How Formula One is Shaping Cyber-Security for the Next Generation of Commercial Vehicles

Formula One has a tendency to create engineering solutions that end up being used in the wider world at a later date. Hybrid Engines, energy recovery systems, vehicle safety and carbon fibre chassis in one way or another owe their commercialization to F1. The next thing to accelerate the automobile industry forward concerns data. 

In many ways, Formula One is fueled by data. During a race, F1 teams will harness more than a billion data points from over 200 sensors on the car. This telemetry data is fed into a computer model that is updated per second and allows strategists to make mid-race decisions based on the information extracted. Teams have the capability to save time on track based on the telemetry, and races can be won or lost on the right strategy.

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Teams like Williams send all of their data back to their HQ in Grove, Oxfordshire. Given that the calendar spans the globe, live race telemetry that is picked up in Bahrain or Belgium is sent back to the HQ for analysis with only a 2-millisecond delay.

Keeping these channels secure is a very important task, it prevents hackers form obtaining sensitive information about how the team operates, and keeps their secrets protected. The end-to-end encrypted cyber security framework in place for something so large and crucial has to be revolutionary.

By 2020, it is predicted that there will be 250 million ‘connected cars’ on the roads across the world. The problem that this poses is that there will be 250 million more things for hackers to play with, if you think of hackers as the shady terrorists they are often unfairly labeled as.

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Last year, Chrysler had to recall 1.4 million vehicles after a pair of hackers showcased to WIRED that they could essentially hijack a Jeep whilst it was in transit. With nothing but the power of code, they  took control of the car via the internet, sending commands through its system to the dashboard functions, steering, brakes and transmission. Via a laptop, the hackers were able to crash the car into a ditch and leave it motionless on the highway.

With driverless cars and more data-based automotive intelligence on the horizon of the industry, Formula One is leading the way in designing commercial solutions alongside their usual race-spec operations in terms of data protection. Maybe this is something that could be tweaked for personal usage in our maturing age of hyper surveillance.

MONTMELO, SPAIN - MAY 18: Felipe Massa of Brazil drives the Williams Martini Racing Williams FW38 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo during day two of F1 in-season tests at Circuit de Catalunya on May 18, 2016 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – MAY 18: Felipe Massa of Brazil drives the Williams Martini Racing Williams FW38 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo during day two of F1 in-season tests at Circuit de Catalunya on May 18, 2016 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)