Data protection and integration: Connected vehicles on a crash course


Europe is well on its way to experiencing the benefits of connected vehicles. Mercedes recently unveiled the F-015 self-driving luxury concept car. Not to be outdone, rival BMW successfully demonstrated an autonomous version of the M6 on a racetrack. Volvo, Audi, Renault, and Volkswagen all have similar prototypes.

While self-driving passenger cars have the amazing ability to reduce accidents, traffic and emissions, and increase fuel economy, autonomous trucks have the added benefit that they can significantly boost the bottom line for businesses. In addition to preventing accidents and reducing fuel consumption, connected vehicles can improve productivity for entire fleets. Even a small increase in efficiency can make a big difference. Transporting 18 billion tons of goods per year, trucks deliver 75% of all goods carried over land in Europe.

Connected fleets

Trucking companies are already using real-time data collected from truck sensors to optimise operations. In December, Scania, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of trucks and buses for heavy transport applications, supplied its 100,000th truck with activated connectivity, which enables Scania’s offices to perform remote diagnostics and to coach drivers to drive safer with more fuel efficiency.

Last May, Daimler revealed the world’s first officially recognised self-driving truck, which should be in commercial use within a decade.  

Although there are many financial benefits to implementing connected vehicles, the excessive costs can stand in the way. Last month, Sandeep Kar, global director of research, automotive and transportation for global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, noted in a presentation that “connected vehicle” technology – a key stepping stone to “autonomous vehicle” operation – will add $18,000 to the base cost of Class 8 trucks by 2025.

In addition, in order for fleet managers to experience the full benefit of connected vehicles, there needs to be a clear method for protecting and sharing all of the data that is being generated.

Safeguards for protecting data

The owner of all this vehicle data is still unclear and leaving data unprotected could present a security risk to trucking companies.   

There are several different types of devices, sensors, controllers and applications that need to share data, creating the risk that operational data can be lost. Truck consoles are used for dispatching, routing information, GPS systems, diagnostics and service records. Information about temperature, humidity and other environmental conditions is monitored in order to protect sensitive cargo. And security sensors send alerts when a back door is left open indicating possible theft.

In contrast, product, customer, and financial information is typically accessed and added using handheld devices. For example with direct store delivery, truck operators use mobile devices to check order status, perform credit checks, check inventories and order merchandise. All of these systems need to interface with CRM, ERP and financial systems at headquarters.  

To track activity for each vehicle, all this information from consoles, mobile devices, and back office systems needs to be integrated. If third-party trucking companies are used, all these information flows become even more complicated as each vehicle could be used to transport goods for several different companies.

The best way to ensure that connected vehicles operate safely is to provide a mechanism for secure and streamlined  data integration between back office systems and end user devices. In addition, it is essential to include safeguards to prevent data loss and to prevent hackers from interfering and causing accidents, misdirection or other mischief.

Connected vehicles are already here, and autonomous vehicles are the wave of the future. In addition to providing new efficiencies, exposing all the related data presents huge vulnerabilities. Besides a future scare of autonomous trucks going out of control with potentially disastrous results, the loss of financial and logistics information in today’s connected vehicles could lead to theft, fines and a loss of a company’s reputation. The key data security principles of encryption-at-rest and encryption-in-transit have taken on new meaning. With all the risks involved, organizations need to rethink their integration security and data ownership strategies carefully before connected trucks become autonomous vehicles and are let loose on the highway.

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