Driverless Cars: A New Challenge to Cybersecurity [POLICYbrief]

People are always looking for better ways,
and quicker ways, to get from place to place. At one point, we depended on animals, in the
horse and buggy days. And there was a real revolution in the late
1800s when cars came along. As early as the 20s, there was the idea that
maybe a car could drive by itself. And that evolved over the years, usually using
something external to the car, a radio wire, or some implementation that
was outside of the car. But it wasn’t until the past 20 years or so,
when thought was given and innovation was provided, to a vehicle that could drive itself
without any external force. No wire outside, no radio outside, and that
is currently in the state of evolution. Virtually all the automobile companies have
an interest in this: Tesla, Ford, General Motors. And companies such as Google, the high tech
companies are into it. I think we’re a substantial distance away,
at least 15 years. There’s so many things that have to be worked
out. The big one that has to be thought about,
at least in my view, is the cyber security problem. Right now if you’re in your car, already some
folks may know what’s going on. But with a driverless car, there would be
other people who know a lot about what is going on in your vehicle. If you engage in hanky panky, if you fall
asleep, if you’re drunk, if you say things that you don’t want other people to hear. Privacy invasions could be very substantial. With all the mechanics, and computer-generated
mechanisms in a car, someone somewhere is going to know much more about you. Just the way you may if you have some device
where you say, “play music,” and it’s in your home, they learn about you. And companies that already have access to
our information, who then go into the driverless cars or autonomous vehicles market, will have
more information. It’s very possible. The governments, our government, or governments
in foreign countries will be more intrusive and know more about you than they may currently. Is the government going to dictate to you about where you’re going, how you’re driving, whether the vehicle is set at a certain speed? Is the government even going to tell you what
it knows? Cybersecurity, to me, seems like an extremely
big one. In a situation with millions of codes, and
not absolute certainty as to who can obtain access to those codes, potential problems could exist. Your Bin Laden of 2040, on one day, could
somehow break into the code of a thousand vehicles and they could create absolute mayhem. And no terrorists would have to be killed. So cyber security is a very substantial risk
that we do not have now. With cars where we drive them, we’re not thinking
so much about privacy when we get in our car. But if we’re getting in our autonomous vehicle,
we are going to think about it.

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