Cyber Security Expert Highlights Potential Risks
Self driving cars could be “taken over by hackers and used to wreak havoc”, a cyber security expert has warned.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology's Hugh Boyles told a leading technology website that: "You don't need to affect lots of (autonomous cars) to cause problems.”
The concern is that hackers – if such cars have vulnerabilities in their software – could be forced to perform tasks not requested by the motorist. It is much the same with a laptop computer, that can be infected with a virus and instructed to display a particular website.
Theoretically, a hacked vehicle could be instructed to block a major road in rush hour, drive to a location of the hacker's choice, exceed the speed limit or manoeuvre erratically.
“Just one or two in a stream of traffic that suddenly start to react erratically - either due to interference or technological malfunction - and we could rapidly see congestion levels escalate", Boyles said. The impact on an arterial road into the capital could be significant.
An Institution of Engineering and Technology report says that fully autonomous cars could be on the road in 15 years time. UK testing on public roads begins in January 2015.
Manufacturers of such cars will try to minimise any risk to the safety and convenience of motorists - but it is unlikely that any computer-based system will ever be invulnerable.
Mr Boyles added: "The challenge for these autonomous vehicles is they are heavily reliant on software, so we have to start asking how trustworthy the software is going to be".
"We need to be worrying about, and taking steps now to protect against, interference with autonomous vehicles.”
"There are ideas about, but we are still establishing what best practice might look like. Because of the pace of change those (ideas) need to be formalised and ultimately end up as standards."