Automotive CybersecurityConnected VehicleInterviews

The future of automotive industry is digital: Walid Negm

Walid Negm
Chief Technology Officer

Can you share your industry journey so far?

I’ve come full circle. My graduate studies were in computer engineering that blended computer science and VLSI. After spending 20 years in the software arena—we now see the hardware/software bluring full force. Wearables, augmented reality and everything—litterally everything will have a chip inside. It’s an exciting future.

How digital intelligent services have disrupted the traditional automotive industry in the recent few years?

Automotive manufacturers are entering the unknown. According to a survey by Frog (an Aricent’s global product and design unit) 30% of car owners would give up their car before their smart phone. App-based car services are using data to optimize traffic flow, save riders’ money and save lives. In-car digital experiences are forcing OEM’s to rethink who they are. Connectivity in cars allows drivers to get more information about maintenance and diagnostics.

For example Frog has partnered with Voyo a connected-car platform that centers on an On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) controller to give drivers greater insights into driving behaviors. Frog Design has been working with many of the tier-1 auto manufacturers to completely re- imagine the user experience for both the driver and the passenger. This gives Aricent unique insight into the future requirements that drive the most innovative technology platform capabilities. This deep understanding of the choreography between human experience and technology clearly di?erentiates Aricent among other engineering firms.

How would you define the role of Aricent in the automotive value chain?

We are a global engineering company for the digital era. We are unique that we bring the building blocks to choreograph solutions from the chip, connectivity and to a seamless customer experience. In the automotive industry we help automotive OEM’s and service providers with experience design & strategy, technology solutions, development engineering and test & operations. For example we worked with a supplier to develop their in-vehicle infotainment hardware – complete circuit design, PCB layout, thermal and mechanical design. We worked with a European Tier 1 to test their head unit display panels – diagnosing the embedded applications and helping reduce the time to test peripherals from 10 days to 1 hour. Our design unit, Frog helps Tier 1 OEM’s re-imagine the entire relationship of the car, products and services.

Can you tell us some of the recent initiatives at Aricent in the automotive sector?

Aricent has a strategic Connected Vehicle Services o?ering for the automotive industry. Our focus is on  product  engineering from the chip to cloud services—keeping in mind the human-element. We have capabilities in infotainment, telematics, ADAS, connectivity and safety. Another  area of interest is in Ethernet connectivity, which is getting into the car as a primary mode of communication. Nowadays, both automotive OEMs and Tier -1 auto suppliers are heavily investing in software oriented solutions.

Why is software increasingly becoming important for OEM?

OEMs must conquer digital. At the heart of this transformation is the value creation possibilities  found in software. The slow development of the car, must meet the innovation cycle of software and digital experiences. Tesla is able to release dozens of on- board software updates to its Model S. Over The Air (OTA) updates are becoming more mainstream. Finally, when cars become autonomous – that will likely mean more Siri-like interactions with a car that has a personality – a car that will not only park itself, but else pay the bills and help you buy groceries.

What is your view on autonomous vehicles?

Autonomous cars are becoming a reality—and it will be sooner than we expect. Although there are safety, security  and  liability concerns in letting a car drive itself—the trend is unstoppable. There will be a day when autonomous vehicles become the norm rather than the exception.

Do you see autonomous driving to be commercially viable by 2020?

Things are moving fast. I would add some more years, but we are within striking distance. We do need to see government policy and the law must catch up to the technology. It maybe be safer without a human at the wheel, but some of us may still want to be in the loop. Viability is dependent on data communication, vehicle to vehicle communication and road infrastructure.

How big is automotive cybersecurity risk?

The risk is small, but growing. The more conventional electronics of a car are safe because of strict certifications, firewalls and component isolation schemes that keep critical systems out of reach of intruders. Critical functions will always be cordoned off.  In addition OEM’s are actively working with industry, Tier 1 suppliers and software vendors to strengthen the defense in depth strategies. However, we have seen hacking incidents and nothing can be completely air-gaped. Its likely that  a breach will happen by determined adversary and that would be a game changer.

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