Security will be key factor in vehicle-to-vehicle communications

  • 16-May-2012 09:26 EDT

Toyota believes vehicle-to-vehicle communications can improve safety if security and cost issues are resolved.

As the U.S. Department of Transportation prepares for field tests that will help it decide whether to mandate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications, potential suppliers are focusing on safety and security issues. Security is needed to ensure that there are no compromises to safety, which is one of the key benefits of the technology.

Proponents of V2V and V2I technologies note that improved safety is one of the key factors that will determine whether DOT mandates deployment. When vehicles talk to each other, they can take action to prevent accidents.

“Safety applications make the most sense; everybody understands the benefits,” said Jim Wright, Connected Vehicle Manager for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Suppliers agree that safety is a key factor that will help decision makers determine whether the benefits of the communications technology justify the costs of deployment. Many contend that if the government mandates installation in new vehicles, parents and others will willingly boost penetration by purchasing aftermarket products.

“Who wouldn’t want to buy an aftermarket device that would make their children safer?” said Andreas Mai, Director Automotive, North America, Cisco Systems. “This ripples out to insurance companies. Reducing crashes and lowering insurance rates can be one of the first areas to justify the expenditure.”

For vendors that will be responsible for providing systems if the government mandates usage, security is perhaps the most important issue after pricing. Messages must be secure to ensure safety so faulty messages don’t cause vehicles to take unnecessary actions. This security must also protect the privacy of drivers.

“The issues that are most important to us are cost, customer privacy, the ability to have robust systems, and the ability to determine bad actors,” said John Kenney, Senior Research Manager, Toyota Info Technology Center.

One of the primary security challenges will be to issue credentials for vehicles and roadside towers that will help improve safety and traffic flow. Since communications to vehicles will trigger driver alerts or even prompt actions such as braking, drivers must know they’re getting good information from an accredited source.

When so-called bad actors create problems by sending bogus signals, their credentials must be removed. Figuring out who will handle this data and ensure compliance is no small challenge. Credentials will have to be renewed periodically, so there will be some costs, and there are concerns about who controls all the information that’s collected.

“The federal government has no interest in managing such a database,” said Ravi Puvvala, CEO at Savari. “A third-party entity is needed to manage credentials.”

Confidentiality is an issue both for credentialing data as well as for information on where vehicles are and how fast they’re driving. Privacy groups will closely monitor deployment plans.

“When you talk to people in the private sector, they want to know where the data is going,” said Steve Cook, Engineer of Operations and Maintenance for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The combined challenges of ensuring safety, providing secure communications, and protecting privacy pose major ones, and they have not yet been fully addressed.

“When you receive a message from a roadside device or another vehicle, it’s important from a safety perspective to know that the data can be trusted,” Toyota's Kenney said. “Communications must occur without divulging too much information about the driver. This needs to be done in a way that won’t break the bank.”

Cost is always a critical issue for security in widespread deployments. One factor is that in any large deployment, multilayered protection provides the best results. However, each layer brings additional costs.

“We need several security walls, but we also need to find a cost-effective security solution,” said Andre Weimerskirch, President of Escrypt.

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