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IPv6 is driving the future of the car industry

The automotive industry is gearing itself up for a technology revolution, driven by the Internet. While part of the industry focuses on fuel efficiency, there is also increasing attention on in-car connectivity, which opens up fields as diverse as entertainment, Sat-Nav, vehicle maintenance and insurance. Combining the market demand, rate of innovation and sheer scale of possibility, Machina Research predicts that 90 per cent of new cars wired up to the internet by 2020, up from just 10 per cent today.

However there is a critical issue which may hold back the rate of innovation, which pioneers Audi, Honda and Hyundai will have to face in the very near future. Every device that connects to the Internet needs an IP address, and the problem is that we've very nearly run out of them. The current standard, IPv4, was only ever designed to supply 4.3 billion addresses.

4.3 billion may sound like a lot, but we've already reached exhaustion point across many parts of the world, including the RIPE NCC's service region which covers Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia. In the last few weeks, LACNIC, the regional internet registry for Latin America and parts of the Caribbean, announced it only has four million IP addresses left.

Read more: Transitioning to IPv6? Here's how to beat the security risks

That means that organisations such as ISPs across North America, Europe and Asia are already unable to secure further large blocks of IPv4 to grow their networks. To summarise the problem simply, there aren't enough IPv4 addresses to connect all of the current human population, let alone to also enable every car produced in the next decade to be Internet-connected.

Race for the IP addresses

When you consider that one of the world's largest ISPs, Comcast, has around 16 million subscribers, and that Toyota already produces around 10 million cars a year, it's clear that there needs to be an alternative in order to safeguard future innovation and the growth of the Internet.

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The solution is IPv6, which is the new standard of IP address. It allows for 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses so there's no chance we'll run out any time soon. However, there needs to be a concerted effort from everyone developing Internet-connected devices, so that IPv6 is deployed now rather than later.

Car manufacturers need to engage fully with the Internet industry and share knowledge and expertise. Unfortunately, IPv4 and IPv6 do not speak the same language, and this means that Internet-connected devices must be equipped to deal with both. If car manufacturers insist on "making do" with IPv4 - imagine how the resale value of a car would be affected if it were Internet-enabled with IPv4, but in 10 years' time it couldn't actually connect to the Internet – so much advanced technology wasted.

Finding a different road

There are workarounds – it's possible to "share" IP addresses using a Carrier Grade NAT. However, this is a temporary solution akin to having one electrical socket and dozens of multiplug connections going into it - eventually it will be overloaded and fail. This would cause everything relying on that connection to fail too, and render a 'smart' car very dumb in an instant. Ultimately, the only lasting solution is to adopt IPv6.

IPv6 is the catalyst for the car industry's Internet revolution, but it's critical that car manufacturers engage with and become a part of the Internet community so that they can tackle problems before they arise.Porthole Ad