Why driverless cars may never happen – Telegraph.co.uk

Posted: Tuesday, September 08, 2015

“In one well-publicised incident, researchers connected a laptop directly to the controller area network – the system which connects multiple vehicle functions – of a conventional car, [giving] them full control over nearly every system, as they demonstrated by disabling the brakes in a controlled environment.”

• Britain bids to take pole position in race to develop driverless cars

In another demonstration, students at a Chinese hacking conference gained remote access to a brand new car and unlocked it, sounded the horn, flashed the lights and opened the sunroof while it was in motion.

The report warns that the car industry’s mindset opens it up to cyber attacks as designers still think of it as a “closed system”, when in reality the addition of networked systems such as satnavs, voice-controlled phones and web connections means they can be accessed from a distance. Having to make these systems cheap, small and robust enough to fit in a vehicle also makes it hard to build in high-level cryptography to keep attackers at bay.

• In pictures: Britain’s first driverless cars as they begin tests in Milton Keynes

Mr Mohr said he was shocked to discover that the software in cars was 10 to 15 years behind systems common in the IT world, and recommended that car makers rethink how they deal with hackers.

“It is impossible to eliminate cyber security attacks [so the auto industry] must shift its focus to managing them,” he said, adding that people should be encouraged to find flaws with the security.

The report suggests creating a market where hackers are financially rewarded for finding faults, on the condition they do not share them with others, with the car industry paying out depending on how serious they are.

“Such a market could produce rapid improvements in security by making crucial threat-related information tradable,” it adds.

Creating a market for ‘hacks’ of cars could reduce the risk posed by cyber attacks

“People do not think about risk in a rational way; think about the number of road fatalities there are,” Mr Mohr said. “If autonomous cars were introduced, they would reduce this number hugely because most are accidents by human drivers making errors.”

Another challenge to be overcome before the advent of driverless cars is improving navigation systems. The current level of accuracy of around 10 metres would not be sufficient to allow cars to position themselves on the road; the report suggests that accuracy of 10 centimetres would be needed.

The maps that cars work from would also have to be constantly updated to keep up with new layouts and roadworks. The entry into the sector of Apple and Google, which are both developing driverless cars, could also reveal cultural differences between established car makers and the tech giants.

Current auto manufacturers are working on a step-by-step basis of introducing systems – such as cruise control and auto parking – that aid drivers as they work up to a fully autonomous car, while tech companies favour a much faster approach.

New entrants to the car market are expected to push for a faster introduction of autonomous vehicles

“In keeping with the tech industry’s culture of rapid prototyping, most challengers are pushing hard for early trials of their technology and use of the findings from those trials to improve the technology on the fly,” the report says, adding that it expects to see them make alliances with fleet operators and taxi companies to get large trials of their cars started.

Mr Mohr said he would like to see tech companies “treat mobility as a service, not a product” and first introduce their driverless cars into closed communities, such as university campus or retirement villages, before pushing out wider as the technology was proven.

Ford, the UK’s biggest selling car brand, welcomes new entrants into the market, saying it could result in driverless cars getting on the road faster.

“We are excited by all the innovation and know the increased attention will not only speed the technology but also help align us as industry, regulatory and economic leaders,” a spokesman for the company said. However he added that although it has test vehicles on road, the company’s priority was not to be the first to introduce them.

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