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Lear plans to ship a modular unit to let cars talk to smart cities and other vehicles

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Car component supplier Lear is hoping to ride the wave of connectivity to new heights, with plans to develop and ship a unit for its car-maker customers that lets their vehicles communicate with other cars on the road, city infrastructure including connected roads and traffic lights, and with cloud-based services. The part would also be modular, letting OEMs easily install physical upgrades.

What Lear hopes to do is bring said component to market in only “a few years,” according to an interview that Lear’s VP of connectivity Praveen Singh gave to Crain’s Detroit Business (via Automotive News). For testing purposes, the project is making use of infrastructure tech used throughout Downton Detroit and Michigan, installed by Arada Systems, the connective mobility startup acquired by Lear last year which Singh founded.

Arada specialized in connecting cars with external networks, including other vehicles and traffic lights. Part of its focus is on ensuring that connections between cars and their environments remain secure, since two-way communication between vehicles and their surroundings present an attractive opportunity for potential bad actors. Lear will focus on security with its upcoming modular solution, too, both via swappable hardware and a plan to support regular security-focused, over-the-air updates.

Lear is far from the only company that wants to be the connective hub of tomorrow’s smart cars, but it has relationships in place that might help it get a first look from legacy companies more skeptical of new suppliers – provided it can deliver what it promises, which will be no small feat given that it also has to sell infrastructure customers on its system, as well.