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Building trust in autonomous driving: reflections from the SECREDAS Conference in Helmond

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

After three years, more than 50 million euros spent and a huge amount of work in 16 countries, the SECREDAS project has come to a close – but not without a final send-off. On 19 and 20 October, the SECREDAS Conference took place in Helmond, the Netherlands, and brought together around 200 participants in a COVID-compliant space on the Automotive Campus. Project coordinator Patrick Pype looks back on this positive experience, as well as the project’s results and what lies in the future.

A city of innovation

“A strong wish of the European Commission and the reviewers was to have a physical event and we indicated that we’d make a final decision on 15 September because of the COVID situation at that time,” begins Patrick. “For many people, it was the first time they physically met for more than a year, so everybody was very happy they could attend! And we were very happy to have such an amount of people together and because we had an exhibition with some 20 to 25 demonstrations. These were busy during the whole two days, with people looking at them and having discussions about them which were not possible virtually. People have been longing for this for some time.”

In addition to SECREDAS’ 70 consortium partners, guests included representatives from supply chain organisations, national bodies and automotive agencies. Besides visiting the demonstrations, many were in attendance for the chance to hear keynote speakers such as Lars Reger of NXP, Jean-Luc di Paola-Galloni of Valeo and Mayor of Helmond Elly Blanksma-van den Heuvel. The conference also featured various workshops on consumer acceptance of autonomous driving, cooperative mobility and requirements for standardisation.

“Everybody considers Helmond a real innovative city,” Patrick notes. “This event was organised in close cooperation with TNO and the City of Helmond and it’s thanks to them that this was feasible. They made a tremendous effort, together with NXP, and without them it would not have been possible to hold such a successful event.”

Three worlds combined

The SECREDAS Conference couldn’t have come at a more fitting time: on the second day of the event, the news emerged that Tesla’s driving data storage system had been hacked by Dutch investigators. This is just one of over 25 major hacks since 2015, the most devastating of which led to the recall of 1.4 million vehicles. Such attacks were a motivating force behind the project, which recognised the need for multi-domain methodologies, architectures and components that combine security and privacy without a decline in safety and performance.

“A very important aspect is that SECREDAS has joined together different communities working on security, safety and privacy,” explains Patrick. “We let these three communities talk to each other and understand each other’s worlds in order to create solutions that do not make any compromises. You can create something which is very privacy-oriented but not secure or vice versa; what SECREDAS did is combine all these factors together.”

As examples of the project’s unique approach, he highlights a few of the demonstrations which have been shown across Europe, including in Helmond. If traffic lights are hacked to all turn green, for instance, SECREDAS has examined how drivers can be informed or how cars can be slowed and stopped. Another example investigated what might happen if a car approaches a red light too quickly when a pedestrian intends to cross the road, as well as how this pedestrian could be warned. By defining a number of use-cases and translating them into scenarios that should occur in the event of a hack, SECREDAS ultimately aims to improve user acceptance of automated vehicles.

“It’s a gradual process of introducing users to new technologies before you come to a fully autonomous car,” Patrick continues. “Current cars often already have automatic parking. The first time I used this technology, I also didn’t trust it because the car was approaching the car behind me too closely. I jumped on my brake! But as an engineer, I said that I have to trust the car and I let the car do it the second time. It stopped only a few centimetres before the other car, something you could never do manually. As a driver, you have to trust this and it’s the same for all automated features of a car.”

The journey continues

Despite its focus on the automotive domain, SECREDAS has also distinguished itself by utilising its innovations in railway and health applications. Health was mainly examined from the perspective of driver monitoring but also looked at the availability of health data in the cloud to ensure that privacy is guaranteed and data is secured. As for railways, the project investigated crossings between trains and cars as part of its wider efforts on safe intersections. In Patrick’s view, a few different outcomes take pride of place.

“For me, one of the main results is clearly an industry first-of-its-kind secure CAN/CAN FD transceiver chip for in-vehicle networking which is able to master big data and has a new level of security not reached before. Another is software developed on hardware platforms, such as in the V2X [vehicle-to-everything] area where some small and medium-sized enterprises have developed software on an NXP platform to test V2X in real life. This V2X platform is already being applied in the new Volkswagen Golf and electric Volkswagen cars. Finally, a key result is an integrated common multi-domain framework which is covering solutions embedding security, safety and privacy.”

Off the back of such successes, the project ended with a positive review by the European Commission and two external reviewers. However, the journey is far from over. At the close of the conference, Patrick drew up a number of reflections on how the results can be further developed and which areas are still to be examined. One important takeaway is the need to embed SECREDAS technology in other European projects by creating visibility and alignment via the ECSEL Mobilty.E Lighthouse project. The focus must also remain on European roadmaps such as the ECS-SRIA, which is part of a process through which the results can be linked to ongoing battles to increase European sustainability via the Green Deal and European sovereignty and autonomy via the Digital Agenda.

“If you look to the future,” concludes Patrick, “we have reached a platform for privacy, security and safety in a car which has been tested in a number of use-cases. For me, the main element now is to further use and develop that platform so that it is sound and valid, not just a test platform from a research project but something that can be commercially exploited. We definitely need to look for a follow-up project where we can develop this platform for further exploitation in the world. So, NXP remains open to discussions with other partners in the value chain in order to continue this type of challenging work together.”


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