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GM Hires Its First Cybersecurity Chief

Each new wireless link into the electronic guts of a car offers another weak point to bad guys

2 min read
GM Hires Its First Cybersecurity Chief
Illustration: Erik Vrielink

General Motors has created the job of product security chief and filled it with Jeffrey Massimilla, who'd already been working for the company's infotainment business.

It's part of a trend: automakers and the people planning tomorrow's smart roads are worried that connected vehicles might present a fat, juicy target to hackers and malware. Ford Motor Company, for instance, recently ran help-wanted ads for cybersecurity experts. It's all because of many emerging vulnerable points that a hacker might use to get into a car's electronic guts.

"With connectivity comes responsibility," said Roger Berg, vice president for wireless technologies at Denso, in a talk at the ITS World Conference two weeks ago, in Detroit. "It opens you to attack." At the conference Denso, a Japanese auto supplier, demonstrated a system for cars to talk to other cars.

It's easy to give a car yet another link to the outside world, but hard to knit them all together securely. And today's cars offer a lot of links—WiFi, 4G, infotainment, GPS, services accessed through the cloud, even manufacturer-issued software updates. And once a bad guy or a bit of malware gets into one part of a car, it might penetrate to others, maybe even to the driver's phone.

It seems like a rolling rerun of how corporate computing lost its innocence in the 1960s and early 1970s. That's when administrators of mainframes hosting hundreds of accounts finally, and grudgingly, began installing password protection after dastardly people began stealing computer time from other people. At Northwestern University passwords were instituted in the mid-1970s after someone who called himself Robin Hood effortlessly impersonated professors with big computer budgets.

Password protection is probably not the way for cars, though. You can get into all sorts of trouble trying to type in multiple, dimly remembered passwords so that your car will finally turn off the windshield wipers.

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Chinese Joint Venture Will Begin Mass-Producing an Autonomous Electric Car

With the Robo-01, Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely aim for a fully self-driving car

4 min read
A black car sits against a white backdrop decorated with Chinese writing. The car’s doors are open, like a butterfly’s wings. Two charging stations are on the car’s left; two men stand on the right.

The Robo-01 autonomous electric car shows off its butterfly doors at a reveal to the media in Beijing, in June 2022.

Tingshu Wang/Reuters/Alamy

In October, a startup called Jidu Automotive, backed by Chinese AI giant Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely, officially released an autonomous electric car, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition. In 2023, the car will go on sale.

At roughly US $55,000, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition is a limited edition, cobranded with China’s Lunar Exploration Project. It has two lidars, a 5-millimeter-range radar, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 12 high-definition cameras. It is the first vehicle to offer on-board, AI-assisted voice recognition, with voice response speeds within 700 milliseconds, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8295 chip.

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