May 8, 2020

By Charles Eagan, Chief Technology Officer at BlackBerry

Our world is getting smarter and more connected day by day. Your smartphone controls your smart home. Your smart refrigerator orders groceries. Your smart doorbell lets you know when your guests arrive. Smart lighting helps you relax. And your smart thermostat makes sure you’re comfortable while you move from room to room. 

To a city, smart means better serving citizens, getting them to work in a safer, more reliable fashion, burning less fossil fuel, and building technology that fits their unique culture. For a technology company, it means an opportunity to refine data and use it for additional productivity. For an automaker, it means finding a new business model that fits with ever-changing consumer habits.

Consumers see the advances in these other sectors and expect the automotive industry to follow suit – to take learnings from elsewhere and transplant them into experiences for their cars. This outlook has affected the shift toward mobility and optimism about what’s possible. Emerging technologies are turning yesterday’s science fiction into tomorrow’s science fact. The speed of technology advancement has picked up at such a pace that many of these breakthroughs have delivered the future to our very doorstep.

Large companies are working hand-in-hand with cities and countries/states to find solutions to some of the biggest challenges we face: energy efficiency, climate change, congestion and equity. Start-ups are emerging every day addressing these same issues. Drones, cybersecurity, edge computing, cloud services and data science have made their way into the smart mobility world. This is where our focus as a company must rest — on the overall goals we are trying to achieve, and finding an understanding of each stakeholder’s separate needs and where they intersect.

There’s a strain as we look to find common ground between consumers, municipalities and businesses, how we each respond to contemporary situations, and how we ensure everyone’s privacy and safety. The challenge remains in how we listen, talk and understand the vast needs and wants of all stakeholders. With every new leap in technology comes uncertain ground. As consumers exert more influence and companies adjust to their expectations, emerging technologies produce unintended consequences. Public policies crafted in earlier eras are ill-equipped to govern today’s dynamically-changing industry.

This new world requires specific laws and regulations to govern the interactions between conventional cars, pedestrians and autonomous vehicles, as well as the data that can be derived from all of it.

The focus on laws and regulations should not be taken lightly. Cars are shifting from hardware machines to software platforms. As they become hyperconnected, they collect and analyze a great deal of information – not only about how you drive and where, but about the content that travels over a complex, interconnected network.

This information is key to increasing the safety of drivers, passengers and others on the road. It improves response time, helps avoid dangerous conditions and heightens the performance of the car. But, as more data is collected, consumers rightfully become concerned about privacy. What if my new software-defined car gets hacked?

It is this attention to safety and privacy that has amplified interest in security for the auto industry. We can’t establish safety or privacy without a deep-dive into security. Many groups chose to push the security conversation to the background. At BlackBerry, we know that short-handed security solutions don’t provide an acceptable level of privacy or safety. It has to be embedded at the outset, in the conception phase. Without this, it will be impossible for smart mobility to reach its full potential.

The auto industry is experiencing incredibly exciting times. The mindset, technology, regulation and partnerships that got us to where we are today will not be enough to sustain us going forward. Instead of trying to push forward from the past, it’s time to lead from the future. Intelligent transportation is about more than getting from one place to another – it saves lives, connects worlds and creates opportunities. As a solution provider, BlackBerry is actively working to address the challenges and unintended consequences that come with these opportunities, so we can all safely and securely realize the benefits of smart mobility.