Driving convenience and security in a digital USA

Last updated: 11 April 2014

Security or convenience? It’s an age-old question in the security world. But in parts of the USA people like you or me can have easy access to both. As part of our mini-series on Digital USA, I want to take a look at automotive innovation and how digital technology is transforming the transport industry to give us the best of both worlds.

Take, for example, Daimler’s car2go service, currently in eight major cities in the United States. The service uses GPS technology to help users find a nearby car for hire in their area; a convenient and flexible option for those who don’t need or can’t afford a car on a constant basis. Combined with M2M communications, driver details can be instantly authenticated, bills accurately calculated, and eco-friendly driving maintained through a live data link. If you’re a good, responsible driver, your insurance company can offer you reasonable rates that reflect your good driving behavior.

Google has made no secret of its developments in driverless cars. Combining technologies that make cars aware of their immediate surroundings, with a secure data connection to a city’s traffic network, could even produce cars that can plan their journey more efficiently. This could cut congestion across an entire town, making it safer and more convenient.

Digital technologies are at the center of a revolution that is also making airports safer and more efficient. Airlines and railways are increasingly using kiosks to automate passenger check-in. Many also use mobile boarding passes, eGates and smartphone apps to eliminate cumbersome processes and wasted paper, while placing more information in the hands of travelers. As a frequent traveler, I am a big fan of this technology where I am instantly alerted to gate changes and flight time changes.

A growing number of countries are issuing ePassports as well as digitally encoded driver’s licenses and ID cards. They can be scanned faster and are harder to forge than the old-style ones. They contain a computer chip that holds a digital version of the data that appears in the document, including the photograph. A digital security key is required to view the data and a radio shield is built in to prevent it from being read when the physical passport is closed.

eDriver’s licenses are already being used to confirm your identity for insurance, road tolls and handle other tasks such as online identity verification. They offer an authentication method for websites that is far more secure than a password.

The battle for convenience and security is often fraught with conflict, but as the USA’s digital society continues to grow, perhaps we too will also grow to realize that they can be both one and the same.