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Driving in the Cloud

The technology deployed in the auto industry

Victor Cruz has actually touched on a few interesting points in his article “Safe Driving in the Cloud: A Black Box for Cars”.

The fact is that car companies have lately shifted their focus towards increasing security for passengers and drivers altogether and that is why they came up with the idea of introducing a black box for cars. This might be a bit strange as many people have said, but the reasons to why they came to this decision are actually very solid.

For instance, when an aircraft crashes, investigators will eventually be able to retrieve the data that was recorded during flight and analyze what actually went wrong. It’s a measure that has helped with designing safer airplanes and as a result, save people’s lives. Now, getting back to the black box itself, the box is not actually black.

It will only be black after the investigators retrieve it from the charred remains. From a statistical point of view, plane crashes are much rarer than car crashes, so why wouldn’t car manufacturers decide to introduce a black box in each and every vehicle they make? After all, it’s a legitimate reason.

The first automobile black box
In an attempt to help with reducing the number of accidents that take place and also find out more about the reasons they happen, a Japanese company known as Crew Systems developed a data recorder that is compatible not only with trucks, but also cars. This is already great business in Japan and most of the times it’s companies that use more than five vehicles required to consider using a black box on all of their cars. There is even a law that obliges such business owners to consider this, because the police, based on the data they gather from the black boxes, will manage producing daily reports on the drivers’ driving habits.

The black box Crew Systems created is comprised of a video camera that will record driver behavior data and also his GPS location. Even better, it’s designed in such a way that it can capture high quality audio and video in real time. Next, all of the data will reach on a server in the cloud where the data is properly assessed and then records of safe driving rankings are pumped out.

The usage of black boxes is not limited to car accidents only, because with so much data recorded, they immediately become a resource for highlighting unsafe driving practices. If black boxes were to be used on a large part of the vehicles in the United States, parents will undoubtedly demand that they will also make their way into the school buses. As a result, who bullied who and who is at fault for other types of incidents happening in the school bus is going to be as clear as black on white.

There are many cities out there which are using video images for capturing traffic accidents that happen at intersections and it seems that they have a massive level of importance for insurance claims and as evidence in legal cases. However, in order for this type of data to be used as legal evidence, individuals need to prove that the data has not been tampered with.

The hardest challenge
For the Japanese company, it seems that one of the biggest challenges they had to go though was proving their data’s integrity so that it can be used in court as legal evidence if need be. The challenge lied in guaranteeing that the data wasn’t altered in any way and they also needed to offer ways to easily trace and also time stamp the vehicle’s black box as the data it contains was transferred to the cloud. In order to make this possible, Crew Systems had to team up with GuardTime, which basically has a mathematically based keyless signature.

Founder of Presence Networks, Simon Bloomfield says that the company doesn’t make use of cryptographic keys. This is because in a cloud environment, key infrastructure doesn’t work, because the operator can easily access the computer memory where the keys are stored. However, the integration becomes a very simple coding exercise when key management is taken out of the equation. And because the hassle and cost is reduced to a fraction of competing solutions thanks to GuardTime, the immediate question would regard the reason why individuals wouldn’t want to sign all of their data.

Well, even though the algorithms under the hood are quite complex, when it comes to the application it can be easily applied. So what GuardTime did was to offer a timestamp by a local client to each document or file and offering them a unique signature which would be very simple to verify against code or string that’s publicly available. Even better, individuals don’t need to worry about trusting any third parties for ensuring that secured storage is ensured for their secret keys. More to that, it’s also very much useful for verifying the integrity of any type of digital information, whether it’s a batch of files, documents, E-mails and the likes.

Because all the data is signed by using keyless signatures, the service will basically vouch that no one or nothing will tamper with the data regardless of how it is stored or transmitted in the cloud, because it was signed. And because of this great combination of verification and cloud service which has nothing to do with sharing data, Crew is able to boast with a real bumper to bumper insurance policy.

Sales
In total, a few thousand black boxes have been already sold, mostly to logistics companies, constructions companies and daycare centers. However, the company is very confident in it success and it estimates that it will manage selling around ten thousand units per annum to enterprises with large vehicle fleets, disaster stricken areas, companies leading reconstruction projects and industrial waste disposal operators.

Cars with integrated operating systems
With cars moving towards a more modern version, there are many manufacturers that actually focus on implementing a car OS in order to make them more reliable, more attractive, more fun and easier to drive and use. However, it seems that this is currently a market that’s not as developed as one might expect, with some of the major players involving Microsoft, Linux and QNX.

Microsoft’s OS is the most popular of the bunch and it’s already present in around 2,5 million Ford vehicles. One of the outstanding features it has is its speech technology called Tellme allows users to easily send SMS without using their hands. There are quite a few benefits car operating systems offer (especially the autonomous ones) and they include:

  • Improved safety
  • Quality payload tracking
  • Controllable and highly efficient performance
  • Reduced running costs and maintenance

However, not everything’s pink about car operating systems and some of their disadvantages number:

  • An increased driver distraction
  • Possibility of software errors

Due to the use of drive recorders, companies will be able to take a higher level of responsibility for driving safety and also be in compliance with the laws which are becoming more and more stringent.

Even better, GuardTime fully ensures that the data is credible and reliable. When cloud technology emerged, no one has predicted that it could be used for such interesting projects that eventually lead to safer roads for everyone.

Article inspired by Victor’s original article i naddition to my personal concernfor our safety in traffic after hearing some crazy stuff guys at Klosters smash repairs seeing on a daily basis.

Hope you enjoyed!

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Chris Pentago is an experienced web developer/designer and computer geek interested in key IT to make your online business perform. During his career he has worked for some of the biggest Australian brands.

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