In their article, “Future Cars” (page 22 in this issue), authors Sebastian Wedeniwski and Stephen Perun explore the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive machines, and cars. They present an insider’s view of our automotive future, in which everything we think and feel about cars will change. The prospects look enticing: cars that function like personal service robots, anticipating and meeting our needs, even sensing our moods and reacting accordingly.

Having your car know and order your coffee preference, or take you on a calming drive because you feel out of sorts, might appear to have little to do with car washing. However, cars are the very reason for our industry’s existence, but cars don’t drive themselves to the car wash (not yet, anyway). For that we need the motorist. America’s love affair with the automobile is the stuff of legends. In Wedeniwski and Perun’s telling, that relationship is about to get tighter. It follows that the car/owner relationship is one that car care service providers need to understand and account for in their business approaches and dealings.

How does the car accomplish all the wondrous tasks envisaged? It does so through constant data collection and analysis. To access data, the car needs to be connected. A study by KPMG concluded that by 2022 North American drivers of connected cars will use an average of 21 gigabytes of data per month. Already, the study found, the average connected car has more than 150 million lines of software code.

Being connected creates its own problems. Nearly three years ago, at a time when the connected-car concept was still in its infancy, we related the experience of one Andy Greenberg as the driver of a hacked connected car, specifically a Jeep Cherokee. Greenberg was a willing participant in a test run arranged with two researchers who had developed a hacking technique that allowed them to take wireless control, via the Internet, of any of thousands of vehicles, sending commands through the vehicle’s entertainment system to the dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission. The hackers were able to interfere with all of these functions.

Cybercriminals have become more sophisticated and have devised a way to turn car hacking into a profitable activity. Ransomware attacks are emerging as some of the most serious cyber risks that connected cars must withstand, says ERM Advanced Telematics, an Israel-based international automotive technology provider. During a ransomware attack on a connected car, hackers remotely connect to the car, damage or lock it, and demand that the owner pay them ransom to unlock it. With reference to the KPMG study, above, ERM announced that it had completed development of eCyber, an integrated hardware/software product that protects vehicles against ransomware and other cyber-attacks.

While the identified problems are real, much of what is being envisaged as our future transportation is still theory or conjecture. Buy-in by the public is also not a certainty. A recent survey conducted for by SQL Server Reporting Services found that 61 percent of Americans would refuse a ride in a self-driving taxi; 56 percent feel less safe sharing the road with autonomous vehicles, while only 31 percent feel safer.