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SwRI to launch Automotive Consortium for Embedded Securityâ„¢ (ACES)

Automation & Data Systems

As vehicles become increasingly dependent on computers to operate integrated systems, from engine timing to anti-lock brakes, it is crucial to safeguard those systems from outside threats. To investigate leading-edge technologies and understand and reduce the risk of attack, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is forming the Automotive Consortium for Embedded Security (ACES).

The joint industry program aims to provide pre-competitive and non-competitive research in automotive embedded systems security to protect the safety, reliability, brand image, trade secrets and privacy of client members’ future products. It is open to original equipment manufacturers and affiliated businesses in the automotive industry. Companies can join the three-year program at any time by paying the annual membership fee. The consortium will hold an information exchange meeting in Sterling Heights, Mich., on Oct. 23. The formal kickoff of ACES will occur in January or February 2014.

“The automation and connectivity that make automobiles safer, more efficient and more responsive also expose them to higher risk of malicious cyber attacks, which could compromise safety and damage an automaker’s reputation,” said Mark Brooks, a senior research engineer in SwRI’s Automation and Data Systems Division. “ACES is looking at emerging research both in new technologies and new protections for embedded security for the automotive world.”

Embedded systems are processors designed for a specific function within a larger system, such as the whole automobile. They typically handle a specific task and have been optimized to reduce size and cost and increase reliability and performance. Vehicles typically have dozens of embedded computer systems. “Automobile cyber security is the idea of protecting the computers that go in a vehicle from hacking, identifying system bugs that might be on the computers and also protecting the intellectual property associated with control system software on those computers,” Brooks said.

SwRI has been working with embedded systems security in areas such as electrical smart grids and residential smart meters, as well as industrial control systems and distribution centers to help secure those from attackers and terrorist threats.

The advantage of consortium membership is that the impact of the yearly contribution is multiplied by the number of participants, providing substantially more pre-competitive research than would be possible with funding from a single client. In addition, members will have access to autoTREAD™ software, an SwRI-developed automotive tool that provides a framework for analysis and detection of anomalies on the controller area network (CAN) bus. The Institute also will pursue patents for technology developed by the ACES program, and participants will receive a royalty-free license to use the ACES-developed technology.

As an independent R&D laboratory, SwRI has extensive experience in managing consortia. The ACES consortium will be the seventh automotive industry-related consortium currently managed by the Institute. For more information about ACES and to learn more about the Oct. 23 information exchange, see or contact Brooks at (210) 522-3727 or e-mail at

About SwRI:

SwRI is an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development organization based in San Antonio, Texas, with nearly 3,000 employees and an annual research volume of more than $584 million. Southwest Research Institute and SwRI are registered marks in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. For more information about Southwest Research Institute, please visit or

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