Cars are on their way to becoming the new smartphone.
There’s already been a slew of new in-car technology over the last year. There’s good reason why. One in six adults already have a voice-activated speaker, a recent survey by National Public Media and Edison Research polling company concluded. In fact, there’s been a 128% increase in usage of devices like Amazon’s
Alexa and Google Home
since January 2017. And one-third say they would like to see voice-activated technology in cars.
Ford added Amazon’s Alexa voice service to its cars in 2017. General Motors
announced a partnership starting in early 2017 that added the data capabilities of IBM Watson to expand “OnStar AtYourService,” service that reminds drivers of tasks like picking up a child or giving food recommendations. Mercedes-Benz announced in 2017 that its 2016 and 2017 vehicles can connect with Amazon and Google digital voice assistants.
Why are there more in-car apps and gadgets?
There’s a reason payment and technology companies want to put more gadgets in cars. Drivers are making up to $212 billion in purchases while commuting, using a combination of their own smartphones and “connected” cars, which are outfitted with Wi-Fi access, in-car apps that drivers access through a dashboard screen and voice-activated technology. That’s according to a survey out this month from Visa
and the payments website PYMNTS.com.
Drivers want all the bells and whistles. About 66% of people who currently make mobile order-ahead purchases said they would do that more often if they had the ability to make the purchase within the vehicle instead of from a phone-based app, the Visa and PYMNTS.com survey. Those types of connected car services are “a classic convenience play,” said Michelle Evans, the digital consumer manager at Euromonitor International, a market-research firm.
What kind of information could be tracked?
Vehicle technology is connected to the internet in so many ways, including Wi-Fi networks, mobile devices, apps, GPS and OnStar, it gives hackers more ways in, said Adam Levin, the chairman and founder of security firm CyberScout. Hackers who can take over cars through vulnerabilities in their systems can perform tasks from changing the cars’ radios to driving them off the road. “We have an obligation to ourselves to practice strong personal cyber hygiene,” he said.
In 2015, cybersecurity researchers demonstrated that they were able to take control of a Jeep Cherokee remotely, by hacking into its entertainment system through a cellular network. Fiat Chrysler have had to recall 1.4 million connected vehicles when researchers determine they are “hackable.” They were able to take over dashboard functions, including steering, transmission and brakes. The owners were sent a USB drive with a software update.
“Imagine a cybercriminal who can commandeer your car and take you for a dangerous joy ride by locking your doors to imprison you,” Levin said. What’s more, the greater connectivity cars provide allows businesses to gather information about behavioral and personal actions, he said. The government and businesses still have to develop security and privacy protocols, he said, but as more consumers use their own in-car technology, they will have to protect themselves.
Will self-driving cars provide more safety?
One serious factor: Many in-car apps require touch, not voice commands, so they’re not much better than texting while driving. Texting has been regularly named as one of the leading causes of car accidents. Consumers may feel more ready to embrace the technology when more connected vehicles are voice-enabled, Evans said. “Removing the need for consumers to use their hands is clearly important if you’re trying to drive.” Plus, it’s hard to swipe and drive.
But voice-activated gadgets come with their own risks. Many in-built features are so distracting they should not be enabled while a vehicle is in motion, according to a study released last year by University of Utah researchers. The study, led by psychology professor David Strayer, found in-vehicle information systems — including SatNav, MP3 players, radios, cellphones and messaging devices — take drivers’ attention off the road for too long to be safe, much like texting.