Renesas Pursues Leadership Role in Connected-Car Security

The company looks to build on its automotive experience to deliver the technology, but will its efforts be throttled by the weak Japanese connected-car market?


By Dale Ford, Contributing Editor

Connected-car security was the focus of a recent webinar panel discussion with experts from Synopsys, hosted by SourceToday. During the discussion, it was noted that the dramatic increase in automotive connectivity creates a large potential attack surface that’s attractive to hackers.

Traditionally, the automotive industry has been focusing on safety. However, the emerging reality is that there’s no safety in vehicles without security. Software and hardware security failures have the potential to cause a broader range of problems and be more expensive to fix—as well as be more damaging to an automaker’s brand—than mechanical failures.

Automotive semiconductor suppliers play a critical role in the connected-car market. It’s their responsibility to develop and deliver cost-efficient silicon designs that provide the highest levels of security for automotive applications.

Renesas’ Prioritization

As one of the world’s largest suppliers of semiconductors for automotive applications, Renesas is in a strong position to partner with major automotive companies to enable security for connected cars. As a key part of its automotive strategy, Renesas has three defined priorities for our ADAS and autonomous vehicles: High compute that supports the advanced perception and cognitive computing capabilities needed for connected vehicles and actuation, low power consumption, and functional safety. It has decreed that every chip should be automotive-qualified.

In its pursuit of security solutions for connected cars, Renesas has entered into a collaborative effort with Fortinet to address major cybersecurity risks. This joint effort has produced a cybersecurity prototype. Renesas uses a micro variant of Fortinet’s security operating system, µFortiOS, to protect its connectivity systems from the gateways that control the vehicle. µFortiOS authenticates communications from external networks. The Renesas solution provides a gateway that protects the internal vehicle network for controls and actuation. It’s designed to protect the vehicle system from external attacks.

Renesas is heavily engaged in both internal development and key partnerships. In another recent partnership, Renesas integrated Airbiquity’s OTAmatic cloud-based OTA software and data-management service delivery solution on its high-performance, low-power R-Car H3 automotive computing platform. The combined solution based on the R-Car H3 system-on-chip (SoC) is compliant with the ISO 26262 safety functionality (FuSa) standard. It brings a powerful, efficient, and secure automotive computing platform with highly targeted and scalable on-demand OTA software update and data-management capabilities.

Will Japanese Consumer Car Preferences Limit Development of Critical Market Experience?

The successful development of next-generation automotive platforms that employ new technologies requires robust market testing and experience. This is the one area where Renesas may face a challenge.  While it’s a global player with a strong presence with all automobile manufacturers, Renesas’ local, home market in Japan lags the rest of the world significantly in adoption of connected-car technology.  Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. face significant resistance to connected car products as consumers prefer other options such as smartphones for services such as in-car infotainment.

Japanese market trails in embedded automotive connectivity. (Source: SBD Automotive)

Compared to automotive consumers in the U.S. and Europe, Japanese consumers show little willingness to pay for connected-car features. That’s resulted in only 10% of cars on Japan’s roads having embedded connectivity, compared with 49% in the U.S., 31% in Europe, and 20% in China, according to consultancy SBD Automotive. Buyers in the U.S., Europe, and China are adopting on-board shopping, entertainment, and customized coupons. SBD Automotive predicts that two-thirds of cars in the U.S. and Europe will have embedded connectivity features by 2020, while in Japan, such services will be in less than a third of vehicles.

With its local market in the position of technology laggard, it could create difficulty for Renesas as it pursues “real-world” experience in testing and deploying its connected-car solutions. It will likely need to engage with supply-chain partners and customers in other regions to gain critical market knowledge in its product development.

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