Need we worry about driverless vehicles getting hacked now?


So here’s one more thing to worry about during your daily commute: terrorists could wrest control of the nation’s roadways if driverless vehicles become common.

I know it sounds like the plot of a particularly cheeky Doctor Who episode – maybe one from the Tom Baker days – but it’s true; the Institution of Engineering and Technology says that within the next 15 years we’re likely to have driverless vehicles on roads worldwide. While this spells good news for anyone who worries about rising car insurance or van insurance premiums, the Chicken Littles of the world are convinced that the sky will be falling.

How so, do you ask? Well apparently terrorists could hack into the control systems of driverless cars and cause bedlam on the roadways. Grinding traffic to a halt, causing massive road traffic accidents, driving Vauxhall Astras right off the Dover cliffs – you name it, almost anything is possible. Or at least according to the cyber security boffins at the IET.

So yes, there’s apparently all sorts of things to be worried about when it comes to driverless vehicles. Not only are all the White Van Men in the UK going to be automated right out of business, now we’ll all be at the mercy of some Skynet-like malevolence when it comes to cyber terrorists holding us all hostage for heaven knows what. Does anyone besides me feel that people are just afraid of pretty much everything nowadays? I mean we’re not even anywhere near having advanced enough technology to have driverless cars roaming the world’s roadways, but I’m pretty sure that auto manufacturers will have mechanical failsafes built into these vehicles that can either disable them or allow their human occupants to assume control.

Or at least I hope they will. I mean I can’t put it past the hubris of engineers to deliberately omit such kinds of failsafes, but most government regulations are likely to make sure there are ways for drivers to take control of driverless vehicles that run amok in some way or another. Think about the personal injury lawsuits that would arise otherwise!

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