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5G and the future of the auto industry

The auto industry is no stranger to change. Through its entire history, carmakers have been quick to innovate and add the latest and greatest technology to their vehicles — usually to improve safety or drive consumers to buy more cars.

These days are no different. We aren’t all zooming around in flying cars like some predicted we would by now — though that might not be as far out as you think — but there are a lot of really exciting things happening in the industry. Self-driving vehicles tend to hog the headlines, but that’s just one high-profile innovation. There is so much more happening — from facial recognition software that can detect driver fatigue to connected cars that communicate with the surrounding infrastructure to personalized features that make the inside of a car feel more like your living room.

At the heart of all the current change happening in cars are two key elements: connectivity and security. Connectivity is enabling the transfer of data between vehicles and the outside world and making it possible for all these different systems to communicate with each other. That data is extremely valuable. In today’s technology-driven world, data is the new oil, and companies want to protect that asset. Meanwhile, consumers want to know their data is protected and won’t fall into the wrong hands. They also want to be assured that some hacker can’t take control of their self-driving car as it navigates rush-hour traffic.

Today, embedded mobile connectivity is enabling some pretty cool in-car infotainment options in addition to the telematics that keeps the vehicles up to date and provides feedback data for the car maker. Many models come with an on-board 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, touchscreens that can sync with Android Auto or Apple Car Play to integrate a smartphone’s capabilities seamlessly, and navigation systems complete with real-time traffic information and voice controls.

We’ve really just begun to see the possibilities for in-car infotainment. Things like embedded voice and data services that allow one passenger to search for the best nearby restaurant while another streams music or podcasts are on the verge of another leap forward when 5G connectivity becomes more widespread in the next several months. With its lower latency and stronger signals capable of penetrating walls, parking garages and tunnels, 5G will be the backbone of autonomous vehicles as well as the services we’ll use in our cars of the future. Faster and stronger networking will help create more personalized services and seamless interaction between cars, smart cities and service providers.

We’ll start to see more data-sharing between vehicles and external services, crowdsourcing things like traffic information and road conditions. Cars will be able to communicate with intersections to optimize speeds to make it through green lights. Features like secure cloud-based service enablement, secure ID-based access and ignition, and integrated mobile payment will create new opportunities and conveniences for drivers and passengers. Flying cars might not be coming to a dealership near you, but using your car to pay at the pump or the drive-through will be here before you know it.

Of course, for this vision of enhanced mobility to become reality, drivers and passengers must feel confident that their personal data and preferences are secure. The same is true for carmakers, municipalities and other stakeholders. Trust will be earned only when many layers of built-in security become inherent to the process to protect interconnected systems from becoming open doors for hackers and others who might benefit from accessing the systems or siphoning the data. Mobility security providers will take cues from how security is managed for networking systems, digital payments and government, and they will need to learn from lapses and shortcomings in industries where security is supposed to be a top priority, such as financial services.

With the connectivity and security pieces in place, the evolution of cars from simple modes of transportation to the workplaces of the future and further opening doors for new types of services will only be held back by our imaginations. Henry Ford would be amazed at how far we’ve come.

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