want a screen, too.”

Driving more meant more navigating, more podcasts, more text messages to his wife, and, honestly, more distractions. It was untenable. But so was buying a new car with the latest infotainment tech.

There had to be a better solution. So Duncan built his own.

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future of automotive industry

It’s not Silicon Valley vs. Detroit, It’s Silicon Valley AND Detroit

We’ve all heard the debate. Silicon Valley versus Detroit. The future of the auto industry is on the line. The old champion takes on the upstart. Or is it the other way around? As Detroit grapples with a massive shift in how the world gets around, Silicon Valley is fighting to not just claim a seat at the table, but to take the crown. Google has been developing the self-driving car. Tesla Motors’ HQ sits like gem in Palo Alto. Apple is doing a poor job of keeping its vehicle of the future a secret.

Looks like Silicon Valley is preparing to deliver a knockout blow.

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