Communicating Cars and Cyber Security

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are rapidly approaching, and set to impact most forms of transport. AVs today operate independently via on-board sensors, improving safety by eliminating human errors from fatigue, bad judgements, and the general limitations of our main human sensors – our eyes.

Fusion Network’s managing director Andrew Gurr attended the ITS World Congress in Copenhagen in September, collecting updates about V2X communications and cyber security developments relating to intelligent transport.

It is understandable that suspicion prevails about the reliability of computers controlling our vehicles, and in doing so the safety of our loved ones. Tests being conducted today do confirm that modern sensors and computers using artificial intelligence (AI) are faster at reacting to most emergency situations than humans.

Tests being conducted today do confirm that modern sensors and computers using artificial intelligence (AI) are faster at reacting to most emergency situations than humans. Autonomous cars use cameras, radars and Lidars, which provide 360-degree vision, combined with processing of thousands of pieces of information to allow AVs to make split decisions continuously about what they can see via their on-board sensors.

Additional opportunities for increased safety and traffic efficiency are possible by allowing cars to communicate with each other, as well as receive information from road authorities. This additional communication is called vehicle to X (V2X). Vehicle 2 Infrastructure (V2I) has been in use around the world for many years, enabling cars to be alerted to information such as incidents, vehicle behaviour and road conditions such as road works, closures and possible delays. Live information from cars and infrastructure would allow autonomous cars to consider alternative routes, react quicker to incidents and inform passengers.

Two primary methods of V2X are being developed by standards committees and manufacturers around the world. These are DSRC (dedicated short-range communications) and 5G mobile. DSRC is available today, and being deployed primarily in America for V2C, where half of all US states have or are in the process of deploying some form of DSRC. DSRC operates in the 5.9 GHz radio frequency spectrum and is only suitable for short distances. It requires onboard units in vehicles (OBUs), and road-side units (RSU) which talk to each other. Europe and Asia have different spectrums for DSRC. 5G is touted as the next V2X and smart city disruption technology.

5G networks are being built to handle the proliferation of internet connected devices (IoT). Imbedded in the 5G standard is an intelligent transport communication standard, developed by the 3GPP standardisation group. On July 16, the 3GPP group released the first 5G specification, release 15. 5G manufacturers are now working to build and test the first versions of this standard, with full trials likely during 2019- 2020. 5G will be faster, more reliable, and allow vehicles to communicate at far greater distances than DSRC, and without any road-side infrastructure.

Unfortunately, just like DSRC, 5G spectrum is allocated differently in each region, meaning cars won’t operate without changes between regions. The spectrum committees are, however, seeking to standardise the use of frequencies around the world. It is unclear if this will happen or when it is agreed. Underlying developments in DSCRC and 5G require new controls around cyber security, that manage the communication to and from vehicles. The risk of a hacker gaining control over an AV is significant.

For that reason, work is under way in most regions to develop systems that authorise communication between vehicles. This is called a Security Credential Management System (SCMS). A SCMS hands out certificates that control the ability of vehicles to communicate with each other, while protecting the privacy of each vehicle.

Each region is, however, developing its own system. The Department of Transport in the USA and the European Union, for example, have both developed and published slightly different SCMS frameworks. Like 5G, cyber security trials are being readied in various places around the world, supporting the slow but increasing pace of development towards safe and connected AV journeys.

This article written by Andrew Gurr appeared in EVTALK.CO.NZ Monthly Magazine, October 2018, Volume 3, Issue 2, 

Next year’s ITS World Congress is in Singapore. ITS NZ says it will soon be announcing its activity for that event.

Meanwhile, an IEEE ITS conference will be held in Auckland from October 27-30 next year, expected to attract ITS representatives globally.