The future of transportation is driverless. That fact is too obvious now for anyone to deny. At the center of this driverless future is artificial intelligence (AI), a technology that has been tested and proven in multiple industries already. Everyone agrees that AI has the potential to improve the functionality, flexibility, sustainability, and efficiency of future mobility. Experts argue that once our roads are fully automated and once autonomous vehicles replace human drivers, our streets will witness a significant drop in car collisions and car accidents.
However, the world has already witnessed high-profile accidents involving autonomous vehicles, the first one involving Google's self-driving car in 2016. That means these vehicles are far from being 100% accident-free. Another thing that might derail the ambitious goal of automating our cars and cities in the next decade is the need to address potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities in autonomous technology. After all, driverless cars run on computer programs that can be hacked just like on any other computer.
This article explores the ever-expanding range of cybersecurity issues as far as autonomous driving is concerned.
Why is cybersecurity crucial for a driverless future?
1. Human-induced errors increase cybersecurity vulnerabilities
Autonomous vehicles (AV) will not be fully independent of humans. There will be human instructors, the vehicles will be carrying humans, and there will be a host of other interactions between humans and technology. With humans come errors, and with human errors come cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Note that with more than 100 million lines of code, attackers will have little to no chance of infiltrating AV programming. Their biggest chance of attacking AVs and inflicting maximum damage is capitalizing on human errors. The only way of reducing the damage caused by human-induced errors is by using cybersecurity measures.
2. Carjacking possibilities
Autonomous cars communicate with each other through device-to-device IoT technology. The communication is relayed from remote servers to the car, so the car is able to navigate roads and communicate with road signs as well as pedestrians. If a hacker infiltrates an AV’s system, he can mess up the communication patterns are send the car in the wrong direction. For the fact that communications move at high speeds, a simple interference with the communication patterns can cause huge confusion, including collisions and carjacking. Imagine a situation where an attacker instructs a driverless car to stop suddenly in the middle of the road, turn unexpectedly, or accelerate abruptly; that would be catastrophic.
What is most worrying is the fact that huge amounts of data have to be stored in remote servers in order to aid autonomous driving. This data is then shared across servers and devices in real-time through vulnerable networks. If a hacker can access information regarding a passenger, that includes credit card information and travel destination, they can use that information to harm the given passenger. It is only by implementing strong data security measures that carjacking chances in autonomous cars will be minimized autonomous. One such measure would be to buy a VPN.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a service that you can use to block out attackers from infiltrating your connection to another network or accessing your confidential data over the Internet. VPNs will play a big role in a driverless future because they will be used to shield passenger information from data thieves.
3. The vulnerability of external sensors
The rolling out of a fully autonomous future will rely heavily on external sensors. Vehicles will be using sensors to identify and communicate with pedestrians, other vehicles, and the road itself. If the sensors are fed with the wrong information, blocked completely, or tampered with in any way, chances of fatal accidents will increase. These sensors are very vulnerable to tampering, but they can be saved if whoever tampers with them is unable to make any meaningful alterations.
4. Probable ridesharing and car-sharing risks
The future of shared mobility is looking up. Ridesharing and car-sharing have made transportation convenient and affordable especially in major cities. However, ridesharing apps have in the recent past been the main target for hackers. Many users have lost important data in the hands of those apps, data has been used to steal identities and cause unimaginable harm and pain. If you combine the vulnerability of ridesharing apps and the complex cybersecurity threats that autonomous cars present, without proper cybersecurity infrastructure, it is scary to imagine the danger and trouble passengers would be in.
As much as there are security concerns with autonomous vehicles, there still is a bright future in the new technology. Car manufactures and IT experts will certainly come together to forge a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity and guarantee a secure ecosystem of the driverless future.
Note: This blog article was written by a guest contributor for the purpose of offering a wider variety of content for our readers. The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of GlobalSign.