Turning Drivers to Subscribers

It snowed last night in Detroit. Joanne is reluctant to take her new minivan out on the road. “It’s really a great car, but I don’t feel safe driving on the icy streets until I get more used to it.”

In the very near future, Joanne will be able to tap and swipe on a screen to order a new winter-tuning app. A few moments later, the app will adjust her car’s steering, brakes, engine performance, tire pressure and other functions to optimize for winter driving conditions. Joanne will feel much safer.

Operators of connected vehicles are changing from Drivers to Subscribers of automotive features but also opening themselves up to increasing connected vehicle vulnerabilitiesWe are on the verge of the next automotive revolution. We are about to enter the brave new world of vehicles that are able to optimize their own operation and maintenance as well as the convenience and comfort of their passengers.

Breath-taking Innovations are turning drivers into subscribers.

Digitization of the Vehicle

Over the last two decades, electronic control units (ECUs), automotive computers, have gradually replaced many of the mechanical and pneumatic control systems in vehicles. Today’s car has the computing power of 20 personal computers and processes 25 gigabytes of data an hour, the equivalent of 12 HD movies. A typical car now hosts more than 100 ECUs and the number is still growing. Orchestrated by more than 100 million lines of software, vehicular ECUs monitor and adjust numerous essential and other functions from spark-plug firing to suspension, from navigation to music channels.


During the same period, vehicles have become more connected both externally and internally. At this very moment, over 280 million cars and trucks are equipped with Internet access, mobile network communications and even wireless local area networks. This number will double in only the next few years. Connected vehicles are now able to act like PCs, sharing internet and cellular network access with other devices beyond the vehicle. They can upload performance and personal data and receive information about their surroundings automatically.

This of course means that connected vehicle vulnerabilities have grown to reflect this new connected era and connected car data protection has advanced at a rapid rate to meet these threats. 

The Customized Driving Experience

We are just about ready to consider the vehicle to be an endpoint (like a PC or mobile phone, but with real mobility) that can be instantly customized to the driver or fleet manager’s delight.

New features and functions are changing the roles of drivers but also opening new venues of connected vehicle vulnerabilities

The convergence of digitization and connectivity delivers awesome opportunities to generate exciting new revenue streams.

  1. Just a few months ago, Cummins introduced a new package of engine-connectivity options that allow fleet owners to update their trucks’ engines over the air (OTA) with updated calibrations from Cummins as well as their own customized tunings for boosting fuel economy and other applications.
  2. Porsche Connect enables a new level of human-vehicle interaction. Drivers can choose from a menu of downloadable apps at the Porsche Connect Store to add exciting new functions such as remote control of vehicle hybrid options, vehicle tracking and theft notification. Navigation and Infotainment services keep drivers informed of what is happening in the world in real time. Message Dictation reads messages aloud and, through the Voice Control feature, helps the driver construct a response without taking hands off the wheel. When the Porsche is in need of fuel, the Gas Station Location service automatically finds a station nearby and guides the driver to it. Connect services integrate seamlessly with smartphones and watches.
  3. Mercedes.me gathers all vehicle information and stores it in an app on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or other device. The remote service platform enables the driver to find a destination via an app on the smartphone and sends it to the vehicle’s navigation system, making the car ready for its journey even before the driver steps inside. Subscribers can also use Google Local Search or Point-of-Interest download to find nearby attractions and gas stations with the cheapest fuel. Other features include vehicle tracking and parental controls that allow parents to set travel zones and curfew reminders for their kids. Parents can also receive alerts if speed limits are exceeded.
  4. BMW is expanding into the market for pay-per-use car sharing with its ReachNow service. Currently being tested in Seattle, the service allows you to pick up a BMW somewhere and drop it off at your destination where it will be collected by BMW. The innovative company has also created an app to enable you to locate cars nearby enabling speedy and highly profitable pay-per-use.
  5. Volvo’s On Call service automatically alerts the emergency services if you’re involved in a serious accident. It automatically sends your GPS coordinates to the nearest first responders for help. Likewise in case of breakdown. Just press the help button and you’ll be connected to an operator.
  6. So far, I have listed only automotive manufacturer apps. However, mobile network operators are getting into the act, too. Vodafone has already created a popular mobile app that, among many other functions, enables a Geofence whereby alerts are sent to a mobile phone as a vehicle moves in and out of a user-definable zone, and Remote Engine Lock that aptly describes the feature.

Innovations are Turning Drivers into Subscribers

I could continue to list innovations, well, until the cars come home. There are so many ways to get into the act. Every car manufacturer and OEM is considering them. Lots of other companies and individuals, too. The connected vehicle and the acceleration of intra- and extra-vehicle communications have given rise to an exciting new industry that will soon mimic the breathtaking proliferation of mobile phone apps.

Drivers are turning into subscribers. Wise automotive manufacturers, OEMs and other players will employ this new and expanding concept to invent opportunities for new, ongoing revenue streams.

New Level of Connected Vehicle Vulnerabilities

Connectedness also opens connected vehicle vulnerabilities to a new level of risk. Downloading software to vehicles over the air opens them up to cyber attack. Manufacturers, OEMs and suppliers need to be acutely aware of the emerging cyber-threat landscape by reading GuardKnox’s review in our latest industry report, The Accelerating Cyber Security Threat Landscape in the Automotive Industry.

Enabling the Revolution

In our next blog, we will explain how the GuardKnox Secure Network Orchestrator™ (SNO) is the automotive cyber security enabler of the Drivers to Subscribers revolution.

The cyber security threat landscape for automotive market and connected vehicles cyber defense