Wednesday, 19 October 2016

What do car hackers really want?


There’s a lot of fear-mongering around the issue of automotive cybersecurity, following some high-profile instances of hackers gaining control of a car’s steering and acceleration.

But a growing number of experts say creating havoc on the roads is not the primary threat from car hackers. They may be after something much more mundane: your money.

“Hacking into a car and controlling it without visuals would be a psychotic thing to do; few people would want to do that,” said Craig Smith, a security research director at Rapid7, a cybersecurity company. “The ones that would invest a lot of time and energy are usually after data.”

Primarily financial data.

Criminal hacking attempts are a certainty in the future connected-car environment, said Di Ma, a professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. However, since most cases of vehicle hacks so far have been by researchers, it’s difficult to predict the manner and severity of real-world criminal hacks.

Security experts have an idea of what attracts hackers, based on what they can surmise from hackers’ current capabilities and the kinds of threats other connected industries have dealt with. Only a minority of criminals would be motivated by physical attacks — money will be a much stronger motivator, said Andre Weimerskirch, vice president of cybersecurity at Lear Corp.

“Attackers will try to find exploits that provide a financial incentive, and it seems that safety-critical attacks don’t provide any obvious monetary return,” Weimerskirch wrote in an email to Automotive News.

Here’s what hackers could do for money, according to Weimerskirch:

• Remotely unlock a vehicle and steal it.

• Charge drivers ransom in exchange for regaining control of their car.

• Crack into cellphones connected via USB ports and steal credit card information, or use location data and apps to break into the driver’s home.

Vehicle connectivity also can help hackers locate police cars or listen to conversations via Bluetooth microphone, Smith said.

“Conversations in the back of a limo can hold a lot of value,” he wrote. “That’s much more interesting for an attacker.”

Many cars on the road today have the ability to wirelessly communicate both internally between vehicle components and externally with other devices such as cellphones and laptops. In 2020, IHS Automotive estimates, 55 percent of new vehicles sold globally will be connected, and about half of cars on the road will have some level of connectivity.

Connectivity makes cars vulnerable to outside hacks. Though the number of connected vehicles has grown quickly, only about 40 percent of automakers have a dedicated cybersecurity unit, according to a survey conducted by McKinsey & Co., and less than half of automakers said their cybersecurity team was well-prepared to handle hacking threats. Nearly 85 percent rated their exposure risk to cybersecurity threats at medium to high.

To defend against attacks, automakers need to constantly monitor vehicles for software bugs and potential weaknesses and be able to “triage” issues as they appear via processes such as over-the-air updates, Smith said. Open communication within the industry also can help automakers identify potential vulnerabilities before they are exploited by a hacker.

“Vehicles are now mainly software,” he said. But it will be impossible to prevent every problem, he said. “Even if you do everything right, something could have a bug in it somewhere down the road.”

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Geely prepares launch of new car brand

A visitor looks at a Geely NL-3 at the Moscow auto show in August. Photo credit: Bloomberg

The brand’s cars are expected to go on sale first in China next year and later in Europe and the U.S.

The brand will be used to launch the first vehicle based on the Compact Modular Architecture platform developed by Geely and Swedish automaker Volvo, which Geely acquired from Ford Motor six years ago.

The new middle market brand will compete in China with Chinese-foreign venture cars such as those produced by General Motors and SAIC Motor Corp. — leaving Volvo to focus on the luxury end and Geely to go up against domestic producers.

The brand is codenamed “L” representing Lynk & Co, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. It has already launched a holding website, showing next week’s launch date.

Geely declined to comment.

The website — — shares Internet license and other registration details with Geely and China Euro Vehicle Technology, a subsidiary that coordinates research and development with Volvo. The site does not, though, provide details on the brand or cars.

“As you have seen on the Lynk & Co website, CEVT is indeed the company behind this website and it’s no secret that it is developing the CMA platform for Geely Auto,” said Stefan Lundin, a CEVT spokesman based in Sweden.

Lundin said Lynk & Co would launch on Oct. 20 in Berlin, but declined to elaborate on the nature of the venture.

Lynk & Co will enter a tough Chinese auto market where the car industry has struggled with slowing economic growth since last year. Geely has weathered the slowdown better than most, with sales of its feature-packed cars growing for 16 consecutive months to September.

Launching a new car brand can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, according to James Chao, Asia-Pacific chief for IHS Markit Automotive.

The brand will launch with an SUV and sedan is also under development for the new brand, sources told Reuters in April, The marque’s cars would first be sold in China and later in the U.S. and Europe, the sources said.

The cars will be sold through Geely’s existing dealership network in China, said one individual with direct knowledge of the plan. New factories will be set up to make cars for the new brand and once it is established in China it will export to other markets, the person said.

