What Happens if Your Autonomous Car Gets Hacked?
Since the emergence of computers, hacking has been its counterpart. No matter how strong a firewall is made, the hackers always seem to find enough loopholes to enter into the virtual world of computers. But what happens when the computer that has been hacked is your autonomous car?
Hacking the Self Driving Car
There are surely security measures built into almost every autonomous vehicle, but the vulnerability that may be hardest to control is that one hacker can exploit without even knowing that your car exists. Because autonomous vehicles operate in response to inputs from the world around them, the easiest way to hack a self-driving vehicle may be to simply change its environment. A group of researchers led by Ivan Evtimov from the University of Washington has developed a concept for fooling self-driving cars by slightly altering the road signs they rely upon. The alterations trick the vehicles into recognizing them as different signs. The research further explains a proof of concept for fooling autonomous cars. Using subtle changes like fake weathering or specially designed graffiti, the research team was able to fool the vehicle algorithm they were testing into believing stop signs were actually 45 miles per hour speed limit signs. The danger of such alterations is obvious. When cars should be stopping but instead may be speeding up, disaster is almost guaranteed.
The question for investors is, will scary stories like these prevent mass uptake of autonomous vehicles by consumers, or will tech companies innovate their way around such obstacles? According to a recent study that surveyed auto engineers and IT experts, 84% of respondents were concerned that car manufacturers are not keeping pace with the industry’s constantly increasing cybersecurity threats. Since self-driving cars have been involved in numerous accidents, this means they still have flaws, which can become exploited by malicious actors. Although taking care of aspects such as having proper navigation systems and avoiding collisions are obvious priorities for manufacturers, cybersecurity should also be at the top of the mind.
Research says, if people were to hack even a small number of internet-connected self-driving cars on the roads of the United States, the flow of traffic would be completely frozen. And emergency vehicles would not even be able to pass through. However, scientists are researching and working on integrated security devices that can be installed inside cars and protect various electronic units and networks in the vehicle.