This post results from the project “Automotive Cybersecurity”(ACS) within the Munich Cyber Security Program (MCSP) The MCSP is a cooperation project between Champlain College and ComCode (Germany). This project focuses on cybersecurity topics for connected cars.
Last week I had the opportunity to meet with Armin Gräter, Director of Digitalization and Automated Driving for the BMW Group. During our time, we discussed the future of the automotive industry in terms of security and market development, and explored the differences between the American and European autonomous vehicle development strategies. I started with a series of questions pertaining to automotive cybersecurity and then moved onto a discussion. Here is a summary of my interview with Mr. Gräter:
What do you think is the most pressing issue with regard to automotive cybersecurity?
Secure connectivity was Gräter’s most pressing concern–the need for end-to-end security between the backend software and OEM was a highlight of this issue. Gräter explained that at BMW, the holistic security approach extends out to their tier 1 and 2 suppliers (primary and secondary component / part suppliers) and beyond, where they must adhere to UN regulation no. 155, which focuses on the development of a cybersecurity management system. The suppliers must also undergo risk assessments and security-related audits as a result of this regulation. Gräter noted that he was involved in the development of ISO standard 26262: Functional Safety, which is a frequently referenced standard within automotive cybersecurity requirements such as UN-R-155 and the recently published ISO/SAE 21434: Road Vehicles – Cybersecurity.
What does BMW consider their security priorities in terms of the connected vehicle and autonomous vehicles?
The same sort of security collaboration between backend and OEM software remains relevant for this question– Gräter stated it’s important that external information/data won’t go directly to the vehicle, rather it must first undergo checks. These checks are intended to mitigate false positives in vehicle sensors and inhibit lateral movement attempts by hackers. In order for autonomous vehicles to be successful, it’s critically important that risk to human life is low.
Where do you want to see BMW go from a security perspective? Are there any relevant goals you have?
Gräter immediately shared that BMW goals are reflections of consumer preference, and that means that security and safety are a very high priority– it’s important to fulfill requirements such as UN-R-155 and ISO standards. There is a real emphasis that security needs to be implemented during the development phase, thus built into the vehicle as opposed to layered over existing software and hardware.
How is BMW adjusting their business model/practices as the amount of data to be processed increases?
The data that is going to be processed by the automotive industry will be worth billions– the data is going to be used for further development of AVs and acts as feedback for what’s working and what doesn’t. Gräter also mentions how even with tight data laws in Europe, customers have the option to share their data by “opting-in” with BMW to optimize product development. User data is a powerful tool that BMW will continue to leverage in order to improve continuously.
Are safety and security of equal importance to you in the context of the automotive industry?
This was one of the trickier questions, and Mr. Gräter made it clear that there is a value difference– he explained how safety is focused on not worsening human risk, and security focuses on protecting assets, so it’s hard to compare the two. This explanation makes sense, especially when security can become a safety issue in the automotive field.
How is BMW approaching current issues such as chip shortages and a rise in cyberattacks? In what ways has this impacted cybersecurity and advancements in your field?
Gräter re-established that UN-R-155 is vital, especially for security and risk assessments on suppliers. BMW also ensures that tier 1 suppliers have tier 2 suppliers undergo the same risk assessment process to ensure a holistic security approach. Integrating security into vehicle development is critical.
What is your greatest concern as the automotive industry moves forward?
Gräter cites individual cars going away and societal changes in response to political agendas– a move towards public transit and rideshare only, which doesn’t fit the needs and demands of many consumers to be his greatest concern. This form of industry overhaul would undermine the very essence of using an independent form of transportation, and isn’t realistic to be ruled out in rural and remote areas. This slow trend away from individual ownership is something that Gräter and BMW don’t believe their customers want.
Mr. Gräter and I spent the remainder of the interview discussing market prospects, his values and their alignment with BMW’s mission. In terms of automated driving and development, BMW is working in four cities including Munich and Los Angeles testing mid-level autonomous features to improve mobility and lessen traffic in congested areas. Mr. Gräter expects to see level 3 autonomous available to consumers in the reasonably near future. Level 3 autonomous vehicles are conditionally automated, meaning they have environmental detection systems and can do things such as drive themselves on the highway where the environment isn’t too complex. This relates to the broader autonomous vehicle development strategy by BMW, where the more immediate focus is on driver-assistive technology such as lane assist, automated highway travel, and self-parking features. These are examples of areas where either speed or complexity is low, and neither element is high– if both speed and complexity in situations occurs, the driver would need to take control of the vehicle. Only in higher levels, such as level 4, would the vehicle be able to remain autonomous in more complex environments.
Our discussion of the American autonomous development regarding robotaxis and shared mobility platforms provides another approach altogether. This culture is focused on developing level 4 vehicles (ones that have autonomous function and limited driver intervention) and continually testing them in an effort to reach level 5 autonomous vehicles. Both markets and their strategies have influenced the Chinese market, where much of the early development vehicles are introduced– elements such as level 3 autonomous vehicles and robotaxi implementation.
Mr. Gräter’s perspective on public and political views regarding vehicles was also insightful– he stated that in general, the public’s priorities in vehicles were safety & security, then price, and then design. This differed from the politician perspective he offered, which focused on efficiency and cost first and foremost. Considering Gräter’s exposure to both public and private interest and opinion, he was able to offer a more holistic view of the industry and the varying perspectives on advancement and security.
I would like to thank Armin Gräter again for the opportunity to talk with him about an area where he has so much experience and insight–it was a valuable and noteworthy learning experience. This expanded the perspective of this project by addressing international approaches and introduced a professional opinion.
–Written by Parker Soares ‘24 //Computer Networking & Cybersecurity