Autonomous Vehicles IoT

Have we considered all the risks associated with this?

September 17, 2016 | By Risktal Thought Leadership

The race for developing and commercializing autonomous vehicles has placed increased importance and reliance on technology; leading the automotive industry to enter into unprecedented investments, even partnerships with players in the technology space, latest of which is Volkswagen’s new cyber-security Firm announced in September 2016. Link.

Whilst there are opportunities and perceived benefits of such innovation, there are different risks associated with it. If you browse the internet, you will find numerous articles discussing the cyber threats associated with such autonomous cars; and quite right they are areas of concern, and was nicely summed up in a phrase in an article “When cars can talk to the Internet, hackers can talk to cars”; yet in this article we would like to shed some light on different risks that surround this innovation.


What are the perceived benefits of autonomous cars?

  • Reduce congestion.
  • Reduced car crashes and accidents.
  • Better mobility for elderly.
  • Fuel consumption efficiency.
  • Better utilization of land currently dedicated for parking.
  • Better utilization of passengers’ time which can be more productive.
  • Efficient identification of destination and increased efficiency of travel time.
  • Reduced need for car ownership.

The more technology dependence the more exposure to cyber threats.

Autonomous cars dependence on technology occurs on multiple levels, simply laid out, be it the communication between the car and the internet (GPS, RTA, etc), or the inter-component communication within the vehicle e.g. multimedia systems or the infrastructure connection to the electro-mechanics of the car.

Each communication channel is subject to hacking and abuse. Hence the need for security measures becomes more prominent.

One may challenge this with an argument that we are not new to the digital world and there are counter measures that are in place for such threats, which have been applied in organizations.

Nevertheless, what amplifies cyber threats to these vehicles is their mobility. Such mobility exposes the vehicles to reduced physical security measures which facilitates easier hackers or abusers’ accessibility.


Are these all the risks associated with autonomous cars?

Whilst there seem to be numerous perceived benefits of such innovation, there are other risks associated with it that we are not sure have been taken into consideration:

  • Social risks – Increased unemployment levels. What would be the fate of the current drivers who would be replaced by vehicles?
  • Regulatory risks – Outdated laws and regulations, e.g. traffic regulations, insurance, litigation and penal laws. If a car crashes and causes deaths or injuries, who exactly is liable? The developer ? the automotive manufacturer? The hacker?
  • Economic risks – Obsolescence of traditional vehicles and means of transportation such as trains and buses, as autonomous vehicles take over.
  • Taxes – As autonomous vehicles become commercially viable and economic in fuel consumption, there might be further tax implications on retaining the old vehicles to drive the shift to the new generation of vehicles.

Innovation is the way to the future and we all should ride the wave and contribute for a better future. Nevertheless, all initiatives need to be sufficiently calculated to manage the associated risks.

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