Innovation in transport cyber security in Israel and the UK

In May 2016, as part of TeXchange Mobility 2016, 13 Israeli mobility companies gathered at the IET’s headquarters at Savoy Place to discuss the future of transport in Israel and the UK. Cyber security for transport was an important part of this event, but communications, big data, safety, and autonomy and future cars, all of which involve systems that need to be protected from cyber attack, also featured prominently.

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Oct 26, 2016
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Cyber Security

Cyber security is an area both the UK and Israel are world leaders in. There is investment by both the UK and Israeli governments to maintain their competitive position. The cyber security products being developed are software based, so there is a fast time from development to market. And, as more connectivity happens, the market for cyber security products is getting bigger and bigger.

However, there is a lack of standardisation in this space. Cyber security products need to be tailor made for a product. But safety is critical and there is a large amount of money to be made as a result. And as the cyber attack vectors increase, so does the level of concern by the companies developing the products. The brand reputation damage caused by a cyber attack, especially one in the area of transport, where injuries are possible, is something that large, established companies are keen to avoid. This provides an opportunity for start-ups with expertise in cyber security who are willing to provide guarantees on their services.

The driver in the UK is the Internet of Things. The technology application is coming first and security is often an afterthought. This is quite different to Israel, where the need for cyber secure products often comes first. This may be driven by the defence and security sector in Israel.

The UK government is pushing companies in to the cyber security sector. The Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) has been tasked with making the UK the place to come to trial autonomous vehicles and they are providing finance through innovation development competitions to ensure that the UK is developing demonstration technologies in this space. It is important that the need for secure systems is not an afterthought.

Governments will need to ensure the cyber security standards of product development. This will be driven by consumer demand. Currently the average consumer is just not aware of the effects a cyber hack could have on their transport. If their bank account is hacked then the banks refund them the money, but if their car is hacked and they are injured then the consequences are much more severe.


We are living in a time where everything is being networked, including our transport. The ability for cars to talk to other cars and infrastructure offers us a safer driver experience, which could lead to vehicles that drive themselves while we relax and surf the web. For other transport modes, a connected, joined-up system offers the consumer a reliable end-to-end journey.

There are many safety features being developed that will bombard drivers with useful information on accidents, road and weather conditions, traffic jams and speed restrictions. But technology must not compromise safety. An unintended conscience could be that this useful information distracts the driver and leads to an accident!

Transport communications is a difficult area for start-ups to get into as it is dominated by some large and well-established players and there is a significant entry cost for new players to establish themselves. Another challenge is that different vehicle manufacturers use different protocols for transport communications. There is a need for a common language. This also acts as a barrier for start-up companies as there is not a 'one product fits all' approach. However, this could also be seen as an opportunity, as the market has room for many different customised products.

Currently in the UK the mobile phone coverage is patchy. We are approaching 5G, however, the UK motorway network doesn’t even have full coverage of 3G. As consumers expect more information and connectivity from their vehicles and on public transport, someone will need to pay for the network improvements. It is unclear if this will be the network providers or the transport providers and how much support they might receive from government to do this. At the end of the day the cost will have to be covered by the consumer through network charges or increased travel fares.

Society buy-in could be an issue in the development of new technology. In order for consumer data to be useful it needs to be collected and shared. The data owners must give their permission for this is happen. Consumers must see the benefit to them in sharing their personal data. However, it is likely that this will be the case as the evidence points towards consumers being happy to share their data in return for a product or service that will improve their quality of life, and the use of connected transport technology will improve their journeys, their reliability and their safety. This technology will be available to the mass market and will become part of our everyday lives. We will wonder how we lived without it!

Lots of the technology already exists in our smartphones and in the sensors that are being added to vehicles. As the price of sensors decreases, this technology can start to be rolled out to the mass market at a lower cost. As coverage and connectivity speeds improve, so will the information we can gather and share to improve our journeys.

