Driverless cars ‘could be hacked’ warns Institute of Engineering and Technology

Driverless cars are just around the corner, with the UK government putting up £10 million (around $15.6 million) for cities to pilot trials as soon as next year, but the country’s Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) today issued stern warnings about the security of the technology.

Mashable reports that Hugh Boyes of the IET stated that software had to become more reliable and robust before the technology becomes mainstream.  He said, “Recent reports analyzing software show that 98 percent of applications have serious defects and in many cases there were 10-15 defects per application. If ultimately you want to use autonomous vehicles, we need to make sure they don’t have a defect.”

But, the bigger concern for Boyes was the potential for the technology to be hacked, a threat that he believes the motor industry is ill-informed about, concentrating more on the safety of the AI itself. There would be “chaos” if hackers could easily access the drivers of tomorrow, he suggested: “If we have the hacker community start to target vehicles in Central London, we could imagine a fair amount of chaos on the road. Terrorism is a real risk. So cyber security of autonomous vehicles will be critical. And we’re going to have to consider having black boxes in vehicles in the event of an incident.”

“If just one in 100 vehicles, or one in 1,000, gets interfered with and ceases to operate as planned we can expect chaos on the roads. We don’t want to be there,” he added.

The threat of hacking could put a dent in the safety credentials of driverless car technology, which is actually one of its strongest selling points, with Tech Times reporting that for over one million miles worth of testing, driverless cars have seen a single accident – and that was when a human driver took control.

The Guardian even notes that driverless cars could be ‘bad role models’ for their human counterparts, observing that research has shown that human drivers “change their behavior when using the same road as autonomous cars by copying the driving styles and leaving less space between the vehicle in front.” The driverless car’s sensors would allow for almost instant reactions – far quicker than a human pilot.

Image: Mariordo, used under Creative Commons License

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