Writing for Semiconductor Engineering, Ann Steffora Mutschler observes that under the hood, modern vehicles barely resemble their predecessors from a few decades ago.
“There are sophisticated safety and drivetrain monitoring features, software for interpreting and interacting with the outside world and modifying the inside environment, and a host of features that might have seemed impossible or even ridiculous in the past,” she explained. “And there’s much more to come.”
According to Mutschler, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are at the heart of such advanced technology, which is designed to provide drivers with unprecedented levels of safety, comfort and infotainment. As expected, a plethora of sensors make ADAS possible, including image and camera sensors for vision-based applications, ultrasonic sensors for short-range features such as parking assist, along with radar sensors.
“All of this computing and connectivity adds some new wrinkles to automobiles, as well, notably around security,” Mutschler noted. “One [specific] area that has not been well thought out is obsolescence.”
Paul Kocher, chief scientist of Rambus’ Cryptography Research division, expressed similar sentiments.
“For a cell phone, most of them get replaced in two to four years,” he told Semiconductor Engineering during a recent interview with the publication. “For durable goods and automobiles, you’re looking at a 20- to 30-year lifespan in many cases. [This] means whatever technologies get put in, at least from a hardware perspective, cannot be inexpensively changed over that lifespan.”
In addition, says Kocher, the software is somewhat difficult to maintain on a long-term basis.
“The development teams and the tools are quite expensive to keep together. So there are a lot of challenges and threats when you put a device online,” he explained. “One is that your device can be breached from the outside. The other is that your device can pose a threat to other devices over the network.”
Nevertheless, Kocher acknowledged that there are a number of benefits associated with connected cars going online.
“You can see maps online and you can get firmware updates. But you also have a set of risks that you create. Ultimately, if those risks exceed the benefit of connectivity, then the online product is not going to be better than the traditional one,” he added.
The full text of “Sensors Enable ADAS” is available on Semiconductor Engineering here.