Can a driverless car be stopped?


Digital security

What happens when the problems caused by autonomous vehicles are not the result of errors, but the result of deliberate attacks?

Food for thought: Can a driverless car be stopped?

Robo-taxi fleets have hit the brakes, citing the need to “rebuild public trust”. This story has been brewing for a while.

At first it seemed rather inconsequential, or at least it wasn’t the start of a big security story: video shared on the social networking site Reddit showing a group of robotaxis in Austin, Texas, arriving on a central thoroughfare and stopping en masse, causing an ad hoc traffic jam scene, which is becoming more and more frequent.too common given the growing popularity of the platform. A quick search found This article dealing with the event, which is by no means unique. Fleets of driverless or autonomous vehicles are currently operating in San Francisco and Las Vegas, with pilot programs in a dozen other cities. across the United States, from Seattle to Miami. And in case you’re wondering, this isn’t just an American problem: driverless vehicles are also being developed and tested around the world. Europe And Asia Also.

Currently, the problems caused by autonomous vehicles, such as traffic jams, traffic jams in wet concrete, and emergency service vehicles getting stuck, are real. They are also the result of non-malicious errors on the part of driverless car manufacturers. But what happens when these are not the result of errors, but the result of deliberate attacks?

If there is one What we’ve learned over decades of computer security is that any successful technology will attract entrepreneurs, looking to make money – both legally and illegally. For cybercriminals, the appeal of autonomous vehicles must seem particularly bright. In addition to more well-known criminal activities that occur entirely in the cyber domain, such as account theft targeting consumers and ransomware targeting businesseshaving vehicles in play in the physical world also offers interesting opportunities:


It should be noted that robo-taxis are not the only vehicles that could be used for such attacks. There are an ever-increasing number of private vehicles on the road with autonomous driving capabilities and remote anti-theft/locking features that can be triggered.

In case this all sounds… well, fantastical, for lack of a better term… we would like to point out that runaway vehicles are no longer a fiction, but a reality: in October 2023, A electric vehicle in Scotland lost all control and the driver had to crash him into a police van to stop him. Although it was not a fully autonomous vehicle, it had a sophisticated driver assistance system that appeared to have failed, leaving the vehicle unable to slow down or turn off the engine. While this may not appear to be the result of malicious activity, it clearly shows how dependent vehicles are becoming on their computer systems.

Another possible concern regarding automated vehicles is commercial trucks. A self-driving truck carrying valuable cargo could be stopped or diverted to a location of the criminals’ choosing and have its cargo stolen before police arrive. Trucks could also be used to block transit centers, such as docks where goods are unloaded from ships.

Additionally, they could also be used as rams to gain access to restricted areas separated by doors, bollards or other obstacles. It reminds us of the heady days of impromptu steel-clad armored vehicles, hastily manufactured and created by A team but run by computer programmers with bad intentions.

Autonomous vehicles appear widely susceptible to falling victim to more widely available GPS jamming techniques that can be tracked to intercept and “retrain” vehicles to respond to an attacker’s commands. A botnet of cars driving at the behest of its shepherds can deliver a powerful video that is sure to go viral, regardless of the technical details.

To be honest, any new technology, especially during its nascent rise in the zeitgeist, shakes the imagination and certainly presents obstacles. But the growing fame is also attracting technofanatics who might be able to help shore up digital defenses so that herds of robotaxis don’t become the subject of B-movie plots without expensive actors, or many of them.

Autonomous vehicles, in the form of automobiles capable of driving on the same roads as traditional human-operated cars, represent one of the most significant changes to automotive technology in recent decades. It seems that some basic precautions learned over more than a century of transportation engineering should not be forgotten:

Autonomous vehicles have the potential to create a safer future for all road users. However, safety should be the primary concern for autonomous vehicle manufacturers and fleet operators (which sometimes are the same thing, and sometimes not). This can only happen if these vehicles are designed in a way that prioritizes safety.

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