A separate Lynk & Co website posted to its official Weibo account announces a contest to guess what future modes of transportation might be. “What can cars still bring us? What new possible means of travel will tomorrow bring?”

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Volvo sees Microsoft HoloLens speeding up car development

TORSLANDA, Sweden — Volvo has given a small group of its engineers “superpowers” that it believes its rivals currently cannot match.

The roughly 15 car developers based at Volvo’s global headquarters here near Gothenburg have the ability to see through walls of steel and turn an engine upside down with one finger.

This is possible because Volvo says it is the first automaker to test Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality goggles as a tool, one that could dramatically speed up car development, which would help the automaker meet its goal of reducing the time it takes to develop a new model to 20 months by 2020 from 30 months now.

Volvo let Automotive News Europe test and interact with the technology (see video of how it works below).

Retail-centric first use

Volvo has spent much of this year letting customers in Europe, Russia and China test the goggles.

This retail-centric first use of the technology has given the Swedish automaker a chance to provide customers with demonstrations of its safety feature and its new semi-autonomous driving technology using actual-size 3-D holograms of models such as the new S90 sedan.

After fielding numerous suggestions on what else it should do with the technology, Volvo decided to put it into the hands of the people shaping the company’s future.

“We wanted a complimentary tool that engineers could use to develop cars,” said Loris Cwyl, who is a team manager and business developer on Volvo’s digital & connectivity consumer services unit.

Cwyl leads a team of eight software developers who have created something Volvo’s engineers say helps speed up problem solving.

He said one example is that during a typical meeting it could take 10 minutes to explain a problem because someone in the room might have trouble understanding the verbal description. With the HoloLens, the person can see the problem first hand in the exact location where it exists.

Cecilia Larsson, Volvo’s vice president of body and trim engineering, sees another advantage.

“It is possible to bring new people up to speed on a project almost immediately because they can see exactly what the team is working on,” Larsson said while viewing a hologram of part of the XC90’s exhaust system with journalists and another member of the small team that has gotten to work with the technology, Pontus Johansson, who is Volvo’s director of geometry concept and integration.

One of Johansson’s responsibilities is to make sure that everything fits. If it doesn’t, sometimes he and his team have to make adjustments. It is a constant give and take that he believes can only improve as Volvo looks for ways to expand its use of augmented reality in the development process.

“It is impossible to make beautiful premium cars without interaction between engineering and design,” he said, adding that he thinks the HoloLen can promote closer collaboration between all of the different contributors to the product that ends up in dealer showrooms.

Said Cwyl: “When we show this to engineers they are ecstatic about the potential.”

Volvo pointed out that it will not replace physical models of its thousands of components with AR versions, but its engineers will be using the HoloLen for some development work in the future. The company is evaluating to what degree this will happen and how it might be able to expand the us of AR even further in the future.

“This is still a prototype,” Cwyl said, “but we already see multiple business cases.”

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Saturday, 8 October 2016

We drove the Aston Martin Vanquish and it’s a $300,000 piece of automotive art

Vanquish 55Hollis Johnson

There are cars, and then there are Aston Martins. The boutique British sports car maker doesn’t build transportation —  it is a purveyor of automotive art. And though they may not all be as striking as the Vulcan hypercar or as classically beautiful as the Aston Martin DB5, Aston Martins have always been stylish, powerful, and attention-grabbing. So much so that Aston is the car of choice for the world’s most famous fictional super spy. No, we’re not talking about Jason Bourne or Austin Powers.

At the top of the Aston Martin hierarchy is their flagship grand tourer, the Vanquish. The multimillion-dollar Vulcan is a limited-edition, track-only offering to 23 customers, and the Lagonda Taraf is, well, a Lagonda. The Vanquish is a car we’ve had our eye on. Last year, we named the Aston one of the most beautiful news cars money can buy.

Earlier this year, Business Insider had the opportunity to check out a 2016 Vanquish for a few days. Aston Martin delivered the silver super GT to our New York office one afternoon, and from the moment we laid eyes on the Vanquish, it was hard to turn away.

Photos by Hollis Johnson unless otherwise credited.

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VW names new crossover ‘Atlas’

The Atlas, pictured during road tests, will be the first U.S.-built model on VW’s modular transverse matrix platform architecture, known as “MQB.” Series production is slated to begin late this year ahead of its U.S. sales debut next spring.

WASHINGTON — Volkswagen has given the name “Atlas” to the new midsize crossover that will shoulder the burden of reviving the brand’s fortunes in the U.S., according to Automobilwoche, the German-language affiliate of Automotive News.

