This article also appears in
Subscribe now »

John Reid, director of enterprise product innovation and technology at John Deere.

Connected commercial vehicles bring cybersecurity to the fore

The 2017 edition of the SAE Commercial Vehicle Engineering Congress (COMVEC) has been moved up a month to September 18-20 and gets a new home in Rosemont, IL, not to mention a new symposia format focusing on three technology tracks: Big Data (which includes big topics like connectivity, autonomous and cybersecurity), Efficiency Improvements in CVs, and Aerodynamics. What clearly remains the same, however, is the high concentration of thought leaders from across on- and off-highway sectors gathering to share their vision of what's happening in the industry—and what's to come.

John Reid, director of enterprise product innovation and technology at John Deere, is one of those experts, presenting a keynote speech at this year’s COMVEC on “Delivering Value Through Innovation.” He believes that five major areas will greatly impact the industry in the next five to 10 years:

•    Automation and control

•    Electrification and hybridization

•    Knowledge-based solutions and the impact of data

•    Focus on enhancing the user-experience

•    Convergence of business systems and functions into an increasingly Smart Connected Enterprise.

“There is very little challenge in [bringing these solutions] to fruition,” Reid said. “It is the speed of execution that may vary on a time dimension. The differentiated among industry will be: Who is going to lead? Who is going to try to catch up? And who is not going to make it?”

Digital transformation

Digital technology will become even more ubiquitous in the coming years, according to COMVEC keynoter Sam George, director of Azure IoT, Microsoft. “Every part of our economies and our society is being shaped by the advances in digital technology and innovations,” he said. “Cloud is having a huge impact on digital transformation already and IoT has emerged as a powerful new enabling technology. We also see Edge computing and Artificial Intelligence as emerging major technology waves.”

There are technology challenges associated with these existing and emerging capabilities, George acknowledged, but “often the greatest challenges we see are organizational in nature.”

“Many companies that stand to benefit the most from Cloud, IoT, Edge and AI are not technology companies—and successfully leveraging them does require a level of technical understanding, if for nothing else than how to successfully manage partners that work on their behalf,” he said. “Another common challenge with IoT and Edge computing is that it requires organizations like OT and IT, which have historically been at odds, to work together to enable their respective concerns to be met—namely operational uptime and security.”

George’s keynote, “Microsoft Vision in the Commercial Vehicle Space,” will cover the role that tech companies play in enabling customers and partners to create value, as well as best practices.

Driver optional

In Army automotive R&D, driver-optional and driver-assist technologies have been of interest and under development for decades, according to Dr. Paul Rogers, director of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), and COMVEC 2017 keynote speaker.

“Now, the degree to which our vehicles can navigate from point A to point B with limited or no human input is truly spectacular,” he said. “Very shortly we’ll begin to see these technologies integrated onto our current vehicle platforms as economy of scale and the broader application of driver-optional technologies drive the cost equation to a reasonable level. As new vehicles are conceptualized and designed, they are done so with these driver-optional technologies in mind.”

Much of the on-highway mobility R&D incorporates some level of connectedness, or vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), reliance, he said. And both commercial and Army R&D efforts include some degree of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) connectivity.

“Where the Army’s foundational efforts differ from those of our commercial counterparts, however, is in driver-optional and autonomous operation in a degraded environment where no connectivity to the infrastructure (or, for that matter, no infrastructure at all) exists,” Rogers explained. “Eventually, however, commercial mobility R&D will need to consider the degraded environment (e.g., power outages on the infrastructure, malicious disruption, or even weather events). Additionally, Army vehicles often operate on U.S. roadways, and while doing so can take advantage of connected-driving infrastructure.”

One topic Rogers is excited to discuss at COMVEC is the Chevrolet Colorado ZH2, which General Motors and TARDEC have developed to evaluate hydrogen fuel cell technology as a power source for military operations. (See The vehicle’s electric drive motor is powered by an onboard fuel cell generator, which converts gaseous, compressed hydrogen into electricity.

“Increased electrification of vehicles, increasing demands on this electricity, this is a part of how our Army vehicles will be shifting to meet the changing nature of warfare, and similarly how commercial vehicles will be shifting toward power sources that reduce reliability on fossil fuels and are more efficient,” he said.

This is TARDEC’s first time attending COMVEC; however, TARDEC and SAE International have worked together for decades. A recent collaboration involved the creation of a new consortium aimed at reducing the time and cost of vehicle-technology transfer in the areas of cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles and intelligence systems, connected vehicles, lightweighting, vehicle safety, and advanced energy storage. (See

Cybersecurity concerns

With interest in e-mobility/connectivity/autonomy growing rapidly, cybersecurity becomes a greater concern. How can companies, and the commercial vehicle industry as a whole, better protect against cyber incidents?

“There are a number of intentional actions all can consider including system architecture design and implementations to increase the protection of SW-based systems,” said Deere’s Reid.

Cybersecurity is one area—along with autonomous systems evolution and understanding the impact of changing business models—in which the on- and off-highway sectors share similar challenges, according to Reid.

“There is some [technology] sharing, but there are opportunities for more,” he said.

Microsoft’s George believes there are a number of ways that the commercial vehicle industry can better protect against cybersecurity incidents—“But it starts with having a security strategy in place.” Working with a trusted technology provider that can help safeguard access to data and applications is important, he said.

“Ultimately, our goal at Microsoft is to keep all of our customer’s solutions secure,” he said. “We already do this on multiple levels, ranging from the cloud and beyond, including Azure’s enterprise-grade security, working with standards bodies on IoT security, and providing comprehensive security recommendations and guidance.”

One example is Microsoft’s Security Program for Azure IoT, which brings together a curated set of best-in-class security auditors from which customers can choose to perform a security audit on their IoT solutions, find issues and provide recommendations, George explained. “It works from the ground up, examining everything from a businesses’ devices and assets to gateways and even communication to the cloud.”

For more information, visit the Microsoft Secure blog:

TARDEC’s Rogers agrees that cybersecurity needs to be considered—in both commercial industry and government—as part of the planning and design stages of any future vehicle concepts. “Cybersecurity can’t be an afterthought,” he said.

“For the Army, deploying autonomous vehicle systems in future battlegrounds is becoming more and more likely. With soldier lives dependent on these systems, resiliency to enemy assaults such as communications jamming and GPS spoofing is a high priority for us,” Rogers stressed. “The commercial vehicle industry is just as vulnerable to this type of electronic warfare, and where safety is foremost for autonomous vehicle systems on our roadways, the commercial sector must be equally prepared for attacks on their robotic systems. Therefore, pre-testing cybersecurity elements in prototypes is critical.”

This fall, TARDEC will be working with Australia's Defence Science & Technology Group on the second trial of a multi-year project to evaluate the cyber-resiliency of autonomously operating a vehicle in Australia from TARDEC’s labs in Warren, MI.

For more on the SAE COMVEC 2017 technical program, go to

Continue reading »