South Africa – With Michael Knight’s KITT, Arnold’s Johnny Cab and Tom Cruise’s Lexus 2054 from Minority Report, it would seem that Hollywood is an excellent predictor of the future.
Autonomous or self-driving vehicles are no longer just a flight of fantasy. According to a Business Insider Intelligence report, it is estimated that by the year 2020 we will be sharing the roads with 10 million self-driving vehicles. Depending on where you stand in the debate, this is either the stuff of nightmares, for the tech-challenged generation, or a dream come true for the button fiddling and texting generation.
The proponents and manufacturers of these new fantastic beasts are adamant that the advantages and benefits of self-driving vehicles outweigh any negative impact for the driver and passenger. Among the advantages are:
- Significant reduction in road accidents (estimated at 90% reduction by 2050)
- Enhanced mobility for elderly, disabled and children
- Lower fuel consumption
- Facilitation of different business models for mobility as a service (think driverless taxi services)
“However, as with any new technology, new challenges also arise,” says Daléne Delport, account manager at Acuideas. “Not least of which are the risks associated with liability arising from a collision or due to an uninvited passenger – the hacker.”
According to a report by Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty (AGCS), the effects of self-driving vehicle technology on the insurance market cannot be ignored. Together with the reduction in accident rates, the liability will shift from the driver of the vehicle to the manufacturer, hence contracting the market for personal automotive insurance.
The biggest risk that should be investigated is the possibility of hackers hacking into the computerised systems of vehicles that would potentially carry the personal and private information of the owner of the vehicle. If the vehicle’s computerised systems use the cloud to connect to the outside environment to engage in any significant computations, it will be vulnerable to hackers.
Who will carry the risk of the potential lack of privacy? Self-driving or not, vehicles are becoming increasingly data-centric. Automakers and software developers are keenly aware of risks involved when a self-driving vehicle requires a software update. These updates, already currently done via “patch-in” technology, will open the door just wide enough for cyber criminals to install ransomware on thousands of vehicle, locking out users or freezing the vehicle.
“There would have to be a more than significant synergy between manufacturers of the vehicles, as well as the software engineers, to safeguard data. Unfortunately, creating secure cyber systems is not a “once-and-for-all” scenario. As technology develops, so too does the interest of hackers, and more secure data systems could see even more intense attempts to obtain data by hacking,” says Delport.
It would seem that there are currently still more questions than answers. Automakers and software engineers alike should take away from the hard-learned lessons in other industries and in so doing, they can appease the fears of the potential buyers by keeping the “drivers” safe and the unwelcome passengers out.
11 April 2018
Daléne Delport, Acuideas