Security

Fujitsu: Fingerprints and eye scans will replace car keys, paving way for autonomous vehicles

Biometric authentication will soon become the standard for unlocking and driving cars, according to Fujitsu. Here's why.

IT equipment and services giant Fujitsu predicts that biometric authentication will soon become the standard for unlocking and driving vehicles, according to a new forecast.

Beyond operating a car, biometrics could allow drivers to create a more personalized driving experience, Fujitsu noted. For example, scanning your fingerprint on the dashboard could move the seat into a specific position, provide access to an individual driver's cloud-based music and movie collection, or even provide payment for a meal in a drive-through restaurant line.

Biometric authentication will also ultimately help users unlock semi- or fully-autonomous features, Fujitsu said in the forecast, which could be enabled or disabled depending on the driver.

The driving force behind these massive changes? The shared car industry, according to Fujuitsu. By 2030, a majority of shared cars on the road will see use rates above 50%, compared to the current 5% we currently see, the company predicts. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) will become a reality for many consumers, along with a need for improved driving efficiency and an increased use of these shared cars.

SEE: Identity management: Hot and getting hotter (Tech Pro Research)

This shift to MaaS could lead more than 20 million vehicles to be removed from the road each year, according to Frost & Sullivan.

"To stay competitive in this new landscape, it is crucial that car manufacturers think beyond the traditional ecosystem of making and selling cars and drive innovation into a digitally transforming auto industry," according to a press release. "By partnering more closely with IT vendors, car companies can benefit from the process of co-creation to guide their business decisions with the goal of providing new environments that quickly address the digital demands of the modern-day consumer."

The US carsharing market has roughly doubled in the past five years, reaching $400 million in annual revenue in 2015. In the near future, motorists will have more options in terms of accessing cars: Most will buy one and rent it out to other drivers, or join a subscription-based service that allows them to drive multiple types of cars, Fujitsu said.

As more cars are driven by multiple drivers, physical keys will "soon become extinct," Fujitsu said. Instead, biometric authentication will be the easier, more efficient method of access. However, this places added security burdens on the automotive industry.

"Mobility-as-a-Service cannot succeed without a sound security and identity strategy and integrated program. With connected components and motorists' profile information available through cloud-based models, it will become vitally important that car companies detect security threats, and fraudulent identity attempts," Jason Bradlee, head of security at Fujitsu America, Inc., said in the release. "This is an area especially where car manufacturers need to look outside of their companies and enlist the help and support of technology partners."

This could also have implications for other mobility industries, such as trucking and taxis, potentially making it easier to access shared vehicles.

While biometrics are a strong and convenient authentication mechanism, they are not necessarily stronger than a physical token such as a key, Gartner analyst Avivah Litan told TechRepublic. For example, many biometric implementations can be subject to spoofing or replay attacks, and can also be broken into via weak or compromised enrollment processes.

They are also not always accurate: Sometimes a legitimate fingerprint cannot be matched, which could prevent a consumer from starting their car.

Car companies need to ensure they have a layered security and authentication approach that taps multiple factors and measures, including biometrics and others, Litan said. For example, a manufacturer might combine biometric matching with a physical chip in a key, or with a PIN the user must enter.

"I would modify the Fujitsu statement to say that biometric authentication will become A standard for accessing and operating vehicles, but not THE only standalone standard for doing so," Litan said. "It will gradually be phased in, in conjunction with other authentication and security measures."

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

1. Fujitsu predicts that in the near future, car keys will be replaced by biometric security measures to unlock and drive vehicles.

2. This change will be driven by the shared vehicle industry: By 2030, a majority of shared cars on the road will see use rates above 50%, compared to the current 5% we currently see.

3. While biometrics are a strong security option, they are not completely failproof, and car manufacturers should build in layered security approaches, experts say.

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Image: iStockphoto/nevarpp

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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