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Collaboration key to unlocking secure driverless future

A new report from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) calls for greater industry collaboration and transparency in developing connected and driverless cars. This will help ensure that future autonomous vehicles are safe from cyber threats.

Cars are already more ‘intelligent’: driver assistance systems, alerts and notifications, cameras and in-vehicle decision support systems are already commonplace. Over the coming years, connected technologies between both vehicles themselves and the transport infrastructure will become an integral feature of the global car market, worth €39bn to the market by 2018. The increasing use of connectivity in and between cars has put pressure on manufacturers and consumers to ensure connected systems remain safe.

Automotive Cyber Security reviews the progress made in developing technology like driverless cars, identifying possible cyber security vulnerabilities and highlighting how a number of manufacturers in the automotive industry are responding to fears that cars of the future could be ‘hacked’.

This review, based on research and consultation with industry, outlines a number of potential issues and threats including:

  • personal data theft
  • fraud and deception (altering or deleting schedule logs and records)
  • freight and goods theft
  • automotive ‘hacktivism’ – cyber infiltration of a vehicle’s systems that is politically or ideologically motivated
  • immobilisation
  • inflicting disruption, damage and even injury out of spite

Looking at the trends in connected and autonomous transportation, the report also identifies the potential benefits – including safer, more efficient transport and a potential boon for car sales due to new selling points.

The report, intended to stimulate informed discussion about this topic, recommends:

  • further consultation between the automotive industry and other industries already addressing cyber security challenges so that lessons can be learned and technologies transferred
  • supporting the development of professional disciplines focussed on addressing automotive cyber security and autonomous vehicles
  • continued and more in-depth research into – and analysis of – issues like driver responsibility and attributing liability for connected, autonomous vehicles and in cyber security incidents

Dr Mike Short CBE from IET said: “Connected vehicles will significantly transform our driving experiences by making travel safer, more comfortable and efficient. Cars are becoming connected to the web via wireless for emergency rescue, and navigation services. However, this raises new challenges for connected cars - and those in and around them – that may become exposed to potential risks from online threats.

“It is vital that the digital benefits and security are designed into the vehicle in ways that are both trusted and understood by users.”

Commenting on the report, KTN Head of Transport Tessa Darley said: Part of the process of developing smart, connected and ultimately autonomous transport systems is addressing the issue of cyber security. We need a rational approach that has at its heart transparent dialogue between everyone in the industry and people outside who have addressed similar challenges elsewhere.

“Connected, driverless cars have the potential to revolutionise how we travel. Lessons learned in developing autonomous technology for cars should be shared and applied to other modes of transport. Transferring knowledge at every stage is key – and KTN looks forward to helping make sure that happens.”

The KTN/IET Review is based, in part, on inputs from the Automotive Cyber Security Thought Leadership event (November 2014) attended by more than 50 experts from a range of engineering and technical disciplines. It has been further extended by additional input from the project managers, and by supporting supplementary information and references from external sources. This joint initiative by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) aims to promote cross-industry debate on a topic that has the potential to impact a broad range of professional fields.

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