Armchair h(ij)ackers: Self-driving cars can easily become killer zombies
You’ve only had to worry about hijackers, servicing and potholes. Now brace yourself for hackers and viruses
Driverless cars could be hacked and deployed as “fully loaded weapons”, according to the chief executive of Blackberry, the Canadian technology company.
Best known for its smartphones, the company is developing software for driverless cars in partnership with Baidu, the Chinese web search giant.
John Chen, Blackberry’s chief executive, said driverless cars were programmed with more lines of code than a typical fighter jet, offering enormous scope for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities to insert malware.
“A car could easily be infected with viruses [and] is literally a fully loaded weapon. If hackers can get hold of it, you can imagine what they could do.
He added that the industry was working hard to reduce the risks.
“I can create a car I think is 90% virus-free, but as soon as that car gets on the road and is being used, those conditions need to be regularly checked,” Chen said.
Unlike a jet, all of the code comes from different sources, which can exacerbate its vulnerabilities to cyberattacks.
Despite huge investment from tech giants like Google, Apple and Tesla, Chen claimed driverless cars will take at least another five years to take off commercially.
Chen called for governments to set safety standards that tech giants can adhere to as they develop driverless vehicles.
“Regulation, and safety and security tech needs to be established well before I think anyone should allow the cars on the road,” he said. “The self-driving car still has a lot of human error and safety control.”
He also pointed to the coexistence of driverless cars with manned vehicles on the road as a major challenge, which raised questions over who or what would be held responsible in the event of an accident.
“If there is a crash, who would the insurance hold liable – the human or the car?” he said.
Autonomous navigation tech is also affected by environmental conditions. “I think the recognition part of it is a problem,” he said. “We know in our lab that if the sun is at a certain angle and the wind is blowing a certain way, the road sign is not 100% recognisable in a second,” he explained. RSA, which operates the More Than brand, said the rise of driving aids that kept cars in their lanes and responded to traffic around them were “in danger of giving the false impression of a level of autonomy not yet available”.
In a report two months ago, the insurer claimed that autopilot technology risked lulling motorists into a false sense of security. “More specific and rigorous descriptors are required to describe and categorise vehicle automation, so that the risk they pose for the driver is more – accurately rated for insurance purposes,” the report said.
Chen’s comments come just weeks after Apple’s self-driving car crashed on a test-run near its headquarters in Silicon Valley while it was on “autonomous mode”.
Self-driving cars designed by Waymo, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, have problems understanding the basic rules of the road.
– © The Daily Telegraph