Analysts warn of automated car hacking

There’s already some concern that with newer generations of ever more connected and intelligent cars, that we’ll become vulnerable to remote hackers if auto-makers don’t take digital security seriously. However, some researchers believe that that’s just the tip of the iceberg and that by the time we get fully automated vehicles, hackers and potentially even more dangerous individuals could be looking to take control of our super-smart vehicles to cause mischief and harm.

This idea comes from the minds of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), which suggests that within the next 15 years, we could be not only facing the prospect of being driven around autonomously by our cars, but also by the fact that criminals could be attempting to hack into them on a regular basis.

Hugh Boyes, a cyber-security expert at the IET, said (via The Telegraph): “Sadly we’re not that good at writing software today. 98 per cent of applications have serious defects.

“If we have the hacker community start to target vehicles in Central London we could imagine a fair amount of chaos on the roads.”

“Terrorism is a real risk,” he said, as well as other various cyber-security related threats through the car’s inter-connectivity.


Funnily enough though, Mr Boyes quite clearly isn’t as up to date on certain aspects of car-based technology, as he suggested that the future may require us to have black-boxes in our cars to determine what happened in the case of an accident.

Someone needs to let Mr Boyes know that we’re already there. That’s exactly what telematics is and lots of people have it already.

Still, despite his concerns, the researchers’ conclusion was still been a positive one. Taking into consideration all of the accidents that happen now on our roadways, all of the deaths and injuries (90 per cent of which are thanks to driver error), that even if our autonomous vehicles were being hacked on a regular basis, it would still be safer than letting a bunch of imperfect humans get behind the wheel like we do now.

The only real concern is that over time people will forget how to drive safely and in the event of a problem with the onboard artificial intelligence, we could see people unable to take the wheel and bring the car to safe stop. But again, this is a nightmare scenario that is still preferable to what we have today. There would have to be a massive, regular fail rate of automated vehicles for us to see anywhere the number of crashes and fatalities as we already see on the road.

As it stands, some 1.2 million people lose their lives on the world’s roads each year. While over half of that is in countries like China and India alone, there’s still daily deaths in many of the world’s most developed roadway nations, so automated technology will likely bring a boon to many by keeping their loves ones alive, simply by taking their hands off of the wheel.



    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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