The name has been a closely guarded secret ever since the vehicle was previewed by the CrossBlue concept at the 2013 Detroit auto show. VW plans to reveal the Atlas — a seven-passenger, three-row crossover to be built in Chattanooga — on Oct. 27 at a media event in Santa Monica, Calif.

VW filed trademark applications for the name with the U.S. government in April.

The choice shows that VW Group of America CEO Hinrich Woebcken made good on his pledge in July that the midsize crossover would get a “much easier to pronounce, American-style name” than VW’s other crossovers, and one that’s unique to the North American market.

The name also breaks with VW’s convention of assigning its crossover models names beginning with the letter “T” like the Tiguan and Touareg before it.

“Two or three years ago, it would’ve been a no-go that the region decides an individual name,” Woebcken said in July. “This is already an early sign that Wolfsburg is willing to let go.”

A VW spokeswoman declined to comment on “speculation” about the name.

The Atlas will be the first U.S.-built model on VW’s modular transverse matrix platform architecture, known as “MQB.” Series production is slated to begin late this year ahead of its U.S. sales debut next spring.

VW’s product-starved dealers have eagerly awaited the arrival of the Atlas to give them a competitive entry in the hot crossover market and help them climb out of a slump that has deepened since the diesel emissions scandal erupted in September 2015.

The Atlas will have three rows of seats, for seven occupants.

VW’s Tiguan compact crossover is pricey and smaller than its segment competitors. The larger Touareg is a more upscale offering that is out-of-step with the mainstream positioning of VW’s higher-volume models like the Passat and Jetta.

After the Atlas arrives, a redesigned, larger Tiguan compact crossover goes on sale in mid-2017, giving VW fresh entries in two of the industry’s largest segments.

Through September, VW’s U.S. sales totaled 231,268, down 12 percent from a year earlier.

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Volvo to debut car-to-car communication this year

Volvo’s cloud-based car-to-car communication system will be offered on all of its 90 series cars, including the new V90 Cross Country (shown).

Volvo will launch car-to-car communication in its top model line in Europe before the end of the year, joining Mercedes-Benz and Toyota on a shortlist of automakers offering systems that allow vehicles to exchange information, giving the driver advanced warning about poor road conditions or obstacles further ahead.

The Swedish automaker earlier this month released details on its of its cloud-based solution at the launch of the new V90 Cross Country, which it just one of the models that will offer the technology.

“All vehicles in the 90 series – the S90, V90 and XC90 — will be equipped with it as of the end of this year,” Volvo Senior Vice President for r&d Peter Mertens toldAutomotive News Europe.

Mercedes announced in January that the E class would be its first series-production model with fully integrated car-to-car communication. Mercedes’ system is already active in combination with the Comand Online infotainment system and is available in 20 European markets, the U.S. and China.

Mercedes’ and Volvo’s technology differs from the system that Toyota debuted in the Crown last year in Japan. Variants of Toyota’s midsize luxury sedan that are equipped with its so-called intelligent transportation system (ITS) transmit data between cars and the infrastructure using a 760-megahertz frequency.

The Crown can “talk” with similarly equipped cars as well as receive warnings sent by emergency vehicles and information about a traffic light that is about to change from the transportation infrastructure.

Slippery road ahead

Volvo’s solution, which it co-developed with Swedish telecom company Ericsson, will be able to send and receive warnings on slick roads and other hazards.

The slippery-road alert is activated based on road-friction information from the car’s steering, braking and acceleration sensors.

The other warning is activated when the hazard lights are used, giving connected motorists a pre-warning about oncoming problems or a vehicle that is stuck in a dangerous position.

This image shows how Volvo’s slippery road alert will function.

“We use a cloud-based system so we don’t need to have a direct link between the vehicles,” Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said while presenting the technology. “It allows us to analyze the information and to look for the ideal distribution to other cars.” A data connection to the internet in the car is required for the system to work.

More countries, more rivals

Volvo’s system is similar to the one Mercedes uses in the E class, although Volvo executives say its solution uses a self-developed protocol. Mertens added that the technology will become more useful over time.

“Of course, it will be better when all cars are using a similar system,” he said. “We will introduce it in the coming generations of our vehicles as well.” Mertens added that the new system will be rolled out in other countries but declined to elaborate.

Other automakers working on similar systems include Cadillac, Audi and Jaguar Land Rover.

Cadillac aims to launch car-to-car communication in some of its 2017 models sold in the U.S. Audi is offering the Q7 and A4 with vehicle-to-infrastructure systems in so-called “smart cities” in the U.S. that include Las Vegas, Nevada, and Seattle, Washington. Cars with the system will display a countdown before a red light turns green and also will offer a countdown showing when it is too late to get through an approaching intersection before the light turns red.

Jaguar Land Rover will start real-time testing of car-to-car systems in the UK and in the U.S. city of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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