Driverless Cars Could be Hacked by Cybercriminals, Warns UK Transport Minister

Security experts fear that cyber-attacks may delay mass production and use of Driverless cars in the world. UK Transport minister has pin pointed cyber threats as the major drawback to adoption of Driverless cars in UK.

Driverless cars may soon take over our roads if the current innovation trends is anything to go by. A debate on whether to have them in our road is already shaping up with the proponents saying it’s the most innovative way to make our roads safer by reducing erroneous human judgment. The opponents too have a case, arguing that driverless cars will only lead more chaos on roads given that it only requires one malfunctioning car to cause a huge traffic snarl up.

Well, whichever side you favor, we all seem to agree that it’s only a matter of when and not if Driverless cars will soon be taking over. Although computers would never drive while drunk nor pick calls while driving, they are susceptible to hackers, and that’s where the problem begins. Soon, highway authorities will be enforcing more cyber laws than actual traffic regulations.

UK transport Minister, Claire Perry is the latest person to voice her concerns over the safety of Driverless cars given the ever evolving cybercrime landscape. While addressing the House of Common Committee on Transport, the minister said the advancement of the internet of thing to automobiles significantly increase the probability of cyber-attacks which threatens road safety.

“The more we move to technologically assisted forms of transport – whether it’s smart motorways or driver-assisted vehicles – there is also a risk of, sort of, cyber hacking if you like, so we’re mindful of that,” said Perry to the house committee adding that the UK government is currently considering the Legal issues such as insurance and third party liabilities in relation to Driverless cars.

Industry experts have also voiced their concerns about the government inquiry into the cyber security of Driverless cars. “It’s good to see that ministers are asking such questions. It could be quite some time before self-driving cars are on the roads, but there will be no stopping increasing amounts of assisted-driving and all of the technology associated,” says Sean Sullivan, a security advisor at F-Secure

“Right now we are at a nascent stage in the development of connected cars and now is the right time to make sure we develop the right legal, insurance and technological frameworks and controls to make sure we are able to capitalize on the benefits they will bring,” added Wil Rockall, a cybersecurity expert at KPMG

Although the world is yet to witness mass production of driverless cars, countries especially USA and China are already enacting laws to accommodate the technology. States like Florida, California and Nevada have legalized the use of Driverless cars while companies like Google has already tested its Driverless cars in US. These cars rely on artificial intelligence to interact with their immediate environment and then mimic the decision a human driver would make in every instance.

Meanwhile, the future of driverless technology depends on the extent to which manufacturers address the cybersecurity greys areas. So long as people are not guaranteed of a safe ride, nobody would be willing to board a driverless cab, a sentiment echoed by Hugh Boyles, a cybersecurity expect at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

Boyles says, the first step in securing driverless cars is addressing the security flaws in software and microprocessors used. “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 operating those vehicles,” concludes Boyles.

Featured/Top image: By Mark Doliner [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Lawrence Mwangi Lawrence is a technology and business reporter. He has freelanced for a number of tech sites and magazines. He is a web-enthusiast, with a special interest in Online security, Entrepreneurship and Innovation. When not writing about tech he can be found in a Tennis court or on a chess board.
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