While the concept of driverless vehicles was challenging to visualize even a few years ago, there has been a significant increase in funding for research for driverless vehicles in recent times.
Also known as self-driving cars, automated cars, and autonomous vehicles, driverless vehicles are designed to travel without human operation. For personal and commercial purposes, driverless vehicles use a combination of onboard sensors and connectivity to a central hub, enabling them to navigate freely.
It is believed that driverless vehicles will save the UK economy nearly £34 billion a year simply from a logistics standpoint, so it’s not surprising that many vehicle manufacturers are interested in pursuing this ground-breaking modern technology. Renowned vehicle manufacturers developing driverless vehicle technology include Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, and Volvo, alongside Google.
Not only would driverless vehicles allow for greater efficiency and considerable cost savings for commercial firms, but vehicles that can operate at all hours of the day would enable company employees to perform other tasks, potentially improving productivity in the workplace.
Why are they Vulnerable?
While the cost savings and freeing up of the workforce are vital positive factors for investing in driverless technology, the possibility of a data breach or attack should not be overlooked. As with any technology, a threat or hack is always possible, particularly with any system connected to an external data source. While manufacturers know that driverless vehicles must be equipped with a robust security system, it is impossible to guarantee 100% safety.
As driverless vehicles become more accessible, tracking and monitoring each vehicle comes the challenge of tracking and monitoring. While you might assume that large corporations would attract cyber hackers with vast wealth as targets for an attack, smaller businesses are often preyed upon as easy targets.
Not having sufficient knowledge or resources to protect themselves from attack makes small businesses an ideal target for cybercriminals. Tending to be without the levels of security and preventative resources available to larger companies, smaller businesses cannot respond to threats with the same speed and efficiency. In 2016 alone, it was estimated that 1 in 10 people or businesses attacked by hackers were targeted simply due to the lack of provisions made for their digital security arrangements.
Why Target Vehicles?
As driverless vehicles are still a relatively new concept and are under development, they are more susceptible to attack than other types of technology. Regular ‘manned’ vehicles are not similarly vulnerable due to the driver’s presence. Current security technologies are primarily geared towards the presence of a human being as a deterrent for theft and hacks. To this end, physical security measures have become more advanced over recent years, with CCTV cameras being a prime example. In the aftermath of the 2011 London riots, CCTV helped catch more than 5,000 thieves and bring them to justice.
In addition, once a vehicle has been broken into, it’s very easy to remove it from the scene quickly and unobtrusively. Bystanders wouldn’t usually take a second look if a driverless vehicle seemingly went about its scheduled routine. Indeed, it would be difficult to determine if it had been hacked due to the difficulty of identifying the correct path the vehicle should be on and if it had deviated from this. However, as we know, hackers can operate from any corner of the world and in complete secrecy, so deterrents such as CCTV are no longer a viable distraction.
With autonomous technology, such as driverless vehicles becoming more and more prevalent in our society, the risk of cybercrime increases exponentially. All technologies are guaranteed to go through stages of trial and error regarding security, regardless of how revolutionary they are.
Ultimately, it only takes one small error or flaw in the system to turn a minor security breach into a severe collapse. Similarly, with data theft and many other forms, lack of knowledge and resources are critical factors determining why hackers attack the average person and business. While driverless technology is improved upon, this type of chance opportunity will not be ignored by unscrupulous individuals who thrive on exploiting the vulnerabilities of both businesses and individuals.
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