Big Data

Many apps are being developed that use data to provide us with travel information. They problem is that many of the data sources they use are just not accurate. This results in poor reviews of the app and the business fails. This most successful applications are the ones which can be relied upon and use accurate data. Citymapper is an example.

However, data is not standardised. It comes in many forms and remote areas in the UK are still not digitised! Transport data is also held by many different organisations, from local authorities to bus companies and car manufacturers. Many of the privately owned transport companies are not willing to share their data for free. Use of personal data may be a solution. And if consumers are able to see the benefits from the use of applications using big data they will be more willing to share their personal information. The challenge here is how much of our personal data do we actually own? Most of it seems to be owned by Google these days!

Cheap sensors are providing us with real-time data. As the information floods in, companies are utilising this to provide us with services that tell us about an accident or a weather warning 10 miles down the road. This information can save lives as well as improving our travel experience.

However, this is a crowded marketplace as the money it takes to start a company in this area is cheaper that in others. This is leading to lots of competitions and therefore a high failure rate.


There is much going on in Israel in the area of accident prevention. There are many Israeli start-up companies such as Mobileye in the active safety-ADAS space. Mobileye have developed a dashboard camera that alerts drivers to collision and they are now using the technology to support car manufacturers in the development of driverless cars. However, some car manufacturers are still focused on passive safety and are not embracing active safety technologies. Car manufacturers are nervous of potential liability. A broken sensor on one networked vehicle could lead to incorrect information being sent to cars on the road behind, which could lead to an accident.

But who will pay for the cost of the installation of safety equipment? It is very difficult to sell products that protect other drivers from the driver you are selling to. Drivers are not willing to accept that they themselves are a danger on the roads and therefore are unwilling to pay extra for active safety devices. Passive safety is an easier sell as people are willing to pay for protection against other drivers who they are happy to view as a danger to themselves.

Local authorities will benefit from fewer accidents as they will have fewer accidents to attend, less hospitalisation required and less damage to infrastructure. However they are slow to adopt new technologies and they have decreasing budgets to invest.

Autonomy and Future Cars

Autonomous vehicles are more about safety than mobility. As a result, insurance companies are very interested in this space. As autonomous vehicles will not have accidents the traditional motor car insurance market will be replaced, with the liability falling on automotive manufacturers.

Near-future market changes will move from providing data to providing dynamic insights and real-time advice, e.g. taking your car to the nearest parking spot to your destination.

Car ownership habits are already starting to change. In cities owning a car is a hassle because of lack of parking (due to the Victorian terraced houses converted into flats that many city dwellers live in), reliable public transport and new market entries such as Uber. Car ownership will change further when reliable and cheap autonomous vehicles are available as an extension of the Uber taxi model, where driverless transport can be relied upon to arrive at short notice.

But culture, bureaucracy, legislation and public acceptance do not appear to be being tackled to enable the use of the emerging technologies. Range anxiety has been seen in EV owners worried about if they will be able to recharge their battery in order to complete their journeys. A similar effect could be seen for driverless cars if one is not available when you need it. Trust must be established in customers for this technology to get off the ground.
However, driver habits die hard. The majority of individuals desire to drive when and where they wish and this currently can only be achieved if they own their own vehicle. There is also the matter of 'image' - many people link owning a nice car to being successful.

Government can be slow to understand what is needed to support new technology and then to change what is needed to enable it to be used. Although Highways England is leading the way with its involvement in the UK’s connected road projects, local authorities will find this much more difficult. Because of this, making vehicles independent of expensive infrastructure is the unstated goal of many companies using internet and GPS technologies for driver aids and autonomous vehicles.

As the vehicle manufacturers race to see who will produce the first fully autonomous car, companies such as Tesla are releasing technology which has not been fully tested, resulting in accidents, fatalities and near misses. The consumer will need to trust the safety of the vehicle if this market is really going to take off.

Go to the profile of Simon Hamlet

Simon Hamlet

Managing Editor, The E&T Cyber Security Hub

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