Tuesday 17th September 2019

The cyber security vehicle in front is a Honeywell Turbo with ‘intelligent defences’

Published on June 13th, 2018

Now that connected cars are software-driven, should we expect them to suddenly freeze on the motorway or poodle along at 30mph in the overtaking lane? Don’t you hate it when that happens? At the moment, these incidents are caused by software – i.e. the human mentality to sit in the same lane.

Cristina Segal, Honeywell Turbo’s VP of connected car solutions, won’t tolerate any middle lane hoggers. Her mission is to develop intelligent defences that anticipate all problems and nip them in the bud. If a car begins to act abnormally, and the danger is automatically snuffed out, we will have Segal to thank for the artificial intelligence that protected the passengers from evil, says Nick Booth, freelance IT and communications writer.

Segal describes her job as the creation of systems for the real time management of health of the car. It’s also about protection from terror threats too.

But it’s going to be a massive challenge to keep the cars moving. Let’s hope she succeeds in her mission to make security an invisible force field that we never notice.

Microsoft vs GM

Years ago, there was a testy exchange between Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates and the boss of General Motors, that resonates with our fears about connected cars.

Gates had claimed that car makers had much to learn from the IT industry, with its rapid development cycle and fast evolution of products. “If General Motors had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 (€21.27) cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon,” said the Microsoft CEO, rather pompously.

The car industry responded by listing how cars would let you down if running on Windows. Twice a week, for no apparent reason, your car would crash – and whenever they repainted the lines on the road, you’d have to buy a new one.

With each new model, buyers would have to learn to drive all over again, because the new controls wouldn’t operate like the old ones.

The car’s airbags would ask: “Are you sure?” before firing and only explode into action after your head had hit the dashboard.

The most devastating critiques alluded to the unreliability of the ‘computer car’. Random acts, like turning left, could cause the car to shut down and refuse to restart unless you re-installed the engine. Occasionally your car would die on the motorway for no reason, they predicted. You would just accept this, restart and drive on.

Cars in the cloud

Nick Booth

You cannot hear about the work of Cristina Segal without being reminded of these nightmare scenarios. Segal points out, for example, that cloud connections would mean cars can be constantly updated with the latest anti-virus software. Segal is dedicated to protecting the car from all the deadly traps and dirty tricks that car-hackers will play. Which is great and let’s hope she succeeds. But you can’t help wondering how high maintenance connected cars will be.

What if you just want to jump in the car and take someone to hospital? Will the car be im-mobilised while you want for the latest download and reboot to complete?

Cyber security software will recognise when a car is being driven unusually. But how does it know if the car’s been hacked or there’s an expectant mother in the back?

Thanks goodness for people like Cristina Segal, who can take on responsibilities like this.

The author of this blog is Nick Booth, freelance IT and communications writer

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