An Irish tech firm is behind Audi’s launch of a Europe-wide, flat-rate sim card, fitted in its new models from next year, that cuts out roaming charges for connected drivers.
Developed by Irish firm Cubic Telecom, the white-label sims will allow drivers to remain connected online, regardless of where they are in Europe, without the threat of huge bills when they return home.
"If you want to drive from Scotland to Portugal or to Sicily, you would normally go through 20, 30, 40 roaming areas, but that won't happen any more," said Audi's head of electronics development, Ricky Hudi.
The sim cards will be launched initially in Audi’s new Q7 and A4 models. The cards create a password-protected wifi hotspots for in-car entertainment systems and the mobile devices of passengers. “If you go on the internet from inside the car, every device that needs connectivity and is mobile will use it from where it sits in the car. It will connect through the car’s LTE network,” Hudi said.
It comes amid growing concerns over the potential threat to connected cars from hackers. Fiat Chrysler has recalled 1.4 million vehicles over a vulnerability that could allow hackers to disable them on highways. Fiat Chrysler's action on Friday – the first recall in the US over concerns about hacking – covers a series of vehicles from the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram brands. No European models are affected.
It follows an article published last Tuesday in
magazine detailing how hackers were able to use the radio of a Jeep Cherokee to disable its transmission as it drove down a public highway near St Louis.
Hackers previously believed an attack would be possible only over a direct wifi from yards away. However, the experimental attack occurred at a distance of 16km and involved a wide range of safety-critical vehicle systems.
Audi and Mercedes-Benz remain unconcerned, however, insisting their security development is at a different level to the potentially impacted Chryslers.
“Safety-critical systems get a lot of work from us,” Audi’s head of electronics said. Mercedes-Benz said there was no way their cars could be hacked from the outside.
The two German premium carmakers have insisted it’s not possible today to use the internet connectivity of their cars to hack into its control systems. Audi regularly uses professional hackers to test its electronics security work, Hudi said.
Audi's investment arm, Audi Electronics Venture, and Qualcomm invested €18 million in Dublin-based Cubic Telecom in May this year.