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Navigating the Challenges of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems: Skill Gaps, Cyber Threats and Regulatory Hurdles

What challenges do Advanced Driver Assistance Systems pose and how do we navigate these hurdles?


Car tech
Chris Reynolds 2

Chris Reynolds

Public Sector Central Government Senior Team Leader

Whilst relaxing abroad, I came across an article from Fleet News ("Threat to road safety from significant ADAS skills gap") that really highlighted the complex challenges facing Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). These are challenges I’ve seen and supported first hand.

Working across Transport, Automotive and Central Government is really useful, as I’m able to draw on trends and common themes across these sectors - and they are usually linked. Some recurring trends amongst these verticals are digital skills shortages and cyber security issues when adopting new tech. I‘ve held a number of workshops/discussions with automotive manufacturers, the UK Department for Transport (DfT) and Government Transport organisations like National Highways about the use of ADAS and the importance of data management and cyber resilience.

In this blog post, I'll dive into the challenges the ADAS sector faces, drawing insights from firsthand experiences and diverse sectors like Transport, Automotive, and Government. I'll explore the transformative potential of ADAS technologies and the hurdles they need to overcome, especially the skills gaps and rising cybersecurity concerns. I’ll also navigate the changing landscape of vehicle safety regulations and the pressing need for industry-wide collaboration, to drive digital resiliency. Finally, we’ll cross examine innovation, safety, and regulation.

Driving revolution

ADAS technologies have the ability to revolutionise the way we drive as the market moves towards Level 3 or 4 automation. Level 3 automation allows a car to handle specific driving tasks but requires the driver to take over when prompted, while Level 4 can fully self-drive in certain areas and scenarios without driver intervention. ADAS provides features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, and automated parking - adaptive cruise control is amazing, but I’m not sold on lane keeping yet and I haven’t had the guts to try automated parking in a busy city centre.

Despite the advanced strides the automotive industry has made, there are still a significant number of hurdles that remain. One of these is a significant skills shortage. As the Fleet News article points out, there's an alarming lack of trained technicians who can service and repair these complex systems, posing a real threat to road safety. As car manufacturers make cars more sexy and ‘smart’, how realistic is the servicing and ongoing safety aspect? How do we ensure a lifecycle of management of these technologies?

 New tech, new risks

The issues facing ADAS extend beyond the skills gap though. The automotive industry also continues to struggle with cybersecurity. As our vehicles become more connected, they become more vulnerable to cyber-attacks - after all, every car is now effectively a computer on wheels, serviced by SOTA (software over the air updates). Malicious actors could compromise a vehicle's safety features if targeting this software or even the vehicles themselves, putting passengers at risk. New tech = new risks.

In response to rising cyber threats, legislation has begun to evolve. For example, in 2020, the UNECE WP.29 regulations came into effect, making cybersecurity a mandatory aspect of vehicle approvals in the EU, Japan, South Korea, and other countries.

So, we've got a double whammy: an industry faced with a lack of qualified professionals and a burgeoning cyber threat landscape. Add to that a lack of standardisation across ADAS technologies and regulatory inconsistencies across different jurisdictions further complicating the matter - especially as virtually all automotive manufacturers operate across multiple geographic territories.

Where do we go from here then? 

It’s clear that the ADAS-focused teams within automotive manufacturers need to tackle the skills gap head-on. I’ve seen manufacturers and Public Sector bodies successfully twinning with technical colleges and universities to create specialised training programs in ADAS technologies. Vehicle manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover has successfully implemented this into it's engineer training.

Not only do these initiatives help create a talent pipeline for these companies, but it also provides students with the skills needed to succeed in this industry. I’m even more invested now I’ve got a young daughter. Thinking about how she can be empowered to succeed in an industry like this, is really important to me.

Addressing the cyber security threat

Addressing the cybersecurity threat is a whole other issue. Incorporating practices like regular system vulnerability assessments, use of encryption for data transmission, or implementing MFA (multi-factor authentication) for software updates could go a long way in enhancing the cybersecurity posture of ADAS. How do we ensure “security by design” remains consistent throughout, from development to deployment? Large enterprises need a consistent, agile process, globally - which is easier said than done!

As for standardising technologies and creating uniform regulations, consider the recent Euro NCAP's Vision 2030 roadmap which I’ve summarised this into three key areas:

1. Universal safety: one of the key initiatives Euro NCAP is pushing for is 'Universal Safety.' This means that all new cars would have inbuilt safety systems like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and over-speed assistance, that have been tested and proven in real-world scenarios. In essence, it's about making safety a norm, not an extra. The “advanced safety pack” add on when specifying a car may be gone soon as these safety regulations become mandatory.

2. Holistic safety evaluations: this is all about expanding the scope of safety assessments. It's not just about how well a car protects its occupants during a crash, but also how effectively it can prevent accidents (primary safety) and aid in post-crash scenarios, which includes systems like eCall, which allows you to make calls to emergency services from your car.

3. Enhancing technology advancements: Even as Euro NCAP sets baseline safety standards, it remains committed to continuing the growth of safety technologies. The plan is to tweak the rating system to motivate automakers to continuously enhance the safety features of their vehicles, pushing them to aim for higher scores.

The problem is that all these strategies involve numerous stakeholders – the automotive manufacturers, educational institutions and Higher Education bodies, government bodies, cybersecurity experts, and even consumers. This needs strong collaboration, open dialogue, trust and an understanding that the evolution of ADAS technologies will require continual adjustments and improvements along the way. With iterative improvements only exacerbating the cyber threat landscape, it makes collaboration even more critical.

So, navigating the balance between innovation, safety, and regulation will be crucial as we journey further into the era of smart mobility. There are a few key areas of focus that I can see:

  1. How can we ensure the necessary skills are cultivated to service these advanced systems? 
  2. How do we protect these technologies and their users from cyber threats - creating security by design across the entire production ecosystem? 
  3. How do we create a regulatory environment that supports innovation, while safeguarding the public?

I’m keen to stay at the forefront of these developments as we move to mobility as a service (MaaS) and probably, in the not-too-distant future, robotaxis etc. being mass adopted. We need to ensure we maintain the right outcomes whilst 'driving' security where possible.

To find out more about Softcat’s Cyber Security offering, please check out the dedicated page on our website. Our broad range of solutions and services can equip you to build, implement and maintain an ongoing cyber security programme that is right for your organisation.