From Fixed to Fluid: The Dawn of Custom Vehicle Systems

With vehicles becoming increasingly software-oriented over the years, the potential for customized automotive software has skyrocketed. More and more each day, drivers are learning about the inner workings of their cars, how the CAN bus and OBD II port of their vehicles can be used to enhance their vehicle. CAN (Controlled Area Network) is the network of connections between the electrical control units in a vehicle. The OBD (On-board diagnostics) port is the gateway to the CAN network in vehicles, a unique port found in most cars. From enabling hidden features in a vehicle, to improving a car’s mileage, communities across the internet are further and further exploring the possibilities car hacking can bring.

This customize-ability adds a new, needed dimension to how people will use cars. The car of yesterday was something you bought as-is, with all the features decided by the OEM. The car of tomorrow allows for user driven customization based on wants and needs.

Just as we expect the ability to download apps to our computers and smartphones, the same will inevitably come to be true for automobiles. Johnathan M. Giltin of arsTechnica emphasizes on this, saying that “…an entire ecosystem of companies exists ready to give you the tools to take your WRX, GT-R, or whatever to the next level.”

As this field grows, a future where people can re-wire their cars for each trip throughout the day is entirely feasible. One might chose to optimize their mileage for their morning commute and instead select to change that setting on their way home, when they know that they’ll encounter less traffic. But while the possibilities are endless, so are the risks.

It is common knowledge that the internet is full of programs that advertise themselves as safe, useful applications while secretly infecting the user’s computer with malware. As the communities of car-hack enthusiasts grow, so will the number of unregulated, unverified user-created car programs. It is best practice not to download risky software without an antivirus on one’s computer, and the same practice will be a necessity in the future of car customization. For a field in which new programs and applications will be produced at such an alarming rate, static, non-dynamic security will not suffice. Fast, seamless updates to powerful security protocols are needed, and meeting that demand is the core of Trillium’s ambition.