The smartphone is by far the most recognizable smart device in use today; virtually everyone everywhere has one. As a result, users have grown increasingly accustomed to the steady stream of new features and capabilities that roll out on a yearly basis, and even the glitches that are sure to follow. Fixing those issues has become as easy as installing a software update.
But what if the smart device in question were bigger and much more complex? And what if those glitches could be potentially life threatening? That’s the question many are asking these days about one of the largest and most complex smart devices on the market: the automobile.
Over the last several years, the automotive industry has invested heavily in advanced technologies and innovations at an unprecedented rate. No longer just a computer on wheels, modern vehicles are true IoT devices that are fully equipped with a range of sensors that monitor and provide data to other systems within the car and to its driver, as well as to people and infrastructure outside the car.
That availability of data and reliable connectivity is enhancing the driving experience by enabling advanced infotainment, sophisticated driving features, and proactive management of automobile components and performance. However, it comes at a price: Vehicles are now more complex than ever before and this presents many more opportunities for system issues or failures as well as more attack surfaces that make vehicles vulnerable to tampering and remote hacking.
Fortunately, there are techniques modern automotive engineers can use to minimize the risks that come with increasingly smart vehicles. Here are three key tips:
Sensors and wireless connectivity
Drivers and passengers require reliable vehicle connectivity for personal communications, social networking, vehicle diagnostics, software and firmware updates, and safety and security. Unfortunately, the increased number of in-car wireless devices can lead to connection and throughput issues.
To prevent such issues, wireless performance testing and in-car wireless verification are critical. In addition, testing multiple connection interactions and throughput performance is equally as important. Since testing is limited by the accuracy of the models used, ensuring transceiver structures and intercarrier interferences are modelled correctly is a must. Finally, test solutions that comply with all wireless standards, such as 3G, 4G, 5G, Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC, RKE and TPMS, should be used.
Safety and security
Consumers expect vehicles to be safe. They also expect any communication that takes place in the car, to the car and from the car to be secure. However, the combination of automated features with connected technologies introduces new safety and security risks. Having many different vehicle models and configurations further complicates the matter. For example, a high-end vehicle model can have more than 100 electronic control units (ECUs), 10 operating systems (OSes) and 130 million lines of code, all of which provide possible points of attack on the vehicle.
To address these potential risks, engineers must harden all critical components as well as the systems with which they are connected. Testing should include code audits, functional security tests, penetration and fuzz tests, vulnerability scans and side-channel analysis. Compliance with all current security standards is also a must.
Smart control and monitoring systems
To work properly, all-touch, multi-screen, and voice and gesture control systems will require multiple ECUs and domain control units (DCUs), buses and the ability to process large amounts of data. Multiple OSes might need to be running on the targeted hardware. The complexity that this creates increases the risk of faulty operation or even an outright failure.
To minimize such risks, complex instrumentation is required to test the ECUs and DCUs in an integrated manner. Tests must also be developed for simultaneous inputs and system actions that operate under a specified hierarchy. Testing should cover all combinations of expected uses as well as inconsistent or undefined inputs to ensure reliable operation. Finally, the cadence and ordering of tests must be constantly changed to ensure system robustness.
Many vehicles on the road today are smart and many more will be on the roadway soon. In fact, some analysts suggest that by 2020, virtually 90% of all vehicles will be connected through IoT.
This bodes well for drivers and passengers alike, but only if automotive engineers can address the added complexity, security and safety issues coming their way. In each case, performing the right type of testing with the right instrumentation — one that is accurate, flexible and tracks all relevant and emerging standards – will be essential.
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