Hungarian Know-how Helping Navigate the way to Connectivity and Cybersecurity

Automotive

With mobile networks poised to transition to fifth-generation technology, pundits expect transportation, like many other industries, to really start to embrace smart and electric vehicles, rewiring how we think about travelling. David Wiernik, president of the Hungary-based multinational navigation firm NNG, talks to the Budapest Business Journal about the future of smart vehicles roaming smart cities.

David Wiernik

International figures suggest that, with the rise in average salaries, older autos are gradually being replaced. While local statistics put the average age of cars on the Hungarian roads at between 12 and 14 years, the country has its fair share of new cars, but importantly the market is expanding.  

However, only 46% of Hungarian households own a car, according to a survey conducted by Median Opinion and Market Research; that confirms an earlier Eurostat study that reveals that the number of cars per 1,000 people in Hungary is 338, lagging some way behind the EU average of 505.

With the expansion of smart car usage, a capital like Budapest could see stunning benefits. “The city could eliminate parking spaces equivalent to 170 football pitches,” Wiernik tells the BBJ.  

“Residents could reclaim hours normally spent driving, and as electric vehicle numbers increase, air quality would dramatically improve. However, this is only true if mobility services, like car-sharing and public transport, are as good as, or better than, owning your own vehicle. The Hungarian government is supporting such innovation with developments like the Zalaegerszeg automotive test track for self-driving cars,” he adds.

NNG started in Hungary as a startup of passionate coders working 12-plus hours a day, aiming to deliver navigation solutions for a market that walked in baby shoes back in 2004, and focused on hand-held devices. Today, the company has grown considerably, reaching out far beyond the borders of this Central Eastern European country, conquering international markets via in-car systems.

Reputational Pride

“We are proud of where we started, and Hungary produces some of the best developers in the world. Our expertise is recognized by many international brands and we work closely with them via our network of global offices. This gives us a lot of pride and boosts Hungary’s reputation as a location at the forefront of technology. Something which is recognized by more and more countries,” Wiernik says.

NNG recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, and with this accumulated experience, the company has very firm view on the local market.  

“Hungary is a unique economy, and from the beginning, we knew that we needed to take our expertise, and industry perspective, international; I think it’s true of all markets that you to need to look at all the opportunities available to you. Here in Hungary, we have a proud history of invention. High levels of STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education produce some of the world’s most innovative engineers. Our goal is to show it to the world and attract more investors to the country,” the NNG president explains.

He says the company works hard on positioning itself globally so it can react flexibly to the current disruption in the automotive industry.  

“There’s a lot of early interest in cyber-security, and intelligent integrated interiors in Asia, especially China and Japan. We’re opening new offices in Kazan (Tatarstan in Russia). NNG is still a market leader in global automotive navigation. We’re investing a lot to prepare for the future of mobility, and our expertise in navigation will play a vital role. We’re focused on the holistic relationship between the car and the driver. Many surprises will follow,” Wiernik says.

Mobile network providers are expected to roll out 5G services en masse by the end of 2020 at the latest, and this technology is seen as likely to play a pivotal role in the realization of smart city solutions. As such, 5G is vital for making self-driving cars a reality, not least through the advent of sensors.

Stable Connections

“Smart-cars also need a stable data connection. They need reliability and enough bandwidth to enable secure communication between infrastructure and other vehicles. 5G networking technologies deliver this, but they’re still not mature enough for mass autonomous traffic. Connectivity at this level can present a significant risk to public safety,” the NNG chief warns.

This environment fuels the increasing need for cyber-security solutions, to protect all the players of the spectrum: The connected vehicle, its passengers, and the ecosystems they employ. NNG was recently recognized for its cyber-security excellence and market-ready solutions by Frost and Sullivan and awarded their 2019 Best Practices Award for Technology Innovation.  

Although smart and self-driving car technology is evolving rapidly, the appearance of ubiquitous self-driving cars in the next decade, say, hardly seems realistic at this point.  

“There’s still a lot of development and testing ahead, but by 2025 we could see at least one global city ban conventional cars. This will be not only to improve the circulation of self-driving vehicles, but also to reduce pollution and congestion as global populations migrate to urban centers,” Wiernik says.

How could the development of such technology be nurtured, then? “Much depends on the industry, regulatory factors, and consumer trends. I suspect we’ll see them used in specific, geo-fenced areas, such as highways, to begin with. Then slowly rolled-out to cities as the technology evolves,” he adds.

Jargon Buster: What is the Connected Car?

A connected car is one that has its own data connectivity, usually via an embedded sim card or a wireless local area network (WLAN). This allows the car to share internet access and data with other devices in- and outside the car. Such vehicles operate as part of the internet of things (IoT), a phrase that refers to everyday items being connected to the internet with the intention of making our lives easier. Cars offer a wider range of communication possibilities than many other connected devices. As well as granting users access to real-time safety and comfort features, they could enable in-car services such as shopping and entertainment. Connectivity facilitates contact between the car and the dealership, triggering service appointments, and even alerts emergency services if you’ve been involved in an accident.

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