The smart money is betting that sales of smart cars will explode, but concerns about privacy, cybersecurity, average sticker price and embedded vs. smart phone connectivity are also growing as connected cars move from the realm of science fiction to everyday fact.
Although most drivers can’t afford the $55,000 average cost of today’s connected car, many analysts believe prices will fall significantly in the next few years. As a result, Gartner predicts that 250 million connected cars will be rolling on the world’s roads by 2020, while a BI Intelligence report forecasts that 75 percent of the 92 million cars shipped globally in 2020 will be built with internet connection hardware.
IHS Automotive predicted that in 2015 nearly twenty percent of all cars sold globally will include some connectivity.
Despite the higher price, consumers are already sold on the benefits of cars with in-vehicle technology. Thirty-nine percent of car buyers say such technology is a top selling point, according to a study by Accenture. This is more than twice the number (14 percent) who say “traditional” performance measures such as power and speed are their top priority.
For now, the technology connecting smart cars to the Internet (and often Wi-Fi) is split between systems embedded by the auto manufacturers and those driven by devices such as smart phones. Most analysts believe embedded connectivity will eventually dominate, especially as prices decline, because it will let automakers and insurers collect key performance, safety and driving data. In the short term, however, many consumers will probably rely on smartphones to access features and functions that include infotainment, remote door unlocking, navigation systems, weather and traffic alerts and problem-diagnosis tools.
Despite widespread optimism about the enhanced safety and convenience promised by connected cars, the federal government and some consumer groups worry that the vast amounts of data collected and transmitted between various parties could threaten individual privacy and even safety.
Recently, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee issued letters to 17 carmakers and the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration requesting details of the cybersecurity measures they plan to take to prevent hackers from accessing smart cars’ safety and communications systems. In addition to fears that hackers could collect personal information stored in the cars, some people worry that criminals could actually wrest control of smart cars, disabling critical systems such as brakes and steering.
Although these fears might sound like something invented by a Hollywood screenwriter, researchers affiliated with the Center for Automotive Embedded Systems demonstrated in 2010 that it’s possible to take over all of a car’s vital systems. In 2011, the same researchers showed how to remotely take control of a vehicle through its telematics systems. Just this past Friday, Fiat Chrysler announced it will recall 1.4 million cars and trucks to protect them from hacking after Wired magazine did a piece on how hackers could remotely hijack a Jeep over the internet.
In response to concerns about the unregulated collection and sharing of sensitive personal data by legitimate companies, Triple A has proposed a sort of Bill of Consumer Rights to the Federal Transportation Commission. They proposed that consumers receive the right to know what information is collected and how it’s used, the right to decide whether to share certain data, and the right to expect that their vehicles’ data systems are protected against unauthorized access.